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A Study on Cognitive Transformation of Context and Pragmatic Meaning of Directives

Author: SongPing
Tutor: BaiBin
School: Liaoning Normal University
Course: English Language and Literature
Keywords: Cognitive context Relevance Theory Cognitive transformation Directives Pragmatic meaning
CLC: H030
Type: Master's thesis
Year: 2013
Downloads: 9
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Context is a fundamental and central concept in field of pragmatics, semantics, stylistics,rhetoric and sociolinguistics and so on. With a long development, the study of context hasexperienced a cognitive transformation from traditional view. Traditional study of contextviews context as a set of static aggregation of shared knowledge for the use of restrictingcommunication and comprehension of utterances, which can’t change with on-goingcommunication and neglects the function of communicators’ construction. According toSearle, speech acts are the minimal unit of verbal communication and the interpretation ofillocutionary force depends much on context. However, traditional context is limited to theinterpretation of illocutionary force of utterances for the participants in verbal communication.From the perspectives of cognition, traditional study of context ignores subjective initiativeand psychological factors of communicators. Actually, the production of meaning is the resultof people’s psychological activities. If we put aside functions of people’s subjective activitiesto discuss pragmatic meaning, we will not explain how the participants produce context andhow to infer pragmatic meaning with the help of context. As a result, the study of contextgradually transformed to cognitive context. Cognitive context consider the interpretation ofpragmatic meaning is a dynamic process of inference of communicators’ cognitiveassumptions.Directives, as a subcategory of speech acts, are very common in daily life and socialcommunication. However, people often present their directives in a moderate way, thepragmatic meaning of which lies more in context. To use and interpret pragmatic meaning ofdirectives in an appropriate way can contribute a lot to interpersonal relationship. Cognitivecontext is more convincing to interpret the illocutionary force of utterances. So in verbalcommunication, people depend on cognitive context to achieve illocutionary force forsuccessful communication. Based on the previous studies of directives, researchers mainlyconcentrate their studies from the perspectives of cross-culture, semantics, and pragmaticsand so on. Few of them study directives in a cognitive pragmatic view. On the basis ofcognitive context and relevance theory, this thesis will study the pragmatic meaning ofdirectives from aspects of cognitive pragmatics. Through qualitative approach, the followingthree research questions for this paper will be investigated. The first one, what is the path ofcognitive transformation of the study of context? The second one, why dose the interpretationof illocutionary fore of directives depends more on cognitive context? The third one, how thepragmatic meaning of directives is achieved from aspects of the speaker and the hearer fromthe perspectives of cognitive context?The research purpose of this thesis is to illustrate that illocutionary force is the deeper meaning of utterances, which generates in the interaction between communicative subjectsand objective world and roots in language users’ understandings and believes to the world.Cognitive context is a set of communicative subjects’ psychological cognition of the physicalworld. As a result, from the perspectives of cognitive context to study the pragmatic meaningof directives, the speaker can express the illocutionary force in a more accurate andappropriate way. While, the hearer can precisely interpret the illocutionary force so as toachieve the correct pragmatic meaning of speech acts.The whole thesis is composed by five parts. The first part introduces the importance,purpose and structure of the whole paper. The second part is literature review that overviewsthe research actuality of context and directives and sketches the research situation ofpragmatic meaning. Meanwhile, it points out the existing problems to be solved in verbalcommunication. The third part details path of the cognitive transformation of context. At first,the features and functions of traditional context is introduced; next with reference to relevancetheory, cognitive context and its features are stated; and then the path of cognitivetransformation is elaborated so as to show the superiorities of cognitive contextualinterpretation on speech acts. The fourth part analyzes the influences of cognitivetransformation of context on pragmatic meaning of directives, in which functions of cognitivecontext in pragmatic meaning of directives are demonstrated firstly. And then from aspects ofthe speaker and the hearer cognitive context is investigated in pragmatic meaning of directives.The fifth part is conclusion.

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