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Metapragmatic evaluators as a key to understanding unexpressed acts in intercultural communication: an ethnopragmatic approach

Guest lecture with Zhengdao Ye, Australian National University.

Info about event


Monday 24 April 2017,  at 08:15 - 10:00

Everybody is welcome!


While a great deal of social interaction is achieved through speech acts, a great deal of it is also achieved through unexpressed acts or deliberate withdrawal from intended actions. This is especially pertinent to societies that place high value on interdependent relationships between people and on interpersonal harmony. However, the difficulties in studying the unsaid actions are obvious, and may explain researchers’ almost exclusive effort to study expressed acts. In this talk, I argue that metapragmatic evaluators--such as polite, impolite, and rude in English and kéqì [lit. ‘guest air’; ‘polite’] and shāng héqì [lit. ‘harm harmonious atmosphere’] in Chinese)--provide researchers and culture-outsiders with a key to accessing not only expressed but also unexpressed acts that are culturally salient. I use examples of metapragmatic terms from both Chinese and English to illustrate this point, and also show that the ethnopragmatic approach (e.g. Goddard 2006, 2009, in press; Goddard and Wierzbicka 2004; Goddard and Ye 2015; Levisen 2012, 2016, 2017; Levisen and Waters 2015, in press; Wierzbzicka 2002, 2006; Ye 2006, 2013), which is grounded in linguistic evidence and which employs a cross-translatable metalanguage, is an effective tool to unpack the meaning of such terms, revealing assumptions and expectations about the appropriate ways people feel they should interact within a speech community. I will also discuss the value of exploring the semantics-pragmatics interface in intercultural communication.

- Zhengdao Ye, Australian National University