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RW chap8

RW chap8

the degree of

the degree of segmentation of written language, and the greater the degree to which segments are labelled and indexed, the more co-operative the text becomes. The accessibility afforded by typographic structuring, and typographically-structured adjuncts such as headings, contents lists and so on, can be seen as the basis of a conversation between reader and text. Although conversational models of written text have been proposed (Chapter 5), the detailed study of co-operation in discourse has, not surprisingly, focused on spoken conversations. In fact, with a few exceptions, ‘discourse’ is normally assumed by linguists, sociologists and others involved in this interdisciplinary field to be spoken (for example, Gumperz 1982, Coulthard 1985). 183 One of those who uses the term in relation to text, Hoey (1983: 27), refers to the doctrine of the primacy of speech to justify his view of text as containing implicit dialogue: ‘If dialogue has primacy over monologue, it is but a small step to seeing monologue as a specialized form of dialogue between the writer or speaker and the reader or listener’. Clearly we should be careful about applying concepts developed for one medium to the other. 184 Telecommunications apart, spoken conversations involve the physical presence of both participants who share a common situation: they share the place in which the conversation occurs, the physical presence of objects to which they may wish to refer, and the social setting. However, since discourse analysts ascribe many aspects of the management of conversations to prosody and paralanguage, and since 183 A problem with a number of accounts of ‘discourse processes’ is that, although they usually acknowledge important differences between written and spoken texts, the distinction is not carried through to all stages of analysis. De Beaugrande and Dressler (1981), for example, use only examples of spoken conversations in their chapter on situationality (the handful of written examples use passages of dialogue), but their chapter on coherence appears to assume the inspection of a written text by a reader. Brown and Yule (1983), whose textbook on discourse analysis is in most respects a model of clarity, also veer between spoken and written examples. In the context of ethnomethodology, McHoul (1982) has challenged the exclusive concern of its leading figures with immediate social contact. Reading, a solitary activity, is not regarded by some as a social act. 184 This caveat applies in both directions. We have already noted (Chapter 3) how, in spite of the doctrine of the primacy of speech, linguists have to edit language samples to conform with grammatical rules that are only actually adhered to strictly in text. Chapter 8 • 263

typography and punctuation is seen as the graphological equivalent of paralanguage, it is worth reviewing the role of typography in the light of some recent studies of the pragmatics of discourse. Grice’s Co-operative Principle The philosopher HP Grice (1975) has made an influential and widely cited study of co-operation in discourse. Although he assumes the context of a spoken conversation, we must clearly take note of his theory if we are to apply a conversational model to written text; and in any case it has a more general significance for our concept of language. Grice’s theory of ‘conversational implicature’ has become widely accepted as an explanation of the fact that the language of conversations is frequently indirect. Take the following exchange, for example: A: I can’t find any whisky B: John was here The sentence meanings of this exchange do not adequately explain the sense actually made of these statements by the speakers, although we have no difficulty in constructing a scenario in which the conversation might occur. John might have drunk the whisky, or it might have been hidden because John, a temperance campaigner, was coming. The knowledge shared by A and B would ensure that A knows which of the alternatives is more likely. Grice describes a ‘co-operative principle’ which governs our contributions to conversations, and which we assume others will also obey: ‘Make your conversational contribution such as is required, at the stage at which it occurs, by the accepted purpose or direction of the talk exchange in which you are engaged’ (Grice 1975: 45).] This is expanded into four maxims which we are said to normally obey and expect others to obey: Chapter 8 • 264

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