Handbook of pragmatics

Handbook of pragmatics: 2006 installment. Ed. by Jeff Verschueren and Jan-Ola Östman. (Handbook of pragmatics 10.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2006. Pp. vi, 500. ISBN 9789027232359. $188.

Reviewed by Eric A. Anchimbe, University of Bayreuth, Germany

Although there are other competing handbooks of pragmatics on the market, this series is unique in that it brings together leading experts in the field and focuses on both traditional and emerging subdisciplines of pragmatics. Published in yearly installments, the Handbook of pragmatics has catered to linguists’ needs by providing a forum for new ideas that may have initially been treated as marginal. An association with the International Pragmatics Association has helped this series maintain a high standard within the field. Now also available online, the accessibility of this series is optimal: the loose-leaf format makes revised versions of older entries, updates, and new entries easier to retain in an organized manner.

The 2006 installment follows the overall purpose of the series, which is to ‘search for coherence, in the sense of cross-disciplinary intelligibility, in this necessarily interdisciplinary field of scholarship’ as described by Jeff Verschueren in the introductory chapter of the Handbook of pragmatics: Manual (Jan Ola Östman & Jan Blommaert [eds.], Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 1995). The eighteen contributions in this installment investigate issues that range from traditional pragmatic notions such as speech act theory and conversation analysis to less studied topics such as interjections. Divided into three sections, this installment contains an updated users’ guide that replaces the 2005 version completely, the traditional updates section consisting of revisions of core notions and frameworks in pragmatics, and the handbook A–Z.

There are seven contributions in the traditional updates section: ‘Analytical philosophy’ (Marina Sbisà), ‘Applied linguistics’ (Britt-Louise Gunnarsson), ‘Conversation analysis’ (Rebecca Clift, Paul Drew, and Ian Hutchby), ‘Creole linguistics’ (Pieter Muysken and Genevieve Escure), ‘Critical linguistics and critical discourse analysis’ (Ruth Wodak), ‘Speech act theory’ (Marina Sbisà), and ‘Structuralism’ (Jürgen Van de Walle, Dominique Willems, and Klaas Willems).

The remaining eleven entries are in the handbook proper and include: ‘Communication’ (Peter Harder), ‘Cultural scripts’ (Cliff Goddard), ‘Default interpretations’ (Katarzyna M. Jaszczolt), ‘Gender’ (Robin T. Lakoff), ‘Historical pragmatics’ (Andreas H. Jucker), ‘Interactional linguistics’ (Jan Lindström), ‘Interjections’ (Felix K. Ameka and David P. Wilkins), ‘Negation’ (Matti Miestamo), ‘Repair’ (Jack Sidnell), ‘Sequence’ (Jack Sidnell), and ‘Truthfulness’ (Jocelyne V. Marrelli).

The contributions in this installment present both general overviews of particular fields and detailed discussions of specific topics, which focus on state-of-the-art advances and recently developed areas of research. The combination of expert and introductory knowledge allows specialists in pragmatics as well as students and beginners in the field to be comfortable reading the articles. The contributors seem to keep in mind the Handbook’s definition of pragmatics as ‘the cognitive, social, and cultural study of language and communication’ (Jeff Verschueren, Handbook of pragmatics: Manual). Written in a clear style and with suitable illustrations, the Handbook of pragmatics adds an invaluable wealth of research to the field and should occupy a favored position on syllabi and reading lists for pragmatics courses.

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