Cyberpragmatics

Cyberpragmatics: Internet-mediated communication in context. By Francisco Yus. (Pragmatics and beyond new series 213.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2011. Pp. xiv, 353. ISBN 9789027256195. $143 (Hb).

Reviewed by Ferit Kılıçkaya, Middle East Technical University

Through language we convey information and facts as well as opinions and feelings. Every utterance, in a way, communicates social information, and context attracts prompt attention to how language is used. As technology improves, it paves the way for different types of communication and contact in written, audio-visual, and multimodal forms, such as Facebook, Twitter, wikis, and many others. Francisco Yus, in his book, approaches for analysis Internet-mediated communication and interaction, using the term ‘cyberpragmatics’, which he coined. According to him, ‘Cyberpragmatics aims at applying pragmatics to Internet users’ interactions, specifically cognitive pragmatics and, with that, relevance theory, which has proved to be useful for the explanation of face-to-face communication and also of asynchronous communication…’ (xi).

The book has been divided into eight core chapters following the introduction. The first chapter provides an overview of pragmatic assumptions, in which the author turns to a theoretical discussion of relevance theory. The second chapter analyzes virtual communities on the Internet, including users in virtual settings, with a proposal of hybrid networks of interactions, taking physical and virtual properties into consideration.

The third chapter deals with how information is processed on the Internet, especially on web pages, with discussions on interactive applications, such as chat rooms and cybernewspapers. The next chapter analyzes how interaction occurs in the context of Internet tools, such as blogs, social networking sites, and Twitter, which is perceived as a micro-blog. The fifth chapter discusses virtual synchronous conversations that generally happen in chat rooms or with messaging software, such as Skype and Messenger, and virtual world tools, such as Second Life, with a focus on how nonverbal behavior accompanies human interactions.

The sixth chapter is devoted to the discussion of electronic mail, describing its main features and elements in terms of an oral and written continuum. Ch. 7 examines how politeness is achieved on the Internet. This chapter provides different theories and approaches to the study of politeness, speech acts, and theoretical models, such as that of Penelope Brown and Stephen Levinson, which is conceptualized differently from Paul Grice’s cooperative principle. The final chapter presents further research in cyberpragmatics, such as the use of mobile phones and how and why the young generation  prefers television offered as ‘on-demand’ over traditional television.

The book, overall, provides an excellent discussion of how communication, synchronously or asynchronously, occurs using Internet tools and how, from a cyberpragmatics perspective, it is achieved. Graduate students or researchers wishing to conduct studies in pragmatics and politeness, with respect to how communication is achieved successfully or unsuccessfully on the Internet, are advised to refer to this book.