Cognitive pragmatics

Cognitive pragmatics. Ed. by Hans-Jörg Schmid. (Handbooks of pragmatics 4.) Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton, 2012. Pp. xii, 648. ISBN 9783110214208. $279 (Hb).

 Reviewed by Zhen-qiang Fan, Zhejiang Gongshang University

This book contains twenty-one peer-reviewed articles dealing with a wide variety of topics and research paradigms in cognitive pragmatics (CP). The aim of the collection is to ‘identify the general cognitive-pragmatic principles and processes that underline and determine the construal of meaning in context’ (4). The book is organized into five sections, the first of which presents the editor’s introduction, analyzing the ingredients of CP, and also contextualizing and setting the scene for the articles that follow.

Adopting an off-line perspective, Part 2 is concerned with entrenched cognitive routines of pragmatic interpretation, containing topics of relevance (Yan Huang), implicature, and explicature (Robyn Carston and Alison Hall), inferencing (Murray Singer and R. Brooke Lea), conceptual principles (Małgorzata Fabiszak), salience (John Taylor), and encyclopedic knowledge (Istvan Kecskes). From an online perspective, Part 3 addresses issues that pertain to the processing of pragmatic information (Ted J. M. Sanders and Anneloes Canestrelli), the role of salient meanings (Rachel Giora), the acquisition of pragmatic ability (Daniela O’Neill), pragmatics disorders (Louise Cummings), autism (Anne Reboul, Sabine Manificat, and Nadège Foudon), and aphasia (Suzanne Beeke).

Part 4 explores the cognitive processes involved in the interpretation of non-explicit and non-literal meaning-in-context, respectively. The former addresses issues such as shared knowledge and meaning negotiation (William S. Horton), and conversational and conventional implicatures (Jacques Moeschler); the latter touches upon figurative language in discourse (Alice Deignan), and humor and irony (Geert Brône). Part 5 discusses how the cognitive-pragmatic processes are entrenched and conventionalized, in addition to the ways they contribute to the emergence of grammar. Of the four contributions included, some are more theoretical (e.g. Peter Harder’s explication of a usage-based model of grammar), while others adopts a diachronic perspective (e.g. the explanation of grammaticalization, lexicalization, and constructionalization by Graeme Trousdale). Still others broaden the scope by adding a social dimension (e.g. the socio-pragmatics of language change by Terttu Nevalainen), and others offer a semantic analysis of pragmatic expression (e.g. Maj-Britt Mosegaard Hansen’s contribution).

This is a high-quality book that deserves the attention of any scholar interested in the cognitive aspects of meaning-in-context. Each contribution in this book is of very high scientific quality, both in content and in form. The CP research in this book enjoys more empirical evidence than philosophy-rooted pragmatics, has wider theoretical scope than psycholinguistics, and pays greater attention to online processing than cognitive linguistics. The book not only raises a wide range of new questions but also points to a variety of directions in which to explore these issues, and also exemplifies an equally wide range of methodologies (e.g. theoretical, experimental, and corpus-based studies).

As usual with a book collection, the contributions might seem quite heterogeneous at first blush, but many of them complement each other nicely, either because they present further empirical evidence for a theoretical claim (e.g. Horton’s paper provides psycholinguistic evidence for other contributions on inference and encyclopedic knowledge, especially Carston and Hall’s and Kecskes’s), or because they discuss different aspects of the same question (e.g. the issue of semantics-pragmatics continuum is approached from the perspectives of pragmatics in Carston and Hall, psycholinguistics in Giora, and usage-based cognitive semantics in Taylor).