Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Why Do Korean Listeners Have Difficulty Recovering the Meaning of Casual Speech in English? A Study in Pragmatics

Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Why Do Korean Listeners Have Difficulty Recovering the Meaning of Casual Speech in English? A Study in Pragmatics

Article excerpt

Abstract

This paper pragmatically explores why Korean listeners encounter difficulties in recovering the speaker's meaning during casual English conversations. Meaning is derived not only from the simple decoding of the composed words but also through a more complex cognitive-pragmatic process of "free enrichment." In addition to enriching a linguistically encoded logical form, deriving meaning necessitates the recognition of different uses of a language, one of which is the use of expressions in the listener's culture. The differences in the perception of utterances between native and non-native English speakers highlight the influence of metapragmatic awareness on free enrichment. It can elaborate and/or repair a propositional attitude alongside a linguistically encoded logical form as well as determine an explicature or implicature. This study finds that the need to be aware of the uses of the target language imposes a more conscious burden on Korean listeners, leading to difficulties in recovering the speaker's meaning.

Keywords: speaker's meaning, linguistic underdeterminacy, pragmatic enrichment, relevance, metapragmatic awareness, explicature, higher-level explicature, implicature

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1. Introduction

During a conversation, the listener derives meaning from both decoding the linguistic expression and inferring from the context (see Sperber and Wilson 1986, 1995). The processes involved in arriving at the intended meaning are referred to as pragmatic inference and account for the specification of encoded and, more often, the unencoded constituents of utterance. Pragmatics is primarily concerned with how people understand utterances. It examines how the listener grasps the meaning that is being communicated. Past research has focused on how listeners infer utterance meaning in the Gricean tradition (see Grice 1975; Horn 1989; Levinson 1983, 2000, etc). These studies typically examine certain pragmatic principles and explore how meaning is communicated in accordance with or in violation of one of those principles. Other studies, based on the relevance-theoretic view of cognition and communication, examine interpretation of utterances as the unavoidable consequence of searching for cognitive effects of the smallest processing effort (see Sperber and Wilson 1986, 1995; Blakemore 1992; Carston 2002).

Traditionally, utterance meaning has been categorized as "what is said" and "what is implicated." The speaker's meaning is viewed as "what is implicated," and this view has been widely used in implicature-based research (see neo-Gricean work). However, within cognitive pragmatics, the speaker's meaning is considered to include explicitly communicated meaning (explicature), implicitly communicated meaning (implicature), and context. Here, the content of the speaker's utterance (referred to as "explicature" in Sperber and Wilson (1986)) extends beyond Grice's conception of "what is said," and understanding this utterance involves pragmatic processes such as enrichment, saturation, ad-hoc concept construction, reference assignment, and disambiguation (see Recanati 1991; Bach 1994; Sperber and Wilson 1986/1995; Carston 1988/2002) According to Carston (2004, p. 819), "a key feature in the derivation of an explicature is that it may require 'free' enrichment; that is, the incorporation of conceptual material that is wholly pragmatically inferred, on the basis of considerations of rational communicative behavior, as these reflect relevance-theoretic account of human cognitive functioning." Enrichment is cognitive inference that adds context-based meaning where the linguistic expression is used to decode the meaning. It is best described by examples from Carston (2004, p. 830):

(1) a. It'll take time for your knee to heal.

b. Ralph drinks.

c. Emily has a temperature.

These expressions are semantically complete, but the speaker does not intend to express an obvious, uninformative proposition. …

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