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Marina Terkourafi Colloquium

The Department of Linguistics at the University of Chicago presents

University of Illinois Urbana Champaign

Cooperation revisited and renewed

Thursday, October 25, 2007
Cobb 201, 3.30-5 pm

Since (at least) Bach and Harnish (1979), several attempts have been made to clarify what might be “the accepted purpose…of the talk exchange” mentioned by Grice (1975) in the definition of the Co-operative Principle, and, more generally, the nature (and the limits) of cooperation enjoined by the CP itself. Following a brief critique of previous proposals, I suggest the notion of face, adapted from the anthropological linguistics literature, as an omni-relevant ‘accepted purpose’ on which more specific purposes may be superimposed. The omni-relevance of face follows from two properties: its biological grounding in the dimension of approach vs. withdrawal, and its intentionality (i.e. aboutness). I am thus advocating a revised notion of face, which operates on two levels. As a second-order notion, ‘Face2’ is universal (qua biologically grounded), while, at the same time, it is uniquely human and irreducibly relational (qua intentional, i.e. directed at an Other defined as distinct from Self). This second-order notion of face is, nevertheless, no more than a convenient methodological abstraction. Face as a first-order notion is the only one that has any psychological reality for speakers, and is fleshed out in particular socio-historical circumstances, resulting in a multiplicity of ‘Face1’s simultaneously operating in interaction. Contrary to previous approaches that viewed considerations of face as “principled reasons for deviation [from the CP]” (Brown & Levinson 1987: 5), face in this novel dual conceptualization is claimed to operate before the CP, regulating the generation of implicatures by prompting recursive application of the maxims until one is satisfied that one knows (with some degree of certainty) how one stands in relation to one’s interlocutor(s). In other words, an omni-relevant purpose of interaction is ascertaining one’s standing in relation to one’s interlocutor(s)—in the sense of determining whether one’s face has been constituted or threatened—and this purpose determines a (context-dependent, hence variable) cut-off point for the inferential process. I illustrate these suggestions by re-analyzing some classical examples from the pragmatics literature, demonstrating how this expanded understanding of face and of the CP can account for behaviors ranging from over-cooperation (altruistic behavior) to outright conflict.

Posted in colloquia, talks.