Internalised context: how did it come about?

Research output: Contribution to conferenceOther


Internalised context: How did it come about?The idea that linguistic meaning includes constraints on context has been around for some time (Ducrot et al. 1980; Cadiot et al. 1985; Blakemore 1987). The best known example is probably that of discourse markers, which impose constraints on the interpretation of their host utterances; but arising from Argumentation Theory and the ScaPoline (Anscombre 1995; Nølke 1994) we also have a notion of utterance meaning that is construed, among other things, in terms of indications regarding the (idealized) context of utterance.If context –albeit in a schematized form – made its way into the conceptual structure of linguistic meaning, how did this come about?A possible way of furthering our understanding of this issue is to approach it from an adaptive perspective, and more specifically, from that of Damasio’s theory of brain functions (Damasio 1994 & 2010).This paper focuses on the second type of internalised context. It examines the possibly that such a context has an analogue at the level of brain maps, from which it may derive.Key adaptive assumptions include: The systems which an organism comprises contribute to survival. Language is rooted in our neurobiology. As a latecomer in the evolutionary process, language is in a position to co-opt solutions previously devised to address its own problems. Processing systems tend to thrive towards ever greater efficiency, as part of being oriented towards survival.ReferencesAnscombre, J.-C. (ed) 1995. Théorie des topoï. Paris: Editions Kimé.Blakemore, D. 1987. Semantic constraints on relevance. Oxford: Blackwell.Cadiot, A., Ducrot, O., Fradin, B., Nguyen, T.B. and Vicher A.1985. ‘Sous un mot une controverse: les emplois pragmatiques de toujours’. Modèles Linguistiques VII, 105-123.Damasio, A.R. 1994. Descartes’s Error:Emotion, reason and the human brain. New York: Grosset/Putnam.Damasio, A.R. 2010. Self comes to mind. New York: Pantheon.Ducrot, . et al. 1980. Les mots du discours. Paris, Editions de Minuit.Edelman, G.M. 1989. The remembered present. New York: Basic Books.Futuyma, D.J. 1998. Evolutionary Biology. (3rd edition). Sinaer Associates, Sunderland, MA.Givón, T. 2005. Context as other minds: the pragmatics of sociality, cognition and communication. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Event6th International pragmatics and communication conference - University of Malta (Valletta campus)
Duration: 30 May 20141 Jun 2014


Conference6th International pragmatics and communication conference
CityUniversity of Malta (Valletta campus)


  • context, internalised context, constraint on context, brain maps, utterance meaning


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