Pragmatics (continued)

In my blog of 30th November, I shared my first thoughts about the book my friends and I were studying (Jean Stilwell Peccei: Pragmatics). I commented that, unlike syntax and phonology and even certain approaches to discourse analysis, semantics still seems to be a hotchpotch of disconnected attempts to impose a meaningful framework on language and its relation to the real world.

Having worked and argued our way through the book, it is clear that this first impression was well-founded. Historically, language study has always been part of philosophy and philosophers have made several critical contributions to the new discipline of pragmatics.

Peccei draws on the work of the philosophers Grice, Austin and Searle in chapters 4-7 of her  workbook on Pragmatics. In addition, the first chapters of the book come from another traditional area of Philosophy, that of Logic. I shall return to the example in the earlier blog: Continue reading

Seeing Voices

This is the title of a book by Oliver Sacks (1989) about the history of deaf people learning to communicate.

I first became interested in the topic when a former student rang me up: she had found herself teaching the deaf without any training, and she asked me what Linguistics had to offer on the subject. I had just happened to read an article in one of the journals, which supported the use of sign language, rather than the received wisdom of the time, which insisted on deaf people trying to learn to speak and lip read. While this worked for some people, many deaf learners were cognitively impaired because they never learned any full language. Sign language apparently offered full cognitive development because it is a complete language, one which uses the eyes rather than the ears for communication. (Hence Sacks’s title Seeing Voices.) Continue reading