Is relevance theory asocial?


  • Mark Jary



Teoría de la relevancia, Cortesía, Interacción verbal, Lingüística cognitiva, Comportamiento social, Relaciones sociales, Imperativo


This paper challenges the view that Sperber & Wilson's Relevance Theory is intrinsically asocial. To this effect, it is firstly shown how Relevance Theory provides a more satisfactory explanation of the 'politeness' of imperative sentences than Brown & Levinson's treatment. Secondly' supposed examples of the theory's inability to explain socially motivated instances of language use presented by O'Neill are examined and shown to be well within its explanatory power. Finally, a more general argument is presented. Recent insights from evolutionary psychology are drawn on in order to demonstrate how Sperber & Wilson's account of the way humans interpret utterances is able to accommodate a social dimension.


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How to Cite

Jary, Mark. 1998. “Is Relevance Theory Asocial?”. Alicante Journal of English Studies / Revista Alicantina De Estudios Ingleses, no. 11 (November):157-69.