Alicante Journal of English Studies / Revista Alicantina de Estudios Ingleses

Is relevance theory asocial?

Mark Jary


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.


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


Copyright (c) 1998 Mark Jary

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