Bridging Rhetoric and Pragmatics with Relevance Theory

Relevance and Irrelevance: Theories, Factors and Challenges, Jan Strassheim and Hisashi Nasu, eds., De Gruyter, 2018

4 Pages Posted: 4 Dec 2018 Last revised: 13 Dec 2019

See all articles by Brian Larson

Brian Larson

Texas A&M University School of Law

Date Written: September 1, 2018

Abstract

In this chapter, I bridge rhetoric and pragmatics, both of which concern themselves with language-in-use and meaning-making beyond formal syntax and semantics. Previous efforts to link these fields have failed, but Sperber and Wilson’s relevance theory (RT), an approach to experimental pragmatics grounded in cognitive science, offers the bridge. I begin by reviewing Gricean pragmatics and its incompatibility with rhetoric and cognitive science. I then sketch RT, but importantly, I identify revisions to RT that make it a powerful tool for rhetorical analysis, a cognitive pragmatic rhetorical (CPR) theory. CPR theory strengthens RT by clarifying what it means to be relevant—and irrelevant—in relevance-theoretic terms. Meanwhile, it provides rhetoric a set of principles for its functioning grounded in cognitive science. I conclude with sample CPR-theoretic analyses.

(Book DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110472509. Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110472509-004)

Keywords: cognitive environment, emotions, goals, communicative production, communicative interpretation

Suggested Citation

Larson, Brian, Bridging Rhetoric and Pragmatics with Relevance Theory (September 1, 2018). Relevance and Irrelevance: Theories, Factors and Challenges, Jan Strassheim and Hisashi Nasu, eds., De Gruyter, 2018, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3288065

Brian Larson (Contact Author)

Texas A&M University School of Law ( email )

1515 Commerce St.
Fort Worth, TX 76102
United States

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