Chapter published in:Producing Figurative Expression: Theoretical, experimental and practical perspectives
Edited by John Barnden and Andrew Gargett
[Figurative Thought and Language 10] 2020
► pp. 127–174
On why people don’t say what they mean
Production of figurative formulaic language
The study addresses two problems with recent psycholinguistic research on why people don’t say what they mean, (1) possible underrepresentation in research studies of types of figurative language found in everyday talk, and (2) potential ecological validity problems due to using standard psycholinguistic experimental methodologies and inauthentic language materials. In three experiments, these problems were addressed using authentic productions of a relatively unexplored figurative language type – formulaic language, specifically gratitude acknowledgements, which cover a range of figurativity (e.g., “don’t worry about it”, through, “anytime”), often using hyperbole as part of their functioning – a key focus of the present study. The results demonstrate that speakers use figurative gratitude acknowledgements to achieve the pragmatic effects of politeness and esteem display as well as fondness expression, which are not achieved to the same extents by nonfigurative gratitude acknowledgements. The particular pragmatics of this figurative form, the influence of these pragmatic effects on some theoretical questions, and the broader implications of inclusion of new figurative language forms, as well as authentic language items and methods, in research on figurative language production and pragmatics, are discussed.
Keywords: figurative, pragmatic effects, psychology, pragmatics, production, comprehension, language understanding, human experimentation, routine formulas, ecological validity, formulaic language, gratitude acknowledgment
- 1.Problems with figurative language usage research: Types
- 2.Problems with figurative language usage research: Methods
- 3.Solution: A study of pragmatic effects of gratitude acknowledgements using elicited authentic productions
- 4.Gratitude acknowledgements
- 6.Production tasks
- 6.2Participants and design
- 8.Experiment 1: Figurativity and politeness expression in gratitude
- 8.1Participants and design
- 8.4Results and discussion
- 9.Experiment 2: Figurativity and esteem expression in gratitude
- 9.1Participants and design
- 9.4Results and discussion
- 10.Experiment 3: Figurativity and fondness expression in gratitude
- 10.1Participants and design
- 10.4Results and discussion
- 11.General discussion
- 12.Pragmatics of gratitude acknowledgements
- 13.Theoretical approaches to figurative language usage: Politeness and constraint satisfaction
- 13.1Politeness Theory
- 13.2Constraint satisfaction
- 14.Inclusion and authenticity
Published online: 17 December 2020
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