Context and contextualization

Peter Auer
Table of contents

One of the widely used definitions of pragmatics (and not the most infelicitous one) is that it deals with the ways in which linguistic utterances become meaningful through their relation to context(s), ways which allow “narrowing down the communicative possibilities of the message as it exists in abstraction from context” (Leech 1975: 77). Consequently, ‘context’ has become a central notion of pragmatic thinking. Rather than giving an exhaustive overview of such thinking, this article will attempt to outline some of the theoretical problems that have arisen in the discussion of the text-context link, and develop criteria according to which ‘theories of context’ can be categorized and evaluated.

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