If using language can be defined as the making of meaningful choices mediated by the mind of both the sign producer and interpreter, it is inevitable to attribute a prominent role in this process to human consciousness. In other words, language users know more or less what they are doing, even if certain choices are virtually automatic in contrast to others that may be highly motivated. This phenomenon of reflexive awareness is so central to the process of language use that it may even be regarded as one of the original evolutionary prerequisites for the development of human language to be at all possible. The systematic study of indicators of the language user’s reflexive awareness of what is involved in a usage event, i.e. the study of a metalevel at which verbal communication is self-referential to various degrees, will be called ‘metapragmatics’ for the purposes of this article.
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