Notes on the role of metapragmatic awareness in language use

Jef Verschueren


Against the background of a general theory of pragmatics, reflections are formulated on the central role of metapragmatic awareness as a specific manifestation of salience, the status of processes of meaning generation in language use in relation to the cognitive apparatus. First the notions of metalanguage and metapragmatics, as used in linguistics, are discussed. Then metalinguistic and metapragmatic phenomena are presented as reflections of metapragmatic awareness. Two ways in which indicators of metapragmatic awareness function in language use are distinguished: Their functioning as anchoring devices locating linguistic form in relation to context, and their functioning as signals of the language users’ reflexive interpretations of the activities they are engaged in. Finally, some social implications of metapragmatic functioning are discussed, in particular in relation to language ideologies and identity construction.

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