26th May 2021: Erika Marcet Torrijos (Dublin City University) Title: Pragmatic Challenges and Relevance in the L2 Context.


Research on interlanguage pragmatics of L2 Japanese is limited in scope, as studies mostly focus on speech acts and other sociolinguistic and interactional strategies. As a result, researchers have yet to formally establish how learners of Japanese have difficulties with their production and interpretation of meaning from a cognitive perspective. Through Relevance Theory, this presentation explores some pragmatic challenges that L2 learners of Japanese encountered during their study abroad programmes and work placements in Japan. Learners reported difficulties with interpreting and producing several communicative acts, such as speech styles, ellipsis, prosody and ostensive silence. Findings indicate that learners are challenged by discrepancies between the linguistic form of utterances and the proposition expressed. Learners also have difficulties tapping into their inferential abilities, particularly in utterances where recovery or production of higher-level explicatures and implicatures is needed. With this presentation, I hope to consolidate the idea that notions within Relevance Theory can be particularly beneficial to the development of pragmatic competence in the L2 classroom.

Valandis Bardzokas (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki) Title: Syntactic constraints on relevance


The aim of the presentation is to discuss Modern Greek (MG) causal subordination, as in He came backepiδi (because) he loved her, with a focus on the type of meaning attached to pre-posed subordinate clauses in reversed configurations, as in epiδi (because) he loved her, he came back. In this connection, its ultimate concern lies with the question of how a MG because p, q construction differs in meaning from its canonical counterpart (i.e., q because p), or what kind of contribution pre-position makes to the overall meaning of a causal conjunction. To address this matter, I take the relevance-theoretic approach. In this framework of meaning analysis, it turns out that the type of meaning associated with causal pre-position can be treated rigorously and comprehensively in typical procedural terms. In this spirit, I would like to argue that the pre-positioning of MG causal connectives serves as a syntactic constraint on contextual information (captured in the subordinate clause), facilitating the derivation of contextual effects. This constraint is employed to communicate an unobjectionable pre-justification of the content of the main clause whose realization is pending. In this sense, this procedure can be said to contribute additional import to the overall interpretation of a causal conjunction. 

Following on Valandis’s talk, we had a very engaging discussion on procedural meaning, syntactic structures and different effects. Greek connectives are so much fun to look at!

The published paper related to this research can be found here: Bardzokas, V. (2021). Syntactic constraints on relevance: The case of causal pre-position in Modern Greek, Journal of Pragmatics, 186, 151-166. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2021.10.011.