28th April 2021: Tim Wharton (Brighton) and Constant Bonard (Institut Jean Nicod Department) Title: Emotion and Relevance.

Emotion and Relevance

Wharton, Tim, David Sander, Daniel Dukes, Constant Bonard and Steve Oswald

Handout for this session available here.

The ability to focus on relevant information is central to human cognition and it is therefore hardly surprising that the notion of relevance appears across a range of different disciplines. As well as its central role in relevance-theoretic pragmatics, relevance is also a core concept in affective science, where there is consensus that for a particular object or event to elicit an emotional state, that object or event needs to be relevant to the person in whom that state is elicited. Despite this, although some affective scientists have carefully considered what emotional relevance might mean, surprisingly little research has been dedicated to providing a definition. The primary aim of the work presented here – see Wharton, Bonard, Dukes, Sander and Oswald (forthcoming) – is to compare relevance as it exists in affective science and in relevance theory. A further aim is to redress what we perceive to be an imbalance: affective scientists have made great strides in understanding the processes of emotion elicitation/responses etc., but despite the fact that among humans the communication of information about emotional states is ubiquitous, pragmatists have tended to ignore it. We conclude, therefore, that affective science and relevance theory have much to learn from each other.

Reference:

Wharton, T., C. Bonard, D. Dukes, D. Sander and S. Oswald (forthcoming) Emotion and    Relevance. In Special Issue of Journal of Pragmatics

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

Abstract

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.

Win a Copy of Relevance, Pragmatics and Interpretation

To celebrate the launch of the Relevance Researchers’ Network, we are giving away a copy of ‘Relevance, Pragmatics and Interpretation’ (2019) edited by Scott, Clark and Carston. To be in with a chance of winning, follow us on Twitter @RelevanceN and retweet our post about the competition.

Closes 5pm (GMT) 15th March 2021. No cash alternative offered. Winner will be selected at random. Book contributors are not eligible to win (you already have a copy!), but please still retweet us!

Gemma Williams (Brighton). Title: ‘Relevance, interest affect and flow: Mapping out Concepts’

24th February 2021

Click this image for the recording of the talk

[Abstract]


Relevance theorists are well-versed in the role of mutual cognitive environments in ostensive-inferential communication. In my recently completed doctoral research, I  investigated the role that faulty assumptions about what is mutually manifest might play in the breakdowns in mutual understanding between autistic and non-autistic people, otherwise known as the ‘double empathy problem’ (Milton, 2012). This talk introduces the theoretical background of my research and describes how the analysis of recorded, naturalistic conversations involving autistic and non-autistic interlocutors highlighted the potential importance of concepts such as flowrapport and affect, and interest to a relevance theoretic account of utterance interpretation and social communication. Finally, this talk explores what these concepts might have in common and asks how, technically, they might relate to the construct of ‘relevance’? 

Following on Gemma’s super interesting talk, we had a very engaging discussion on how concepts such as interest, relevance, and affect would interlink with each other.