This glossary is designed to be an evolving and dynamic resource. We will add further entries and key references as it develops. To suggest an entry, amendment, or correction, please contact us.
Full bibliographic details of the texts referenced can be found on the Relevance Theory Online Bibliographic Service.
To cite this glossary: Sasamoto, R. & Scott, K. (2022). Relevance Pragmatics Glossary. https://relevanceresearchers.com/relevance-pragmatics-glossary/
Ad hoc concepts: Context and occasion specific concepts which are constructed as part of the interpretation process, and which contribute to the explicature of an utterance.
Assumptions: Beliefs that a person holds to be true. They are sometimes referred to as contextual assumptions.
Attributive use: An utterance that is used to represent either a thought or an utterance that is attributed to someone else (or to the speaker at a different time).
Cognitive effects: The changes that processing an input (such as an utterance) creates to the assumptions held by an individual. Assumptions can be strengthened, contradicted and eliminated, or they can combine with the input to yield news contextual implications. Along with processing effort, cognitive effects determine the relative relevance of an input in context.
Cognitive environment: An individual’s cognitive environment is the set of assumptions that are manifest to that individual at a particular time.
Communicative intention: The intention to inform an audience of one’s informative intention.
Context: In relevance theory terms, the context is the set of assumptions that are used in the interpretation of an utterance or other ostensive stimulus.
Descriptive uses: Uses of language in which the speaker describes a state of affairs in the world.
Echoic: Attributive uses of language that communicate the speaker’s attitude.
Explicature: A term used in relevance theory to describe the explicitly communicated proposition. Explicatures are developments (via reference assignment, disambiguation, and pragmatic enrichment) of the linguistically encoded content of the utterance. They can combine with contextual assumptions to yield implicatures. Key references: Carston 2002.
Higher-level explicatures: Explicitly communicated propositions in which the basic level explicature is embedded under a description of the speaker’s attitude or emotion, or of the speech act that she is performing.
Implicature: An intended implication that follows from an utterance by a process of inference. In relevance theory, implicatures may be implicated premises or implicated conclusions.
Informative intention: The intention to inform an audience of something.
Lexical adjustment: The interpretive process of narrowing and/or broadening the concept that is communicated by a word or expression in line with the speaker’s intentions.
Manifestness: An assumption is manifest to an individual if that individual is capable of representing the assumption mentally and accepting it as true or probably true.
Metarepresentation: The use of a representation (thought or utterance) to represent another representation (thought or utterance). Metarepresentational ability is the ability to have thoughts about thoughts.
Ostensive communication: Communication in which the communicator has both an informative intention and a communicative intention. The communicative stimulus is produced openly and intentionally, and the communicator intends for the addressees to recognise that this is the case.
Phatic communication: Communication that is intended to establish, maintain, or enhance social relations, rather than to transmit information. Phatic communication is sometimes referred to as ‘small talk’.
Procedural meaning: A type of meaning recognised by relevance theory which contributes to the overall meaning of an utterance by guiding the hearer’s inferential processes. Key references: Blakemore 1987, 2002; Carston 2016; Wilson 2011, 2016.
Processing effort: The mental effort that hearers expend when processing an utterance (or other ostensive stimulus).
Proposition expressed: Also referred to in relevance theory as the ‘basic explicature’, the proposition expressed by an utterance is the thought that has been explicitly communicated by the speaker.
Relevance: In relevance theory, relevance is a quality of inputs. An input is relevant if it leads to cognitive effects, and the relative degree of relevance for an input depends both on the cognitive effects produced and on the processing effort that is required to derive those effects.
Resemblance: There is a resemblance between two phenomena when they share visual, linguistic, phonetic, semantic, propositional or topological properties or when they share contextual or logical implications. A phenomenon can be used to represent another phenomenon which it resemblances in some respect. Key references Sperber and Wilson 1986/1995, pp. 226-37.
Speaker’s meaning: The overall meaning that the speaker intends to communicate. This includes the intended explicit meaning of the utterance as well as any implicatures.
Utterance: The use of a sentence in a discourse context to communicate a speaker’s meaning.