The aim of this paper is to provide a pragmalinguistically inspired framework for analysing the relationship between linguistic forms and conventional and ritual behaviour. To date, no body of pragmalinguistic research has been dedicated to the relationship between conventional and ritual phenomena, which play a fundamental role in language use. Even more importantly, the examination of this phenomenon provides insight into a longstanding issue in pragmatics, namely, how the relationship between form and language use can be pinned down. We will pursue this question on the basis of an English and Chinese corpus-based examination of expressions, which we define as ‘ritual frame indicating expressions’ (RFIEs). As a case study, we examine the Chinese RFIE ‘duibuqi’ and its English counterpart ‘sorry’. The results indicate that while ‘sorry’ is largely used in a conventional way throughout the contexts in our English corpus, ‘duibuqi’ is predominantly anchored in ritual. This, in turn, reveals how these forms are related to convention v. ritual as far as our data is concerned.
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