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Contrastivity and comparability: pragmatic variation across pluricentric varieties

  • Anne Barron EMAIL logo
From the journal Sociolinguistica


The recent pragmatic turn in the study of pluricentric varieties marks a shift in analytical focus, with increasingly more research contrasting the conventions of language use and interaction across pluricentric varieties. This turn demands new data types and new methods of analysis which uphold the principles of contrastivity and comparability. Addressing this basic requirement for the case of cross-varietal speech act analyses, the present article examines the contextual factors to be considered in the choice of data types and the potential definition and usability of a pragmatic variable in speech act analyses across data types. These considerations are applied to a cross-varietal analysis of responses to thanks in direction-giving exchanges across English in Canada, England and Ireland. The study highlights the frequent necessity of a multi-faceted definition of the pragmatic variable. In addition, challenges of contextual equivalence which emerge in the course of the analysis highlight a basic need for research to regularly re-examine the linguistic context and the definition of the pragmatic variable and to potentially redefine the variable during the analytical process. The contrastive analysis reveals a more extensive use of routinised responses to thanks in the Canadian English data relative to the Irish English and English English data. A more complex closing, with more continuations and confirmation checks, is shown to characterise the Irish English data, a finding which is suggested to potentially relate to a strong orientation towards hospitality in the Irish context.


I would like to thank Emily Black and Daniel Popp for support in the collection and coding of the data and for many fruitful discussions of the data. Thanks also to two anonymous reviewers for valuable comments. All limitations remain the responsibility of the author.


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6 Transcription conventions


[no worries]

Overlapping speech

[Thanks ]


Overlapping speech interrupting a word

[[ ]]

Used to distinguish sequences of overlap


Indicates a pause in the talk of less than two tenths of a second.


Incomprehensible speech


Exclamation marks are used to indicate an animated or emphatic tone.


Indicates falling, stopping tone - not grammatical


Indicates a “continuing” intonation - not grammatical


Indicates a rising inflection - not grammatical

Published Online: 2021-11-18
Published in Print: 2021-11-12

© 2021 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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