Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
More options …

Intercultural Pragmatics

Editor-in-Chief: Kecskes, Istvan

IMPACT FACTOR 2017: 1.125
5-year IMPACT FACTOR: 1.154

CiteScore 2017: 1.25

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2017: 0.719
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2017: 1.417

See all formats and pricing
More options …
Volume 15, Issue 5


The interactional achievement of speaker meaning: Toward a formal account of conversational inference

Chi-Hé Elder / Michael Haugh
Published Online: 2018-11-30 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ip-2018-0021


Dominant accounts of “speaker meaning” in post-Gricean contextualist pragmatics tend to focus on single utterances, making the theoretical assumption that the object of pragmatic analysis is restricted to cases where speakers and hearers agree on utterance meanings, leaving instances of misunderstandings out of their scope. However, we know that divergences in understandings between interlocutors do often arise, and that when they do, speakers can engage in a local process of meaning negotiation. In this paper, we take insights from interactional pragmatics to offer an empirically informed view on speaker meaning that incorporates both speakers’ and hearers’ perspectives, alongside a formalization of how to model speaker meanings in such a way that we can account for both understandings – the canonical cases – and misunderstandings, but critically, also the process of interactionally negotiating meanings between interlocutors. We highlight that utterance-level theories of meaning provide only a partial representation of speaker meaning as it is understood in interaction, and show that inferences about a given utterance at any given time are formally connected to prior and future inferences of participants. Our proposed model thus provides a more fine-grained account of how speakers converge on speaker meanings in real time, showing how such meanings are often subject to a joint endeavor of complex inferential work.

Keywords: speaker meaning; interactional achievement; conversational inference; semantic contextualism; miscommunication; negotiation of meaning


  • Ariel, Mira. 2002. Privileged interactional interpretations. Journal of Pragmatics 34(8). 1003–1044.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Arundale, Robert B. 1999. An alternative model and ideology of communication for an alternative to politeness theory. Pragmatics 9(1). 119–154.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Arundale, Robert B. 2008. Against (Gricean) intentions at the heart of human interaction. Intercultural Pragmatics 5. 231–260.Google Scholar

  • Arundale, Robert B. 2010. Constituting face in conversation: Face, facework, and interactional achievement. Journal of Pragmatics 42. 2078–2105.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Arundale, Robert B. 2013. Conceptualizing “interaction” in interpersonal pragmatics: Implications for understanding and research. Journal of Pragmatics 58. 12–26.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Arundale, Robert B. Forthcoming. Communicating and relating: Constituting face in everyday interacting. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

  • Arundale, Robert B. & David Good. 2002. Boundaries and sequences in studying conversation. In Anita Fetzer & Christine Meierkord (eds.), Rethinking sequentiality: Linguistics meets conversational interaction, 121–150. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.Google Scholar

  • Asher, Nicholas & Alex Lascarides. 2003. Logics of conversation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

  • Bach, Kent. 1994. Semantic slack: What is said and more. In Savas L. Tsochatzidis (ed.), Foundations of speech act theory: Philosophical and linguistic perspectives, 267–291. London/New York: Routledge.Google Scholar

  • Bach, Kent. 2006. The top ten misconceptions about implicature. In Betty J. Birner & Gregory Ward (eds.), Drawing the boundaries of meaning: Neo-Gricean studies in pragmatics and semantics in honour of Laurence R. Horn, 21–30. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar

  • Bilmes, Jack. 1986. Discourse and behaviour. New York: Plenum Press.Google Scholar

  • Blum-Kulka, Shoshana & Elite Olshtain. 1984. Requests and apologies: A cross-cultural study of speech act realization patterns. Applied Linguistics 5. 198–212.Google Scholar

  • Brown, Penelope & Stephen C. Levinson. 1987. Politeness: Some universals in language usage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

  • Chiang, Shiao-Yun. 2009. Mutual understanding as a procedural achievement in intercultural interaction. Intercultural Pragmatics 6(3). 367–394.Google Scholar

  • Clark, Herbert H. 1997. Dogmas of understanding. Discourse Processes 23(3). 567–598.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Clift, Rebecca. 2012. Identifying action: Laughter in non-humorous reported speech. Journal of Pragmatics 44(10). 1303–1312.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Culpeper, Jonathan & Michael Haugh. 2014. Pragmatics and the English language. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar

  • Davis, Wayne A. 1998. Implicature. Intention, convention, and principle in the failure of Gricean theory. Oxford: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

  • Elder, Chi-Hé. Forthcoming. Negotiating what is said in the face of miscommunication. In Piotr Stalmaszczyk (ed.), Philosophical insights into pragmatics. Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter.Google Scholar

  • Foster, Pauline & Amy Snyder Ohta. 2005. Negotiation for meaning and peer assistance in second language classrooms. Applied Linguistics 26(3). 402–430.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Garfinkel, Harold. 1967. Studies in ethnomethodology. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar

  • Ginzburg, Jonathan. 2012. The interactive stance. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

  • Gregoromichelaki, Eleni, Ruth Kempson, Matt Purver, Gregory James Mills, Ronnie Cann, Wilfred Meyer-Viol & Patrick G.T. Healey. 2011. Incrementality and intention-recognition in utterance processing. Dialogue and Discourse 2(1). 199–233.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Grice, Paul. 1957. Meaning. Philosophical Review 66(3). 377–388. Reprinted 1989 in Studies in the way of words, 213–223. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar

  • Grice, Paul. 1975. Logic and conversation. In Peter Cole and Jerry Morgan (eds.), Syntax and Semantics. Volume 9, 41–58. Reprinted 1989 in Studies in the way of words, 41–58. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar

  • Grice, Paul. 1987. Retrospective epilogue. Published 1989 in Studies in the way of words, 339–385. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar

  • Haugh, Michael. 2007. The co-constitution of politeness implicature in conversation. Journal of Pragmatics 39(1). 84–110.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Haugh, Michael. 2008a. Intention and diverging interpretings of implicature in the uncovered meat sermon. Intercultural Pragmatics 5(2). 201–229.Google Scholar

  • Haugh, Michael. 2008b. The place of intention in the interactional achievement of implicature. In Istvan Kecskes & Jacob L. Mey (eds.), Intention, common ground and the egocentric speaker-hearer, 45–85. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.Google Scholar

  • Haugh, Michael. 2012. On understandings of intention: A response to Wedgewood. Intercultural Pragmatics 9(2). 161–194.Google Scholar

  • Haugh, Michael. 2013. Speaker meaning and accountability in interaction. Journal of Pragmatics 48. 41–56.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Haugh, Michael. 2015. Im/politeness implicatures. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.Google Scholar

  • Haugh, Michael. 2017a. Implicature and the inferential substrate. In Piotr Cap & Marta Dynel (eds.), Implicitness: From lexis to discourse, 281–304. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar

  • Haugh, Michael. 2017b. Prompting offers of assistance in interactions. Pragmatics and Society 8(2). 183–207.Google Scholar

  • Haugh, Michael & Kasia M. Jaszczolt. 2012. Speaker intentions and intentionality. In Keith Allan & Kasia M. Jaszczolt (eds.), The Cambridge handbook of pragmatics, 87–112. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

  • Heritage, John. 1984. Garfinkel and ethnomethodology. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar

  • Horn, Laurence. R. 2004. Implicature. In Laurence. R. Horn & Gregory Ward (eds.), The handbook of pragmatics, 3–28. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar

  • Jacobs, Scott & Sally Jackson. 1983. Strategy and structure in conversational influence attempts. Communication Monographs 50(4). 285–304.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Jary, Mark. 2013. Two types of implicature: Material and behavioural. Mind and Language 28(5). 638–660.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Jaszczolt, Kasia, M. Eleni Savva & Michael Haugh. 2016. The individual and the social path of interpretation: The case of incomplete disjunctive questions. In Alessandro Capone & Jacob L. Mey (eds.), Interdisciplinary studies in pragmatics, culture and society, 251–283. Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar

  • Jaszczolt, Kasia M. 2005. Default semantics: Foundations of a compositional theory of acts of communication. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

  • Jaszczolt, Kasia M. 2016. Meaning in linguistic interaction: Semantics, metasemantics, philosophy of language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

  • Jefferson, Gail. 1979. A technique for inviting laughter and its subsequent acceptance/declination. In George Psathas (ed.), Everyday language: Studies in ethnomethodology, 79–96. New York: Irvington Publishers.Google Scholar

  • Kecskes, Istvan. 2008. Dueling contexts: A dynamic model of meaning. Journal of Pragmatics 40. 385–406.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Kecskes, Istvan. 2010. The paradox of communication - socio-cognitive approach to pragmatics. Pragmatics and Society 1. 50–73.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Kecskes, Istvan. 2013. Is there anyone out there who really is interested in the speaker? Language and Dialogue 2(2). 283–297.Google Scholar

  • Kecskes, Istvan. 2017. The interplay of recipient design and salience in shaping speakers utterance. In María de Ponte & Kepa Korta (eds.), Reference and representation in thought and language, 238–273. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

  • Kecskes, Istvan, Robert E. Sanders & Anita Pomerantz. 2018. The basic interactional competence of language learners. Journal of Pragmatics 124. 88–105.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Keysar, Boaz. 2007. Communication and miscommunication: The role of egocentric processes. Intercultural Pragmatics 4(1). 71–84.Google Scholar

  • Krippendorff, Klaus. 1970. On generating data in communication research. The Journal of Communication 20. 241–269.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Long, Michael H. 1983. Native speaker/non-native speaker conversation and the negotiation of comprehensible input. Applied Linguistics 4. 126–141.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Ogiermann, Eva. 2015. Direct off-record requests - Hinting in family interactions. Journal of Pragmatics 86. 31–35.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Pica, T. 1994. Research on negotiation: What does it reveal about second-language learning conditions, processes, and outcomes. Language Learning 44. 493–527.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Recanati, Francois. 2010. Truth conditional pragmatics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

  • Robles, Jessica S. 2017. Misunderstanding as a resource in interaction. Pragmatics 27(1). 57–86.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Sacks, Harvey, Emanuel A. Schegloff & Gail Jefferson. 1974. A simplest systematics for the organization of turn-taking for conversation. Language 50(4). 696–735.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Sanders, Robert E. 1987. Cognitive foundations of calculated speech. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar

  • Sanders, Robert E. 2013. The duality of speaker meaning: What makes self repair, insincerity, and sarcasm possible. Journal of Pragmatics 48(1). 112–122.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Sanders, Robert E. 2015. A tale of two intentions: Intending what an utterance means and intending what an utterance achieves. Pragmatics and Society 6(4). 475–501.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Sanders, Robert E. 2017. Overcoming differences and achieving common ground: Why speaker and hearer make the effort and how they go about it. In Rachel Giora & Michael Haugh (eds.), Doing pragmatics interculturally, 31–54. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.Google Scholar

  • Schegloff, Emanuel A. 1981. Discourse as an interactional achievement: Some uses of uh huh and other things that come between sentences. In Deborah Tannen (ed.), Analyzing discourse: Text and talk, 71–93. Washington D.C.: Georgetown University Press.Google Scholar

  • Schegloff, Emanuel A., Elinor Ochs & Sandra A. Thompson. 1996. Introduction. In Elinor Ochs, Emanuel A. Schegloff & Sandra A. Thompson (eds.), Interaction and grammar, 1–51. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

  • Schegloff, Emanuel A. & Harvey Sacks. 1973. Opening up closings. Semiotica 8(4). 289–327.Google Scholar

  • Searle, John R. 1979. Expression and meaning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

  • Sperber, Dan & Deirdre Wilson. 1995. Relevance: Communication and cognition. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.Google Scholar

  • Sperber, Dan & Deirdre Wilson. 2015. Beyond speakers meaning. Croatian Journal of Philosophy 15(44). 117–149.Google Scholar

  • Varonis, Evangeline Marlos & Susan M. Gass. 1985. Miscommunication in native/nonnative conversation. Language in Society 14. 327–343.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Weizman, Elda. 1985. Towards an analysis of opaque utterances: Hints as a request strategy. Theoretical Linguistics 12(s1). 153–164.Google Scholar

About the article

Chi-Hé Elder

Chi-Hé Elder is Lecturer in Linguistics in the School of Politics, Philosophy and Language and Communication Studies at the University of East Anglia. Her research interests lie in the relationship between post-Gricean pragmatics and interactional pragmatics, with a particular focus on the role of miscommunication in discourse.

Michael Haugh

Michael Haugh is Professor of Linguistics in the School of Languages and Cultures at the University of Queensland. His research interests lie in pragmatics, conversation analysis, and intercultural communication, with a particular focus on the role of language in social interaction.

Published Online: 2018-11-30

Published in Print: 2018-11-27

Citation Information: Intercultural Pragmatics, Volume 15, Issue 5, Pages 593–625, ISSN (Online) 1613-365X, ISSN (Print) 1612-295X, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ip-2018-0021.

Export Citation

© 2018 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston.Get Permission

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in