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May 16, 2016: Giampietro Gobo: Text and social context. Why linguistics needs ethnography

Alice meets Humpty Dumpty - The Victorian Web

Seminars of Philosophy of Language and Mind


Giampietro Gobo (Università degli Studi di Milano)

Text and social context. Why linguistics needs ethnography

May 16, 2016: h. 10.30-12.30.

Room Enzo Paci, Directorate of the Dipartimento di Filosofia.

Via Festa del Perdono 7, Milano


The Talk will be held in English.

Participation is strongly recommended to students of the Doctoral School in Philosophy and Human Sciences.

Attendance is free. All welcome.

Abstract: One (of the many points of) contact between linguistics and social sciences is the ‘theory of speech act’ by Austin (1962) and Searle (1969).
However speech act theory, and its related concept of ‘context’, has been widely criticized by linguistic anthropologists (Hymes, Gumperz, Goodwin, Duranti, Ochs), linguistics (Labov) cultural anthropologists (Geertz), pragmalinguistics (Levinson, Brown), sociologists (Goffman), phenomenologists (Schutz), ethnomethodologists (Garfinkel), cognitive sociologists (Cicourel) and conversation or discourse analysts.
However the criticism acknowledges the importance of this theory, and aims to improve it through the contributions of other disciplines.
In this talk I will focus on the non-linguistic pre-conditions of communication. In other terms, there is a force of language that exists even before understanding the meaning of words (before interpreting the utterances from a denotative or performative point of view), even before the pragmatics of deictic/indexicality, even before the conventions that guide the performative: this force pertains the possibility to create a dialogue, even before having a dialogue. This possibility comes before any communication or particular interpretation.
These non-linguistic conditions or assumptions are both the pre-linguistic intersubjectivity or non-linguistic presuppositions or basic features of common understandings (interpretive procedures), and the physical features and design of the setting. Both can be discovered though ethnography only, because they do not appear in the linguistic texts performed in an interaction. This is why linguistic studies cannot do without ethnography.

16 May 2016
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