Features of context:
First of all we have the persons participating in the speech event: the roles of the addressor and the addressee
- The addressor is the speaker or the writer who produces the utterance.
- The addressee is the hearer or the reader who is the recipient the utterance.
- We can also distinguish audience since the presence of overhearers may contribute to the specification of the speech event.
- Topic is what is being talked about
- Setting is where the event is situated in place and time and also the physical relations of the interactants with respect to posture, gesture and facial expression.
Large-scale features are:
- Channel: how contact is between the participants in the event being maintained, for instance by speech, writing, signing, smoke signals etc.
- Code: what language or dialect or style of language is being used.
- Message form: what form is intended: chat, debate, sermon, fairy tale, love letter etc.
- Purpose: what the participants intend, should come about as a result of the of the communication event.
Aspects of contextual description:
- Reference: It is the relationship which holds between words and things. Words refer to things. It is the speaker who refers to things. It is an action on the part of the speaker/writer.
- Presupposition: It is what is taken by the speaker to be common ground of the participants in the conversation. Consequently, we shall avoid attributing presuppositions to sentences or propositions.
- Implicatures: Is what a speaker can imply, suggest, or mean as distinct from what the speaker literaly says.
They can be of 2 types:
a) Conventional implicature: determined by the conventional meaning of the words used.
b) Conversational implicature: which is derived from a general principle of conversation plus a number of maxims which speakers normally obey. Grice calls them the cooperative principle and the conversational maxims:
1) Quantity: Make your contribution as informative as it is required.
2) Quality: Don´t say what you believe to be false or for which you lack adequate evidence.
3) Relation: Be relevant.
4) Manner: Be perspicuous, avoid obscurity, avoid ambiguity, be brief, be orderly.
- Inference: Since the hearer has no direct access to a speaker´s intended meaning in producing an utterance, he often has to rely on the process of inference to arrive at an interpretation for utterances or for the connections between utterances. We can use inference when there is a missing link.
It is the sentences which include specific reference to what has been mentioned before. Any sentence other than the first in a fragment of discourse, will have the whole of its interpretation forcibly constrained by the preceding text. The more co-text there is, the more secure the interpretation is. Text creates its own context.
The principles of local interpretation and of analogy:
There must be principles of interpretation available to the hearer, which enable him to determine a relevant and reasonable interpretation of an expression on a particular occasion of utterance.
- One of them is the principle of local interpretation. This principle instructs the hearer not to construct a context any larger than he needs to arrive at an interpretation. It is this principle which instructs the hearer not to construct a context any larger than necessary to secure an interpretation. Local interpretation probably relates to another strategy which instructs the hearer/reader to do as little processing as possible, only to construct a representation which is sufficiently specific to permit an interpretation which is adequate for what the hearer judges the purpose of the utterance to be.
- It is the hearer´s/ reader´s ability to use his knowledge of the world and his past experience of similar events what will interpret the language he encounters.
It is the experience of similar events which enables him to judge what the purpose of an utterance might be. It is his knowledge of the world which constrains his local interpretation.
An individual´s experience of past events of a similar kind will equip him with expectations, hypothesis about the relevant aspects of context. In this case we call it the principle of analogy. It will provide a reasonably secure framework for interpretation for the hearer. Most of the time things will conform to our expectations.
However, conventions can be flouted and expectations upset either deliberately for a stylistic effect or by accident or oversight. Where the speaker/writer is deliberately flouting a convention, upsetting an expectation for a stylistic effect, he can only bring off that effect because conventions and expectations exist.
The principle of analogy is fundamental for hearers in determining interpretations in context They assume that everything will remain as it was before, unless they are given specific note that some aspect has changed.
The topic framework:
It represents the area of overlap in the knowledge which has been activated and is shared by the participants in the discourse at a particular point. The speaker has to speak topically, that is to say, making his contribution relevant in terms of the existing topic framework.
This is more noticeable in conversations where each participant picks up elements from the contribution of the preceding speaker and incorporates them in his contribution. Conversation is a process and each contribution should be treated as a part of the negotiation of what is being talked about. This is what we call meaning negotiation.
The negotiation of meaning is the collaborative process of creating, sharing, and repairing meaning, central to communication and to all human social activity. Speakers collaborate with each other to negotiate meaning in face-to-face interaction and it is a complex process with its different communicative goals. Language is viewed not as a static product of interaction but as a dynamic meaning producing process in action.
The meaning of an utterance is not a constant but a variable, the value of which is negotiated in the course of interaction.
Interactive listening skills:
Interactive skills ensure that you understand the messages your counterparts are communicating and acknowledge their feelings. Interactive skills include:
- Clarifying: You are clarifying when you use facilitative questions to fill in the details, get additional information and explore all sides of an issue.
- Verifying: You are verifying information when you paraphrase the speaker´s words to ensure that you understand the meaning.
- Reflecting: You are reflecting when you make remarks that acknowledge and show empathy for the speaker´s feelings. In order to be empathetic, you need to accurately perceive the content of the speaker´s message, recognize the emotional components and unexpressed meanings behind the message, and attend to the speaker´s feelings.
Non-verbal negotiation skills:
As much as 90 per cent of the meaning transmitted between two people in face-to face communication is non-verbal: face, head, body, arms, hands, legs. Studying what your counterpart in the negotiation process is “saying” is critical to achieve: dominance, power, nervousness, disagreement, anger, scepticism, boredom, lack of interest, uncertainty, indecision, suspicion, dishonesty, honesty, evaluation, confidence, cooperation etc.