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Request-making as communication-based problem-solving

Exploring some long-held assumptions in linguistics, pragmatics and communication studies

The talk will discuss some long-held assumptions in linguistics, pragmatics and communication studies, viz. language as consisting of symbols, the symbol as a two-sided sign, the utterance as an arbitrary and conventional sign, and face as a notion solely linked to speaker and hearer. It will be argued that despite its obvious anchoring in verbal communication, request-making has more in common with non-verbal communication and therefore it should be interpreted as consisting of indexical signs: symptom, signal and model. A model for communication-based problem-solving, called the Pragmatic Wheel, is created on the basis of the imperative which is used to solve problems without negotiation to save society’s face. From this basic model a declarative variant is derived for negotiation between the speaker and the hearer – here the speaker’s face is prioritized, because s/he is taken deeply seriously. And, finally, from this model an interrogative variant is derived. This variant seems to avoid the notion of problem and to prioritize the hearer’s face. Russian, English, Danish and Chinese examples from a recently made production test involving 250 participants will be presented.

Per Durst-Andersen is professor at the Department of International Business Communication. His primary research areas are cognitive linguistics, communicative and linguistic typology, language, culture and identity, semiotics and philosophy of science. Since his postdoctoral thesis "Mental Grammar" he has been working on a new typology of languages which is based on a mixture of communicative, perceptual, cognitive and semiotic parameters. Three so-called communicative supertypes are distinguished: Reality-oriented languages (Chinese and Russian); speaker-oriented languages (Japanese and Spanish); and hearer-oriented languages (English and Danish). At present he tries to find out how people with different supertypes as their mother tongues communicate when they use English as a business lingua franca.


Professor Per Durst-Andersen | talks | www


Date and Time:

4 February 2016 at 12:00 pm


1 hour



Language and Communication, Middlesex University
Middlesex University
The Burroughs
+44 84 11 65 55

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Contact Anna Charalambidou for further information.

Language and Communication Research Seminars are organised by the Language and Communication research cluster at Middlesex University. The staff facilitator for the series is Anna Charalambidou

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