Dissertation > Language, writing > FOREIGN > English > Semantics,vocabulary,semantic

Pragmatic Analysis of Vagueness in English Diplomatic Language

Author LiChao
Tutor WangYanBin
School Jilin University
Course Foreign Linguistics and Applied Linguistics
Keywords Pragmatic Vagueness Diplomatic Language Pragmatic Analysis
CLC H313
Type Master's thesis
Year 2009
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For a long time, it is believed that good usage of language involves clarity and precision, the Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle once said:“The accuracy of language is the basis of good style.”This in fact reveals the lack of knowledge of language vagueness. The American scientist L. A. Zadeh proposed the“Fuzzy Sets”theory in 1965, and studied fuzziness systematically, which completely corrected people’s prejudice to fuzziness. He pointed that fuzziness existed not in the matter of the world but humans’mind and language. Since then, we have a more profound and scientific understanding of language vagueness, and widen the scope of the study on language vagueness.Vagueness is one property of natural language and intrinsic characteristic of our human thinking. It is the reflection of the inherent vagueness of the objective world and the limited and indeterminate cognition of the objective world. With the deepening and widen theoretical researches of pragmatics, more and more scholars pay close attention to the indeterminate expression used consciously. In the process of literature review, it is easy to find that the study on semantic vagueness has never been suspended (Wu Shixiong, Chen Zhenwei, 2001). Lakoff proposed hedges in 1972; Shi Anshi conducted a quantitative analysis for the semantic vagueness; Wu Tieping studied the vague language from cognitive approach. According to Lewis,“Language themselves are free of vagueness but the linguistic conventions of a population or the linguistic habits of a person select not a point but a fuzzy region in the space of precise language.”(1972:64); Burns explores vagueness in natural languages and conception from a pragmatic perspective. She holds that“Actual usage is restricted to a limited range of circumstances and guided by particular interests and purposes and there is no saying how it would extend to further unconsidered circumstances.”He Ziran prefers that vagueness of utterances should be analyzed from the speaker’s production and the hearer’s interpretation, which is the explanation of vagueness from the pragmatic perspective. It is a communicative strategy to employ vagueness in conversation consciously.As a communicative strategy, pragmatic vagueness has drawn more and more scholars’interest in recent years. According to Leech, pragmatic vagueness is the indeterminacy of utterances; the intention of it is for the common interests of both sides. Thomas(1995) holds that the meaning of utterances occurs in the whole dynamic process rather than the single part. Therefore, the vagueness generated in the interpersonal activities should be subsumed as the pragmatic vagueness. The view of pragmatic vagueness in this thesis is in line with He Ziran’s point view, that is, pragmatic vagueness deals with meaning indeterminacy of language in its production and interpretation, and we use the term“vagueness”to mean linguistic indeterminacy in general. Up to now, the researches on pragmatic vagueness both abroad and home have been extended to various aspects, such as legal language, medical language, literature discourse, advertising texts and so on; scholars interpret pragmatic vagueness variously from different perspectives, for instances: cognitive perspective, semantic approach, psychological one and so on. However, more scholars and researchers study the pragmatic vagueness in diplomatic language from cognitive perspective that is choose the relevance theory and adaption theory as the theoretical background, while pragmatic aspect has drawn fewer researchers’attention. Pragmatic principles are a set of rules that ensure the occurrence of conversation and achieve the communicative goals, which mainly include co-operative principle and speech act theory; they are two main pragmatic theories represent the different ways in explaining language phenomenon.The starting point of exchanges between countries is the fundamental interest. In the process of pursuit of national interest, conflicts and contradictions are inevitable. To solve such contradictions between countries, diplomacy comes into existence. Diplomacy is involved in dealing with international affairs, as the tool of diplomacy, the precision and proficiency of diplomatic language play an important role in diplomatic activities. Generally, diplomatic language is formal, conservative, and accurate persuasive language, which attaches importance to strategies. Nonetheless, as one feature of diplomatic language, vagueness is common in conversations and speeches of diplomatic activities. From the position and the requirement of strategy, the speaker should have to utilize vague language consciously to ensure the precision of expression, enhance the flexibility of language, and euphemize the utterance, to achieve the idealist communicative effect. Therefore, diplomats make use of vagueness in diplomatic language to harmonize the diplomatic atmosphere and improve the conversations’effectiveness.The thesis first reviews academic researches and studies on pragmatic vagueness and that in diplomatic language both at home and abroad and distinguishes some related confusing terms. Then, it states the definition of pragmatic vagueness and diplomatic language, the classification of pragmatic vagueness and the features of diplomatic language; from the perspective of pragmatics, with Speech Act Theory and Co-operative Principle as the theoretical basis and qualitative and descriptive methods as its analysis study method, on the basis of abundant diplomatic corpus, the thesis induces linguistic realizations of pragmatic vagueness in diplomatic language, by which the diplomats transfer different kinds of illocutionary acts and conversational implicatures, achieve their communicative goals, which also reach the pragmatic functions of protecting oneself, holding information and shifting or avoiding responsibility, etc.This thesis generalizes the realization of pragmatic vagueness in diplomatic language based on the numerous diplomatic corpuses, concludes the reason why diplomats, politicians or spokespersons employ pragmatic vagueness in their conversations, responses and speeches, various illocutionary act and conversational implicatures conveyed by pragmatic vagueness, and functions of pragmatic vagueness in diplomatic language. The requirement of social activities predestines the existence of vague language; in the meantime, diplomatic activity is kind of distinctive social activity, it is necessary to employ pragmatic vagueness properly. Diplomats’speeches and acts in diplomatic activities reflect not a nation’s image but the diplomatic policy of the nation. On sensitive affairs, diplomats’speeches and acts are of significance in the dignity of the nation and international situation. The simplicity, flexibility and generality of pragmatic vagueness are correspond with the requirement of diplomatic language, the features of pragmatic vagueness is helpful in harmonizing the diplomatic atmosphere, improving the conversations’effectiveness, finally, achieve the communicative goals. Pragmatic vagueness is an indispensible communicative strategy in diplomatic activities. The analysis and study on pragmatic vagueness in diplomatic language from the pragmatic perspective is of rationality and possibility. The study on such phenomenon based on the pragmatic principles certifies Co-operative Principle and Speech Act Theory can explicate the pragmatic vagueness in diplomatic language systematically and thoroughly.Furthermore, pragmatic vagueness in diplomatic language may sometimes have some negative impacts. Vague language can’t explain explicitly on certain diplomatic matters, it just generalizes or covers up some important information, which may dilute contradictions. As for the public, it enhances the difficulties for them to judge the true value of diplomatic language, and reduces the understanding of potential risk, which may impede the success of diplomacy. Therefore, the analysis and research of pragmatic vagueness in diplomatic language and its function is of importance in understanding and expressing diplomatic strategy, improving the scientificity, objectivity and credibility of diplomatic language.

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