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A Pragmatic Treatment Of Bukavu Media Kiswahili

Essays in Pragmatics

Essay 2010 14 Seiten

Sprachwissenschaft / Sprachforschung (fachübergreifend)


Abstract: This paper is an attempt at discourse analysis of a Kiswahili discourse. It aims at analyzing the discourse from a pragmatic approach and focuses on the study of pragmatic notions such as reference, presupposition, implicature, and inference.

Key words: Context, reference, presupposition, implicature, and inference.

Résumé: Cet article est un essaie de faire l’analyse d’un discours en Kiswahili. Il cherche à analyser le discours dans l’approche pragmatique et met exergue les notions pragmatiques telles que la référence, la présupposition, l’implicature, et l’inférence.

Mots clés : Contexte, référence, présupposition, implicature, et inférence.


This article analyses a piece of discourse made by a journalist for a local radio station in Bukavu. It aims at looking at how journalists use Kiswahili as a media language in Bukavu, set contexts for their discourse, how they use the language in the set context and how a listener would process it for decoding the intended message. Therefore, the article tries to analyse and interpret the discourse from the perspective of context of situation in which it is produced. Analysing a piece of language from the perspective of context of situation has always been the main concern of Pragmatics.

I. Theoretical Background on general pragmatics

1. Pragmatics: Quid?

From the linguistic perspective, pragmatics is defined quite the same ways by many writers but with slight changes.

Kamil Wiśniewski (2007) considers it as the study of meaning of words, phrases and full sentences and contrasts it with Semantics in the sense that the latter deals with the objective meanings of words that can be found in dictionaries whereas pragmatics is more concerned with the meanings that words in fact convey when they are used. This writer hints at the idea of intended speaker meaning but his definition does not sufficiently mean what he wants to says. The definition fails to mention that the pragmatic meanings of utterances are situation or context dependent as Geoffrey Leech (1989: x) stresses. A much more elaborate definition is by Indende Florence (2003, 2009) stressing that pragmatics is concerned with the meaning of utterances, how what is said was meant by the speaker, and the utterance is to be interpreted by the audience. Wikipedia (2009)’s definition is more detailed and mentions that pragmatics is not only a subfield of linguistics which studies the ways in which context contributes to meaning, but also the study of the aspects of meaning and language use that are dependent on the speaker, the addressee and other features of the context of utterance, such as the effect that the context of utterance has on the utterance meaning, the generally observed principles of communication, and the goals of the speaker which also impact his choice of expression and the addressee’s interpretation of an utterance. The most recurrent common notion in all the definitions available about pragmatics is context

2. Context

This term refers to the environment in which the language is used and as Paul Werth (1984, 34) mentions, “most approaches to the question of context will normally make a distinction between linguistic (or verbal) context and extra-linguistic (or situational context. A sentence’s meaning in a given situational context may differ from its meaning seen from the semantic view. In other words, its meaning in a context may be different from meaning of the association of its constituents. Kamil Wiśniewski, (2007) stresses this by saying that the interpretation of what meanings the speaker wanted to convey using particular words is often influenced by factors such as the listeners’ assumptions or the context. In that sense it is obvious and obligatory for both a listener and a discourse analyst to interpret a text- oral or written- in accordance with the context of its production. Brown and Yule (1983: 27) strengthen this when they say that a discourse analyst has to take a pragmatic approach, which brings into consideration a number of issues which do not generally receive much attention in the formal linguist’s description of sentential syntax and semantics. He has to take account of the context in which a piece of discourse is produced.

In pragmatics two types of context can be differentiated: linguistic context and physical context. Linguistic context, sometimes called co-text is the set of words that surround the lexical item in question in the same phrase, or sentence. The physical context is the location of a given word, the situation in which it is used, as well as timing, all of which aid proper understating of the words (Kamil Wiśniewski 2007)

In Peter Bosch (1983)’s opinion, the listener or receiver has to create mental representations that is, as the speaker, he/she has to interpret the speech or discourse in accordance with context models.

3. Context models

The idea of context model draws much from the dynamic character of context. As Teun A. Van Djik (1977, 191-192), “a context is not just one possible world-state, but at least a sequence of world-states. Moreover, these situations do not remain identical in time, but change; hence a context is a course of events”. In a discourse, the receiver, like the sender, has therefore to understand this change and respond positively to the requirements of processing the message accordingly. In Bosch Peter (1983, 65-66)’s words,

context models are (representations of) mental models speaker and addressee build of their environments. Context models are the basis for the interpretation of utterances, and the interpretation of an utterance with respect to a particular context model consists in the transition from the context model to its successor, with respect to the utterance”.

The notion of contexts involves the (co)agents’ wants, motives, goals, concerns, intentions, etc. their actions, and the social environment in which the discourse and actions are used or performed. It is assumed that contextual information denotes any information and is (to be) invoked in order to make an appropriate assignment of action meaning possible (Van De Velde 1984).

Pragmatists like Brown and Yule (1983), Kamil Wiśniewski, ( 2007 ), and Peter Bosch (1983: 78) agree on a class of expressions whose interpretation is always context dependent. The first say for example, that some of the most obvious linguistic elements which require contextual information for their interpretation are the deictic forms such as here, now, I, you, this and that. In order to interpret these elements in a piece of discourse, it is necessary to know (at least) who the speaker and hearer are, and the time and place of production of the discourse. The second mention that there are numerous frequently used words which depend on the physical context for their correct understanding, such as: there, that, it, or tomorrow. Terms like these are known as deictic expressions. Depending on what such words refer to they can be classified as person deixis: him, they, you; spatial deixis: there, here; and temporal deixis: then, in an hour, tomorrow.



ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Buch)
442 KB
Institution / Hochschule
l'Institut Supérieur Pédagogique de Bukavu – English Department
pragmatic treatment bukavu media kiswahili essays pragmatics



Titel: A Pragmatic Treatment Of Bukavu Media Kiswahili