PRAGMATICS AND THE TEACHING OF ENGLISH LITERATURE

PRAGMATICS AND THE TEACHING OF ENGLISH LITERATUREAdriansyah A. Katili

Abstrak

Makalah ini bertujuan memaparkan pentingnya pragmatik dalam pengajaran bahasa dan sastra Inggris. Pemaparan ini didasarkan pada fungsi pragmatik yang berkenaan dengan pemakaian bahasa dalam komunikasi, yaitu apa yang dikatakan oleh seorang pembicara dan makna yang ingin disampaikan. Berdasarkan peaparan ini, dapat disimpulkan bahwa pragmatik sangat penting dalam pengajaran bahasa dan sastra Inggris.This paper is about pragmatics and the teaching of English literature. This is based on the common knowledge that the medium of literature is language. Literature is the use of artistic language. However, it is more than the use of artistic language; it is a type of communication that uses language, hence it is concerned with the meaning of language in a certain context. Hence, the role of pragmatics cannot be ignored. Pragmatics is defined as the study of how language is used in communication in certain context. It is dealt with how the speaker produces certain utterance in a certain context and what he may mean by the utterance. In other words, it is what the speaker literally means and what he may mean by his utterance. (Kilby, and Roca in Grundy, 2000: 3). By this definition, I explore the function of pragmatics in the teaching of English Language and Literature. To support my argument, I take some utterances taken from Miller's

Literary Review

A. The Nature of Pragmatics

In this part I discuss the nature of pragmatics based on the definitions given by some experts. The first definition says that pragmatics is concerned with how people use language, the distinction between what speakers’s words (literally) means, and what the speaker might mean or intend by his words (Brown & Yule, 1996:26; Kilby, and Roca in Grundy, 2000: 3). This definition emphasizes on what the speaker says and what he may intend by his words. Accordingly, there are literal meaning and intended meaning.The second definition says that pragmatics is the study of the relations between language and context that are basic to an account of language understanding (Levinson, 1992: 11). This definition, as the first one, still defines pragmatics as the use of language and what the speaker may means. However, this definition adds context as the basic to understand the intended meaning contained in an utterance.Form the definitions it is clear that pragmatics is mainly concerned with the use of language in communication. In the process of communication, a speaker utters some utterances which contain both literal meaning or what the speaker says and what the speaker may to intend by his utterances. The speaker’s intended meaning may be inferred by exploring the context of the utterance; the same utterance may have different meaning in different context. The utterance, “It’s ten o’clock” when uttered in a meeting may mean that it is time to start the meeting. On the other hand, in a context when someone asks the time, it means to answer the question.

B. SPEECH ACT

Speech act is one of theories in the study of pragmatics. It was proposed by Austin in the book How to do Things with Words (1975). This theory observes that speech is actually an act through the use of words. Hence, using language means act something.The act within words can be observed in three levels: locution, illocution, and perlocution. Locution is what the speaker utters in a certain context. So, when a king, in a ceremonial naming of a ship, when uttering, “I name this ship Queen Elizabeth” he produces an utterance of naming the ship Queen Elisabeth.Illocution is the act the speaker performs within his utterance. In Illocution level, the speaker performs an act of naming a ship Queen Elisabeth.Illocution is the effect of the illocutionary act. The effect of the above illocution is now the ship’s name is Queen Elizabeth.This theory says that the illocutionary act may succeed when being performed by an authorized person. The acting of naming the ship “Queen Elizabeth” is effective because it performed by a king, the person who has an authority of performing such act.

 

C. SEARLE'S TAXONOMY OF ILLOCUTIONARY ACT

Austin’s theory of speech act was developed by his follower, Searle. Searle (in Martinich, 2001: 156-160) observes that the illocutionary act consists of:a. assertive, i.e. an act of asserting that something is true.b. directives, an act of directing the hearer to perform of a certain act.c. expressives, i.e. functions to express the psychological state specified in the sincerity condition , such as thanking, congratulating, anger, happiness, sadness, condolence, etc.d. Declarations, i.e. to declare the proposition in the utterance. Naming the ship in the previous section is a clear example. When performing successfully, this will result in perlocution. To succeed the Perlocution, we may refer to Grice’s maxims.

D. GRICE’S MAXIMS

Grice (in Martinich, 2001: 165-173) proposes some maxims that may lead a speaker in communication:A. Quantity. The category of quantity consists of the maxims:Make your contribution informative as is required.Do not make your contribution more informative than is required.B. Quality. This category falls a super-maxim—“Try to make your contribution one that is true.” This is deliberated into two specific maxims:1. Do not say what you believe to be false.2. Do not say that for which you lack of adequate evidence.

C. RelationUnder this category, there is only one maxim, namely ‘Be relevant”D. Manner. This is related to how to say something, not what is said as the previous categories. This consists of a super-maxim—“Be perspicuous”—and some maxims:1. Avoid obscurity of expression.2. Avoid ambiguity.3. Be brief (avoid unnecessary prolixity).4. Be orderly.

Grice says that when a speaker flouts a maxim, that the hearer may find the implicature, that is the meaning which is implied by the speaker. Take the following utterance as an example:Peter: Do you want some coffee?Mary: Coffee would keep me awake.Marry seems to flout the maxim of quality: make your contribution as informative as is required. Obeying this maxim, Mary must answer yes or no. However, Peter, by exploring the context, may come to a conclusion that Mary needs coffee to keep her awake. On the other hand, in a context in which Mary needs to sleep, she may intend an implicature that she refuses coffee.

 

E. CONTEXT

Context plays important role in communication. It is an aspect that determines the meaning of an utterance (Wahab, 1998: 56) Therefore, the same utterance will have different meaning in different context.Context consists of physical context (the setting), personal context: refers to the social and personal relationship of interactants to another, and cognitive context: the shared background knowledge held by participants in interaction. (Simpson, 2004: 35) So, when the utterance, “Good morning, Sir” when uttered by a student to a lecturer is meant to greet. On the other hand, when being uttered by a lecturer to a student who is late, it may be meant to ridicule.

F. PRAGMATICS IN THE TEACHING OF ENGLISH LANGUAGE

Since teaching English is aimed at providing students with the ability of using English in communication, teacher should apply the principle of pragmatics. Teaching English based on the principle of pragmatics may be conducted in communicative approach. In teaching speaking, the technique suits pragmatics is role play, discussion, delivering speech. In speaking teacher may train students to produce utterances to intend the meaning. On the other hands, teacher may train the students to infer the speaker’s intended meaning by exploring both the utterances and the context. The students should explore whether or not the speaker obeys Grice’s maxims, and to infer the speaker’s implied meaning.In writing, the teacher may train the students to write effectively. In scientific writing, writer needs to obey Grice’s maxims in order to produce effective writing. It is because scientific writing should be effective and explicit.

G. PRAGMATICS IN THE TEACHING OF ENGLISH LITERATURE

Teaching English Literature is aimed at providing students with the ability to appreciate the English literary works. This objective may be obtained by considering language as the medium of literature. Therefore, teacher should prepare the students with the ability to infer the utterances in literary works.Teacher may apply the principle of pragmatics to teach the literature. Consider the following example taken from Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman:Willy: Howard, are you firing me?Howard: I think you need a good long rest, Willy.(pp65)Howard seems to flout Grice’s maxim of qualitative: Quantity. The category of quantity consists of the maxims:Make your contribution informative as is required.Do not make your contribution more informative than is required.Obeying this maxim, Howard must answer Willy’s question yes or no. To infer the utterance, we should take the context into consideration. The physical context is in Howard’s office. Willy is Howard’s employee; he works for Howard as a sales. However, he cannot sell well now since he is old enough. Therefore, by that utterance, Howard seems to intend fire Willy. Notice his words “I think you need a good long rest, Willy. Long rest is undetermined duration, thus it means that Willy is fired.In term of speech act, Howard’s utterance in the level of illocutionary act is an act of firing Willy. He has the authority of performing such act since he is Willy’s employer. Unlike that illocutionary act intend implicitly, the following is stated explicitly:

WILLY: But I gotta earn money, Howard. I’m in no position to –HOWARD: Where are your sons? Why don’t your sons give you a hand?WILLY: They’re working on a very big deal. (Pp. 65)

In term of Searle’s taxonomy of illocutionary act, the bolded utterance is an expression of pride. The interlocutors are Willy and Howard. Willy begs Howard to give him the job of selling; Howard, however, refuses it. Then Howard asks why Willy not asks his sons to help him. Instead of answering it, Willy says proudly that his sons are working on a very big deal.In prose, the intended meaning may be inferred by, for example, analyzing the use of conjunction. Consider the following taken from Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea (1952: 1):

“He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Scream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish. In the first forty days a boy had been with him. But after forty days without a fish the boy’s parents had told him that the old man was now definitely and finally salao, which is the worst form of unluck, and the boy had gone at their orders in another boat which caught three good fish the first week…”

This passage is about an old man who fished but is always unlucky. He always goes to the sea to fish but comeback to the land without any fishes.The conjunction and is used to intend the additional information; but is used to intend the contradiction. Hence, the above passage informs some additional information and a contradiction.Consider also the following passage taken from Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises (1954: 1):

“Robert Cohn was once middleweight boxing champion Princeton. Do not think that I am very much impressed by that as a boxing title, but it meant a lot to Cohn. He cared nothing for boxing, in fact he disliked it, but he learned it painfully to counteract the feeling of inferiority and shyness he had felt on being treated as a Jew at Princeton. There was a certain inner comfort in knowing he could knock down anybody who was snooty to him, although, being very shy and thoroughly nice boy, he never fought except in the gym. He was Spider Kelly’s star pupil. Spider taught all his young gentlemen to box like featherweight, no matter whether they weight one hundred and five or two hundred and five pounds. But it seemed to fit Cohn. He was really very fast. He was so good that Spider promptly overmatched him and got his nose permanently flattened. This increased Cohn distaste for boxing, but it gave him a certain satisfaction of some strange sort, and it certainly improved his nose. In his last year at Princeton he read too much and too to wearing spectacles. I never met any one of his class who remember that he was middleweight boxing champion.

The conjunction and is used to intend the additional information; but is used to intend the contradiction. Hence, the above passages inform some additional information and a contradiction.

H. Conclusion

To conclude this paper, I emphasize that teaching English Language and Literature should involve pragmatics. Pragmatics as the use of language in communication dealt with how the people use language to intend the meaning. In teaching English language, teacher may apply the principle of pragmatic to train students to use language to intend their meaning and to infer the interlocutor’s intended meaning. In teaching English Literature, pragmatics helps students to infer utterances in literary works.Pragmatics in the teaching of drama will be concerned with speech acts conducted by the characters as the interlocutors. The speech acts are in the three sets levels, i.e. locution, illocution and perlocution. Locution is what the speaker utteres; illocution is the speaker’s intended meaning. And perlocution is the effect of the illocution as performed by the hearer.In the teaching of prose, pragmatics concerns with, for example, the use of conjunctions. The conjunctions will lead the leader to infer the correlation between sentences. The use of and, for example, indicates the additional information presented in the next sentence; the conjunction but indicates the contradiction between two sentence.In short, I emphasize that pragmatics is very important in the teaching of literature. It is a necessary that the teacher of both language and literature to apply the principles pragmatics in teaching.

REFERENCES

Austin, J.L. 1975. How to Do Things with Words (edited by J.O. Urmson and Marina Sbisa) . Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Grice, H. P, 2001. “Logic and Conversation” in Martinich, A.P. The Philosophy of Language. (pp. 165-175) New York: Oxford University Press.

Hemingway, Ernest, 1952. The Old Man and The Sea. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

Hemingway, Ernest, 1954. The Sun Also Rises. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.Miller, Arthur, 1961. Death of a Salesman. London: Penguin Book. Ltd.

Searle, John R, 1985. Speech Act An Essay in the Philosophy of Language. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Simpson, Paul, 2004. Stylistics, a Resource Book for Students New York: Routledge.

Wahab, Abdul, 1998. Butir-butir Linguistik. Surabaya: Airlangga University Press.

 

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