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Determinacy, distance and intensity in intercultural communication: An emancipatory approach

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This paper seeks to make the case for a more empirical, situation-based approach to pragmatic analysis. It forms part of the recent move in pragmatics research away from the cross-cultural comparison of speech acts and neo-Gricean theoretical debates towards an analysis of real-life data based on the socio-cognitive and affective implications of inter-lingual conversational exchange. This approach is represented as ‘emancipatory’ in that it is highly contextually grounded and considers meaning from an ‘emergent’ perspective in which attempts at achieving mutual understanding are more or less effectively negotiated between participants. The notion of intention is called into question and emphasis is placed on the importance of metalinguistic commentary by interlocutors as an essential aid to interpreting transcriptions of previous exchanges. Close attention is given to linguistic features which define the attitudes and relationships between the participants: in this case, markers of ‘determinacy’, ‘distance’ and ‘intensity’.