Context and Communication

  • Communicating meaning does not only include the use of speech acts such as complaining, asserting, requesting, complimenting, and apologizing, but also engaging in different types of discourse and participating in speech events of various length and complexity (Rose, 1999 quoted in Lin, p. 93). Meaning in discourse is largely hinged on the various communicative events that have been established by language users. This accounts for why meaning transfer and deduction vary from one discourse situation to the other. This variance is accomplished on the basis of the participants, setting, topic, medium of exchange, and code, primarily known as context. A basic concern in the study of language use is how utterances are interpreted, this is most captured in the ‘interpretation question’ of Sinclair asking “How can an addressee – a hearer or a reader – determine what information a communicator – a speaker or a writer – intends to convey to him by means of a certain utterance?” (p. 103). The understanding of this is context. From a pragmatic standpoint context is processed on the knowledge of what speakers and hearers assume to know in a discourse situation and how that knowledge guides how they use language and interpret utterances (Upah, p. 15).