1. Introduction 1
2. Economy in the English language 2
2.1 Economy in phonology 2
2.2 Economy in syntax 3
2.3 Economy in semantics 3
3. Pragmatic analysis of linguistic economy 4
3.1 Deixis, substitution, ellipsis and linguistic economy 4
3.2 The Q-, I-, and M- principles and linguistic economy 6
3.2.1 The Q-principle and the quality of a statement 6
3.2.2 The I-principle and the amount of linguistic information of a statement 7
3.2.3 The M- principle and the simplest form of a statement 9
3.3 Conversational structure and linguistic economy 10
3.3.1 Given & new information structure versus restricted & elaborated forms
of expression 10
3.3.2 Preference structure versus restricted & elaborated forms of expression 12
3.4 Context and linguistic economy 13
3.4.1 Co-text and linguistic economy 13
3.4.2 Situational context and linguistic economy 14
3.4.3 Social-cultural context and linguistic economy 16
4. Conclusion 17
A Pragmatic Analysis of Linguistic Economy
Linguistic economy refers to the phenomenon that a simple, concise and economic form of expression is always preferred over a complicated, lengthy and prolix form in language use. It reflects such a tendency that people will say no more than necessary in their communications with others. As a result of this, people will use a variety of ways to economize their speeches while ensuring the accuracy and clarity in communications..
Linguistic economy is then concerned about those ways or approaches of economizing the speeches. Therefore, it is closely related to pragmatics, a branch of linguistics studying language in use. Pragmatics is a relatively well-developed field in linguistics in which a number of theories and approaches of analysing languages in practical use have been established. Based on such an assumption, this thesis intends to analyze linguistic economy by using the approaches and theories in pragmatics.
This thesis consists of four parts. The first part describes the phenomenon of linguistic economy, reviews some established theories related to it and introduces the pragmatic approaches and theories to be discussed in the following parts as related to linguistic economy. The second part discusses linguistic economy in three aspects: phonology, syntax and semantics. The third part, which is the focus of this thesis, analyses linguistic economy by using approaches and theories in pragmatics. First, deixis, substitution, ellipsis in micro-pragmatics are analyzed. Then Levinson’s Q-, I-, and M- principles are probed into respectively. Next, information and conversational structure is investigated for its associations with linguistic economy. Lastly, three kinds of context—co-textual context, situational context, and social-cultural context, are explored to reveal its correlations to linguistic economy. In the above three parts, a number of concrete examples are presented along with the theoretical analysis. The fourth part summarizes this thesis and at the same time points out the limitations of this thesis. In the end, it concludes that studying linguistic economy with the use of approaches and theories in pragmatics will certainly be promising and fruitful.
Key words: linguistic economy pragmatic analysis
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