Micro situations and macro structures: natural-language communication and context

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This contribution investigates the role of context in natural-language communication by differentiating between linguistic and sociocultural contexts. It is firmly anchored to a dialogue framework and based on a relational conception of context as a structured and interactionally organised phenomenon. However, context is not only examined from this bottom-up or micro perspective, but also from a top-down or macro viewpoint as pre- and co-supposed sociocultural context. Here, context is not solely seen as an interactionally organised phenomenon, but rather as a sociocultural apparatus which strongly influences the interpretation of micro situations. The section, micro building blocks and local meaning, argues for a sociopragmatic approach to natural-language communication thus accommodating both speech act theory and conversation analysis. It examines the question of how linguistic and sociocultural contexts are accommodated by the micro building blocks of speech act and turn, and speaker and hearer. The results obtained are systematised in the section, micro meets macro, and adapted to the requirements of the dialogue act of a plus/minus-validity claim based on the contextualisation of Jürgen Habermas's conception of ratification of validity claim adopted from this theory of communicative action (1987). The definition of a plus/minus-validity claim is further supplemented by the Gricean Cooperative Principle, the ethnomethodological premise of accountability of social action, the conversation-analytic notion of sequential organisation and the interpersonal concepts of face and participation format. Validity claims are discussed from both bottom-up and top-down perspectives stressing the dynamics of context with regard to both process and product, and selection and construction. In conclusion, the relational status of context requires an interactive frame of reference accounting for context, contextualisation, decontextualisation and recontextualisation. © 2002 Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Original languageEnglish
JournalFoundations of Science
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)255-291
Number of pages37
Publication statusPublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes

    Research areas

  • English
  • Dialogue act of a plus/minus-validity claim, Linguistic context, Ratification of a validity claim, Relational conception of context, Sociocultural context