We never studied linguistics...please explain in simple English. My 14 year old wants to study law at university. She read The Language of Law School: Learning to "Think Like a Lawyer" (2007) by Elizabeth Mertz who earned BA and PhD in Anthropology, JD, but no degrees in linguistics. She keeps writing "metalinguistic" and "metapragmatic". She never defines either, but she defined "pragmatics" on pp 230-231.
- For the uninitiated, let me briefly introduce some key concepts. These concepts emerge not only from linguistics but also from the broader field known as “semiotics,” the study of signs. When focusing on “signs,” scholars are able to study all varieties of communicative signaling, including but not confined to linguistic communication. See generally Mertz and Parmentier, Semiotic Mediation. A common analytic division distinguishes several ways that language (or signs generally) carries meaning: (1) semantics: the decontextual meaning that is given by conventional “definition”; for example, when I say “rose,” you can interpret what I am saying in part because you know that the word “rose” generally indicates flowers of a certain kind; (2) pragmatics: the meaning that develops from contexts of speaking; for example, it is pretty difficult to understand the actual meaning or referent of a phrase such as “this rose” without knowing about the context in which it was spoken (because the word “this” generally indicates things that are close by in such a context of communication)—thus part of the meaning of that phrase when it is used (the pragmatic part) comes from its context, for example, from the existence of a flower that is situated close to the speaker of the utterance; (3) syntax: the meaning that relies on the groupings of words into phrases, one with another, in utterances; for example, our deciphering of the phrase “this rose” also depends in part on the relationship of the two words to one another and our understandings of what it means to string these two particular words together in this way (a word of the syntactic Determinant category followed by one of the Noun category, making up a regular phrase type).
I know that "metapragmatic" = meta- + pragmatic. I don't know Greek, but I'm inferring that meta- means "3. higher, beyond;" here. But how does this assist us?
P.H. Matthews's The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Linguistics (2014 3 ed.) doesn't define "metapragmatics". But it defines "metalinguistic".
Then I clicked on "metalanguage".
The OED defines "metapragmatics", but its entry is too gruff. Someone please elaborate?
Here are 3 examples of "metapragmatic" in op. cit. p 28. All boldenings are mine.
Building on Whorf’s insights about the orienting power of language structure, we can expand beyond the effects of grammatical categories on speakers’ habitual perceptions to examine the effects of the contextual organization of language as a system in use. Viewed in this way, linguistic ideology and metapragmatic structuring can be understood as powerful influences shaping lawyers’ orientations. As we will see, learning to read written legal texts is one key component of this orienting practice, conveyed in the process of the particular kind of language socialization that we find in legal education.
But there is a more profound inaccessibility, for even were all the technical vocabulary to be somehow transformed into more accessible language, the meaning for which lawyers read the text would remain elusive to those reading for referential content. A legal reading of case law focuses rather on the metapragmatic structure of the text, in which lies the key to its authority. This metapragmatic structure is (at least) twofold, indexing both the context of prior cases in the textual tradition (now reanimated as precedent for this particular case), and the procedural context of this particular case in its prior transformations.
However, as a number of scholars have noted, it is also possible for the reporting speaker to infiltrate the reported speech even using direct quotation.11 When this is achieved the process is arguably somewhat covert, because the overt metapragmatic signal that accompanies direct quotation does not alert us to this process of infiltration.
Here's 1 example of "metapragmatics" in op. cit. p 215.
As have linguistic anthropologists working in other settings, I, too, have found that linguistic ideology forms a crucial organizing backbone for ongoing linguistic interaction and socialization. Michael Silverstein notes that
any indexical process, wherein signs point to a presupposed context in which they occur (i.e., have occurred) or to an entailed potential context in which they occur (i.e., will have occurred), depends on some metapragmatic function to achieve a measure of determinacy or textual coherence. . . . It turns out that the crucial position of ideologies of semiosis is in constituting such a “default” mediating metapragmatics. . . . In short, ideology construes indexicality by constituting its metapragmatics. . . . Ideologies present invokable schemata in which to explain/interpret the meaningful flow of indexicals.29