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I really need to know how widely {situational context of discourse analysis} is accepted as legitimate across linguists. Is it widely acknowledged that ignoring {situational context} can result in the incorrect interpretation of the full meaning of an expression of language?

In linguistics and related fields, pragmatics is the study of how context contributes to meaning. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pragmatics

Situational context, or context of situation, refers to the environment, time and place, etc. in which the discourse occurs, and also the relationship between the participants. https://www.academypublication.com/issues/past/jltr/vol01/06/19.pdf

Is this statement true?

The pragmatics subfield of linguistics stipulates that a difference between the derived meaning from ignoring situational context and not ignoring it means that situational context cannot be correctly ignored.

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  • @Lambie I know that in the different schools of linguistics there is a different focus and that (for example) Grammarians might not pay much attention to pragmatics. Do most people across the various schools of linguistics agree that simply ignoring situational discourse context can result in incomplete, thus not precisely correct interpretation of the meaning of an expression of language?
    – polcott
    Jul 12, 2023 at 17:33
  • @Lambie OK then how about this statement: Within the pragmatics subfield of linguistics it is universally understood that simply ignoring the situational context of an expression of language does result in an incorrect interpretation of the meaning of this expression whenever the meaning derived when the context is ignored differs from the meaning derived when the context is not ignored.
    – polcott
    Jul 12, 2023 at 17:53
  • Are you writing a thesis? I would stay away from broad generalizations re what linguists understand.
    – Lambie
    Jul 12, 2023 at 18:35
  • @Lambie OK I will rephrase it to eliminate subjectivity: If within the subfield of pragmatics within linguistics stipulates that a difference between the derived meaning from ignoring situational context and not ignoring it means that situational context cannot be correctly ignored then this would also meet my requirements.
    – polcott
    Jul 12, 2023 at 23:48

2 Answers 2

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pragmatics is the study of how context contributes to meaning.

This is not an accurate characterization of what pragmatics is in linguistics, especially of you mean "situational context" (the fact that trees don't speak is not "situational context"). I suggest these resources as a starter. Context plays a role in pragmatics, but this either over-states the role of context or redefines context in a way that doesn't match how linguists conceive of context. The primary premise is that "meaning" is a broad cognitive construct and "semantics" is a much narrower grammatical one. Pragmatics is the non-semantic stuff that influences meaning.

Linguists don't declare that you "can't" ignore context. We recognize that inferences of meaning depends on the totality of a person's knowledge, which is so open-ended and un-listable that we can't "consider" all of the context. You can post hoc analyze a communicative failure in case a person mis-estimates the relevance of a particular fact that he correctly considers to be in the shared knowledge set.

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  • The only point that I need to make is that the situational context of who is asked a question changes the meaning of the question for some questions. When we ask: "Are you a little girl?" the answer of yes or no depends on who you ask.
    – polcott
    Jul 14, 2023 at 19:51
  • The reason that this is critically important is that undecidability in computer science is often anchored in questions that are contradictory or not depending on who is asked. "Can Carol correctly answer "no" to this question?" (Hehner:2017) is a perfect analog for a very important problem in computer science.
    – polcott
    Jul 14, 2023 at 20:03
  • That question cannot be correctly answered by Carol, yet can be correctly answered by anyone else. Once we understand that the meaning of some questions depends on who you ask and the only reason that contradictory questions cannot be answered is an error in the question then we stop incorrectly blaming that one that is asked.
    – polcott
    Jul 14, 2023 at 20:06
  • We generally do not assume omniscience on the part of speakers, especially direct access to the contents of other minds. I can't correctly answer the question because I don't have access to the content of Hehner's mind so I don't know anything about Carol (can she comprehend questions), or the speaker's criteria for correctness, or the referent of "this question".
    – user6726
    Jul 14, 2023 at 20:22
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    I don't if I assume that "this sentence" refers to "This sentence is not true", rather than some other sentence in the context. Pragmatic inference is always about guessing what is in another person's mind.
    – user6726
    Jul 14, 2023 at 20:29
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I will update this answer based on comments. I am aiming for a factual statement that establishes the strongest possible case that situational context cannot be correctly ignored.

It is self-evident that the situational context of who is asked a question can drastically change the meaning of the question such that the same word-for-word question has a different correct answer depending on who is asked the question.

When we ask someone: "Do you weigh more than 100 pounds?" some people will correctly answer yes and other people will correctly answer no.

The crucial importance of this issue pertains to undecidable decision problems in computer science.

"Can Carol correctly answer "no" to this question?" (Hehner:2017) cannot be correctly answered by Carol yet can be correctly answered by anyone else.

Without this bridge between linguistics and computer science computer science will continue to contrue misconceptions as truth.

"Undecidable" decision problems in computer science are actually incorrect questions that have no correct answer only because something is wrong with the question. The key thing that is wrong with key undecidable decision problems in computer science is that they form questions that contradict both answers, just like Carol's question. Computer scientists simply do not know enough linguistics to spot their error.

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  • @Lambie can you rephrase it so that it is canonical? Everyone knows that who is asked a question such as: "Are you a little girl?" changes the meaning of the question thus also changes the correct answer. I need this wrapped in linguistics.
    – polcott
    Jul 14, 2023 at 22:10
  • @Lambie The survival of humanity depends upon overturning the Tarski Undefinability theorem that it anchored in the Liar Paradox. Unless and until Tarski is overturned despicable lies will carry the same weight as verified facts and thus continue to prevent climate change mitigation. My above question is related to overturning Tarski.
    – polcott
    Jul 17, 2023 at 15:15
  • @Lambie I already have these things fully worked out yet cannot overcome the received view because people have a strong bias for this incorrect view. "This sentence is not true." is merely a semantically incorrect statement that can be recognized and rejected as semantically incorrect. Even today people still try to "resolve" rather than simply reject the Liar Paradox: academic.oup.com/analysis/article-abstract/76/3/278/…
    – polcott
    Jul 17, 2023 at 16:01
  • How can you have these things fully worked out if you haven't read the one person (I know of) who has worked it out? Hm?
    – Lambie
    Jul 17, 2023 at 16:12
  • @Lambie I looked at the link translated into English: On the imaginary function of the Symbolic Phallus On narcissism and the projection of meaning
    – polcott
    Jul 17, 2023 at 16:12

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