We’re very much looking forward to our next English Language and Linguistics seminar at 12noon on Wednesday 27th of April 2022. The speaker is Dr. Tim Wharton, from the University of Brighton, and he will be talking about Pragmatics and Emotion

Tim is a leading expert in pragmatics, the study of utterance interpretation. His research has focused in particular on how ‘natural’, non-linguistic behaviours – tone of voice, facial expressions, gesture – interact with the linguistic properties of utterances (broadly speaking, the words we say). Natural behaviours help us convey our intended meanings and yet the question of how they interact with language is often ignored by linguists. His main theses are outlined in his 2009 book, Pragmatics and Non-Verbal Communication, which charts a point of contact between pragmatics, linguistics, philosophy, cognitive science, ethology and psychology, and provides the analytical basis to answer some important questions: How are natural behaviours interpreted? What do they convey? How can they be best accommodated within a theory of utterance interpretation? He is currently finishing a book, to be published by Cambridge University Press, entitled Pragmatics and Emotion.

The talk takes place in person at 12noon on Wednesday 27th April 2022 in room 204 in the Lipman building. It will also be possible to join online.

You can find directions to the campus and a campus map here


Email Billy Clark with an queries and for the link to join online: billy.clark@northumbria.ac.uk

Here is Tim’s abstract:

“Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions…”

(David Hume, T, SBN, p. 414-415)

In this quote David Hume famously articulated a view of the relationship between rationality or reasoning on the one hand and emotions or ‘passions’ on the other. According to Hume, rationality alone does not suffice to motivate an individual to engage in an act of reasoning. That motivation comes only from the passions: cognition and affect, thinking and feeling, reason and passion – often analysed as two opposing forces – work together in complex ways. Given this, and the fact that among humans the communication of information about emotional states is ubiquitous, one could be forgiven for assuming that pragmatic accounts of linguistic communication include quite well-developed views of how such information is communicated. However, for a range of reasons, scholars working on meaning have tended to persist with the view that the mental processes behind reason and passions exist in separate domains. As a consequence, the emotional dimension to linguistic communication has tended to play a secondary role to the rational or cognitive one. Indeed, in most accounts it plays no role at all. In this talk I present the main challenges to accommodating emotion within one cognitive theory of pragmatics – relevance theory – and suggest different ways in which these challenges might be met and overcome.

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