M.A. Theses in Linguistics at the University of North Dakota (Abstracts)
Sparks, Kevin 2012
Persuasion and manipulation: Relevance across multiple audiences
A speaker who is addressing multiple audiences has split intentions. In order to derive the optimal benefit toward accomplishing her intentions, the speaker crafts her utterance to be relevant to her various audiences in different ways and to differing degrees. Similarly, the hearer will infer meaning based largely on how much he thinks that the speaker intended her utterance to be relevant to him, while also considering how the utterance may have been intended to be relevant to others. The goal of this paper is to describe how the presence of multiple audiences affects both the speaker’s formation of an utterance and the hearer’s interpretation of it. I particularly focus on utterances that are aimed at persuading or manipulating the speaker’s various audiences. Using the framework of Relevance Theory (Sperber and Wilson 1986, 1995), I analyze a hearing in which eight bank CEOs testified before the US House Committee on Financial Services regarding how they used money that the government had invested in their banks in the midst of a severe financial crisis. I show that when communicating to multiple audiences, the speaker’s utterance is frequently less than fully ostensified to his various audiences. I conclude that Relevance Theory can be used to explain communicative stimuli that are less than fully ostensified by making a modification to the Relevance Theoretic notion of the presumption of optimal relevance to account for such cases of scalar ostension.
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