Contextual constraints and non-propositional effects in WhatsApp communication

Francisco Yus
<span title="">2017</span> <i title="Elsevier BV"> <a target="_blank" rel="noopener" href="" style="color: black;">Journal of Pragmatics</a> </i> &nbsp;
According to relevance theory (Sperber and Wilson, 1995) , information (a set of assumptions in its terminology) is relevant if it satisfies two conditions; firstly, it should generate a substantial amount of interest (positive cognitive effects in its terminology); and secondly, its processing should demand as little mental effort as possible. In my opinion, this pair of conditions should be supplemented with the notions of contextual constraint and non-intended non-propositional effect. As
more &raquo; ... l be argued in this paper, this RT extension is particularly appropriate for the analysis of Internet-mediated communication, since nowadays we are witnessing a turn into what has been labeled phatic Internet, massive exchanges of messages with little informational relevance but enormous impact on users' feelings of connectivity and sociability, among others. The aim of this paper is to apply this proposal of extension to mobile instant messaging (specifically WhatsApp) and explore some of the constraints and non-propositional effects that play a role in the eventual relevance of WhatsApp interactions, which typically generate relevance from these nonpropositional effects and not from the prototypical object of pragmatic research, namely the propositional content of the messages in the shape of explicatures and/or implicatures. -propositional effect. user-related qualities that may also alter the eventual estimation of the relevance of the act of communication. These are mainly related to the users' management of the interface, the kind of relationship existing between interlocutors, the user's personality, etc. They also affect the eventual (un)successful outcome of Internet-mediated communication. To account for the mediation of these qualities, the term contextual constraint was proposed, restricted to aspects that underlie the acts of communication and the users' interactions (i.e. they exist prior to the interpretive activity) and constrain their eventual (un)successful outcome. They frame, as it were, communication and have an impact not only on the quality of interpretation, but also on the willingness to engage in sustained virtual interactions. Needless to say, contextual constraints exist in every act of communication, not only Internet-mediated ones, but their influence is much more noticeable on the Internet, where interactions are often devoid of physical co-presence and utterances often exhibit a cuesfiltered quality, also typical in WA communication. In any case, they exist prior to the interaction and hence should not be an inherent object of pragmatic research, but their role in the outcome of communication makes its analysis relevant to determining why communication on the Internet turns out satisfactory or fruitless. 1 This pair of terms (contextual constraint and non-intended non-propositional effect) allows us to explain frequent situations such as the one in which users spend hours exchanging utterly useless messages, or account for effects such as the frustration upon finding it difficult to manage an interface in order to achieve communicative goals, among others (see below). 2 Overall, the framework for the analysis of Internet-mediated communication may be represented as the chart in Figure 1. Inside the thick-line square, the typical objects of cognitive pragmatics and RT research are included: the cases of intended (i.e. ostensive) interpretations of a propositional kind (explicatures, strong/weak implicatures, propositional attitudes) and a non-propositional kind (affective attitude, that is, feelings, emotions and 1 For example, in Yus (2016b) a number of contextual constraints were listed that play a part in why humorous communication (e.g. jokes) ends up (un)successful, including the suitability of the humorous text in the context of the interaction, the hearer's background knowledge and beliefs, the interlocutor's sex, the interlocutor's sense of humour, and the relationship holding between interlocutors. 2 The proposal of adding these elements to the normal formula for the interpretation of utterances in Internetmediated communication also entails a broadening of research and a cross-breeding of disciplines, since now several conclusions obtained from sociology, anthropology, computer science, etc. may also have to be taken into consideration insofar as they shed light on why messages exchanged on the Internet achieve (ir)relevance and eventual user (dis)satisfaction beyond the relevance of discourse interpretation.
<span class="external-identifiers"> <a target="_blank" rel="external noopener noreferrer" href="">doi:10.1016/j.pragma.2017.04.003</a> <a target="_blank" rel="external noopener" href="">fatcat:qeggbdewi5ch7invi6dc32hsg4</a> </span>
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