31358 - General Linguistics 2

Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2018/2019

Learning outcomes

The course aims to present the main theoretical models dealing with the analysis of the mechanisms underlying the use and comprehension of language. After the course, students will be aware of the main problems concerning the implicit dimension of meaning, in written text, but also in spoken interaction. Faced with linguistic data, students will be able to apply different models developed in the fields of pragmatics, to identify the speaker’s communicative intentions and the types of inferential reasoning necessary for comprehension, integrating lexical and discourse components with variables of the context. They will be able to retrieve and analyze data of spoken interaction, also from different languages, and to explain phenomena of understanding and misunderstanding both at the intralingual level and at the interlinguistic level. They will also be able to organize a small research project (identifying a research question, identifying data and the methodology that is necessary to answer the research question, analyze the data and formulate a scientific answer, elaborated on an empirical basis).

Course contents

1. Pragmatics and text linguistics: an introduction

- Introduction to pragmatics and text linguistics. Definitions and theories in comparison.

- Introduction to a linguistic understanding of the text: production vs. understanding, misunderstanding, literal and non-literal meaning, semantic and pragmatic level, cooperation.

- Within the text and outside the text: text, co-text, con-text.

2. To produce and understand utterances: speech acts and the communication of the implicit 

- The speech act: the theory of speech act and performativity.

- Exchange of texts, exchange of statements: the logic of conversation and the interpretation of the unsaid, coding vs. inference. The mechanisms underlying mutual (mis)understanding.

- Grice and conversational implicatures

- Neo-Griceans and generalized conversational implicatures

- Post-Griceans: Relevance theory

3. Text and context

- How to recognize a 'text': the criteria for textuality

- Consistency and coherence, anaphora, informativity, accessibility of referents

- Levels of analysis and information structure.

4. The spoken language

- The units of analysis of speech, its functional and sociolinguistic correlates

- Spoken communication: real time syntax and low definition semantics

- From speech to grammar

- Elements of conversation analysis and discourse: shifts, breaks, repairs, courtesy, compliments, expression of agreement and disagreement.

5.Tools for the analysis of linguistic data

- Observing written and spoken language: the use of corpora 

- Digital resources for the analysis of spoken language

- How to elicit and collect data: the creation of a corpus

6. Insights

- Vagueness in language and its interpretation

- Ad hoc categories in discourse

- Discourse markers

- Intercultural pragmatics: courtesy and face



  • ANDORNO C., 2005, Che cos'è la pragmatica linguistica, Roma, Carocci.
  • BIANCHI, C. 2009. Pragmatica cognitiva. I meccanismi della comunicazione. Laterza Editore (chap. 2-3)
  • VOGHERA, M. 2017. Dal parlato alla grammatica. Costruzioni e forma dei testi spontanei. Roma, Carocci. (chap. da 1 a 6)

Further manual for those who do not attend

  • VOGHERA, M. 2017. Dal parlato alla grammatica. Costruzioni e forma dei testi spontanei. Roma, Carocci. (ALL)
  • BIANCHI, C. 2009. Pragmatica cognitiva. I meccanismi della comunicazione. Laterza Editore (ALL)
  • DOMANESCHI, F. e PENCO, C. Come non detto. Usi e abusi dei sottintesi. Roma, Laterza.
Further resources

• The slides will be published every week on the e-learning website, and it is highly recommended to read them - both for those who attend the class and for those who cannot attend.

• Further references on specific topics will be provided during the lessons.

Teaching methods

All classes will have a strong empirical component: we will introduce and use online resources and techincal tools for the analysis and collection of linguistic data.

In addition to traditional lectures, students will be involved in a laboratory, where they will learn to collect new data and analyze existing corpora. Moreover, there will be seminars, during which students will read scientific articles and guide the relevant discussion in class.

Assessment methods

The exam is aimed to assess the level achieved by the student in the understanding of the theoretical tools provided during the course and their application to real language data.

The assessment of the knowledge and skills acquired will be done through an oral exam. For students who attend classes, the teacher will also take into account their activity during the course (seminars and lab sessions) in determining the final grade. Students who don't attend classes should study one extra book for the oral exam (see bibliography). All students are kindly requested to inform the teacher about their attending classes or not at the beginning of the course. The evaluation will be based on:

  • the number of correct responses
  • formal and exhibition adequacy
  • expressive clarity and the ability to organize the argumentation

An excellent rating will be given to those who show that they have a thorough knowledge of the program, expressive and expository mastery, precision in data analysis and in the use of specialist terminology, critical thinking skills.

Intermediate evaluations will be given to those who show that they have studied, but will restrict to a partial knowledge of the issues addressed, will use the terminology loosely, and will show themselves insecure in the data analysis.

Sufficiency will be given in the presence of a mnemonic studio, partially incomplete, that reveals a poor command of the terminology and basic concepts of the language, along with an imprecise and inaccurate analysis of data.

The assessment will be insufficient in the presence of significant deficiencies, inability to argue a theoretical discussion and / or properly analyze the data.

Teaching tools

PowerPoint presentations, digital resourses and printed handouts will support most of the lectures.

The laboratory sessions will require the students to actively use digital tools and web resources for the analysis of data.

Office hours

See the website of Caterina Mauri