An analysis of data extracts in a healthcare encounter through the lens of cross-cultural pragmatics and politeness theory
As the contentious history of applied linguistics suggests, a necessary component of any framework is that it applies across cultures and illuminates any universal principles that might exist. With this in mind, the source will be analysed through the lens of cross-cultural pragmatics and politeness theory.
In this essay, ‘language’ functions beyond the symbolic mode of communication employed by some pets and other animals. It involves sentences that include words with denotative meanings: for example, “That is a cat.” Furthermore, words and phrases often convey connotative elements: the association of cats with stealth or spite, for instance, or the maxim ‘equal pay for equal work’, which evokes gender politics for those attuned to that context. Language has certain ‘design features’, particularly the ‘perception of underlying structures’ (Cook, 2009): “That is a cat” = Subject Verb Object. ‘Communicative competence’ (CC) is the measure of an agent’s ability to communicate linguistic meaning in context. The latter part of this definition marks what Constant Leung describes as ‘a break with an overly grammar-based paradigm’ (Leung, 2005, p.121).
People tend to reject the primitive religions, but sun worship seems to me an entirely rational theology. This occurred to me as I struggled into body armour, beneath a sun as merciless as the Old Testament God, in the Main Operating Base (MOB) Lashkar Gah, Afghanistan.
As I shouldered my rifle an amplified wail erupted beyond the sandbags and wire and over the MOB’s monolithic walls. In Helmand Province, the Islamic call-to-prayer punctuates the pattern of life and, though it fails to emancipate Afghans from the tyranny of cousins, liberal alternatives are crushed with great success.
But the Adhan was competing today with an infidel chant. ISAF Christians had congregated in a canvas chapel and their hymn hummed with Enlightenment harmony. Yet, in this harsh, gritty land, the Islamic lament expressed a more atavistic authenticity. It conjures the image of nomads, hunkered around flickering camp fires, swathed against the desert dust, mesmerised by the mystic verses of illiterate poets, or perhaps just ranting in the Abrahamic tradition.
A modicum of internet research shows that behaviour management is often codified in ways that link theory with classroom practice. This approach is useful. The insights of Rudolf Dreikurs and Burrhus Skinner and others, offer explanations that demystify classroom behaviours. Theory offers understanding. Understanding mitigates the frustrations we feel when we encounter the inexplicable. It's useful to have a zen-like, Ah, so!, moment of clarity when managing misbehaviour. Theory is the first pillar of behaviour management.
Shakespeare’s representations of female sexuality often expose male anxieties that converge with a modern understanding of evolutionary psychology. In this essay, the following is axiomatic: natural selection favours genotypes that encourage behaviours that secure replication.
Shakespeare dramatises the results of this axiom with breathtaking precision. A surreptitious example is his preoccupation with mortality. In Sonnet 1, the solution to death is gene transmission (or reproduction): ‘From fairest creatures we desire increase’ (1.1). In Sonnet 18, it is meme transmission through durable verse: ‘When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st’ (18.12), which has a double meaning: lines of verse and genetic lineage, both of which involve transcending death and its inexorable partner, time. Time’s relentless march is audible in Sonnet 12’s staccato, tick-tock rhythm: ‘When I do count the clock that tells the time’ (12.1); gene transmission usurps death in the final lines: 'And nothing 'gainst Time's scythe can make defence/Save breed, to brave him when he takes thee hence' (12.13-14). In an example from his dramatic works, the childless, dying Hamlet implores Horatio to 'Tell my story': (5.2.291), because, like the speaker in Sonnet 18, he understands that reputation is a kind of immortality. However, the transmission of genes through sex is nature’s primary continuum and it is the primary basis of evolutionary explanations for human (and other animal) behaviours.
There is a Faustian trope in the Blues tradition in which a sinister, phantom train rattles through eternal night transporting souls to the afterlife. In a version penned by Chris de Burgh, called Spanish Train (1975), God and Satan are playing poker in a carriage, gambling with souls. Naturally, Satan tends to cheat and according to the final stanza:
Far away, in some recess,
The Lord and the Devil are now playing Chess.
The Devil still cheats and wins more souls,
as for the Lord – he’s just doing his best.
The government of the day in South Africa, not famous for its tolerance, tried to ban Spanish Train for blasphemy. The attempt failed, sales soared and the song enjoyed an extended popularity, even as it faded from the airwaves of more tolerant nations. This apparent relationship between censorship and popularity is interesting but orthogonal here. What is relevant is the paternalistic attempt to establish a limit on toleration. Mill would certainly have defended the right of listeners to hear Chris de Burgh’s lyrical expression. For him, the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any mature, rational member of a civilized community is to prevent harm to others. But in On Liberty he cites a single exception to this ‘liberty principle’: that an individual should not be permitted to choose to become a slave.
Marx distinguishes humans from other animals because humans consciously produce the means of their subsistence. Hence, ‘the most characteristic and essential human feature is that human beings produce (rather than forage for or hunt) their means of subsistence’ (Wolff, in Warburton, et.al. p.271). Another feature, essential to Marx, is that humans are communal animals: most people rely on community for clothing and food; and ‘language, like consciousness, only arises from the need, the necessity, of intercourse with other men ... Consciousness is ... a social product’ (Marx, et.al. p.51). Marx rejects two-substance dualism – in which Cartesian doubt favours thought (the essence of mind); and the existence of God is required to prove the existence of extension (the essence of the material world). He also rejects the crude form of deterministic materialism, in which ‘people are wholly determined by their circumstances’ (Wolff, ibid, p.272), because people are active agents in the world rather than mere passive receivers of information. Human activity is propelled by the need of subsistence. This activity causes physical changes in the world. These changes complicate needs, create further needs and change human beings. Expanding populations compound the complexities of social intercourse. The things necessary for production (forces of production) – labour power, facilities, tools etc – develop in sympathy.
According to Aristotle, a word with infinite meanings renders reasoning impossible:
"...for not to have one meaning is to have no meaning, and if words have no meaning reasoning with other people, and indeed with oneself has been annihilated" (Aristotle, p.1589).
From this is derived the convention of defining one’s terms at the outset. A ‘common essence’, for instance, can be defined as the essential element common to a set of things that without which they could not be considered common. But the term ‘Romantic’ is not so easily construed and can be applied to a period, first known as the Sturm und Drang movement in late eighteenth-century Germany, to art which challenged eighteenth-century classicism, and to a set of shared values distinguishable from those of the Enlightenment. However, these definitions require further definitions and so on and so forth until the trapdoor of an infinite regress creaks ominously beneath our feet. To make sense of this dilemma the Romantic properties of Schubert’s Lied, Prometheus, will be compared with Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People (Liberty) and Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage Canto III (Pilgrimage).