“TONGUE-TIED”: Pragmemes and practs of silence in literary texts

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Mey in his model of pragmemes (Jacob, Pragmatics: an introduction, 2nd edn. Wiley-Blackwell, 2001; J Pragmat 42:2882–2888, 2010) argues that a given pragmatic act may be an allopract of a pragmeme, similar to allophones of a phoneme, allomorphs of a morpheme, and so on. However, the other cases do not fit in well with the phoneme and morpheme. Syntagmemes – without syntacts – are found in Pyke’s tagmemics, while sememes as minimal units of meaning have been variously defined, which does not suggest a conventional way of using the term. In the paper, pragmemes are investigated in the context of silence. If we follow the approach suggested above, then any instance of silence in conversation or any other social interaction should be regarded as a pract, which, once labeled, would be an allopract of a pragmeme. This pragmeme would be some generalized pragmatic act perhaps labeled, as Capone (2005, 2010) suggests, by a speech act, e.g. “invite”, “offer”. After a distinction is set up between unintentional and intentional silence, two literary sources in which silence plays an important role will be analyzed in terms of pragmemes. Two cases of unintentional silence will be analyzed, the first being the barrister’s silence in John Mortimer’s short play Dock Brief (written in 1957), and the second the silence described by gentlemen of the court in 5.2. in Shakespeare’s comedy The Winter’s Tale (1610), while the case of intentional silence to be analyzed is that of Hermione in the statue scene (5.3.) from the same Shakespearean comedy.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPerspectives in Pragmatics, Philosophy and Psychology
PublisherSpringer International Publishing
Number of pages21
StatePublished - 2016

Publication series

NamePerspectives in Pragmatics, Philosophy and Psychology
ISSN (Print)2214-3807
ISSN (Electronic)2214-3815

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016.


  • Drama
  • Intentional silence
  • John Mortimer
  • Pragmeme
  • Shakespeare
  • Unintentional silence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Philosophy
  • Applied Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language


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