Rhetoric and the Study

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Rhetoric and the Study

of Communication Skills


and Rhetoric 17 (2): 9-35, 2019

Elżbieta Magdalena WĄSIK Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań (Poland)

On Discursive Self-Actualization of Communication Participants in Light of Sociolinguistic Pragmatics

and Interpersonal Rhetoric

Abstract: This paper aims at answering the question how human individuals actualize themselves discursively through the participation in communicative interactions. For that reason, it applies the distinctions borrowed from linguistic pragmatics and socio-pragmatics of human communication, while confronting and clarifying the three action-related concepts, such as practicism, pragmatism, and pragmatics. The author argues that pragmatics can only investigate the cultural conditionings of communication acts and the empirically observable interpersonal relationships between communication participants, resulting from their social roles. But it cannot probe into the real nature of communicative intentions as well as mental endowments of human individuals. Hence, as she maintains, what is applicable in the investigative domain of speech communication are solely the principles, rules and maxims of interpersonal rhetoric which are accessible predominantly in dyadic and small-groups and to a lesser degree in public and mass communication. The paper ends with a postulate to extend the framework of linguistic pragmatics with such methodological tools that might be helpful in researching the questions of the universal qualities of human nature and the diversity of worldviews resultant from multilingualism and multiculturalism.

Keywords: human communication, interpersonal rhetoric, social pragmatics, self-actualization, dialogical relationships


1. Approaching Speech Communication in Terms of Human Action

1.1. Coping with Changeability of Meaning in Communicative Interactions

For facilitating people to recognize their needs, attitudes and beliefs, to take decisions and implement them, to find common grounds for their action, and to form the sense of their identity, communication is essential. It is a dynamic process, as far as human individuals usually communicate in a world of changeable interrelationships, while creating the reality of their everyday life through verbal behavior. But, at the same time, their communicative interactions and transactions, may appear to be favorable or not to their self-fulfilment. As active self-determined subjects, able to influence the course of their own personal life, individuals are usually characterized by their motivation, values, attitudes, etc. This fact implies that there are different degrees and extents of inter-individual understanding. One has therefore to consider that people negotiate and confirm or refute the meanings of verbal means of communication through interpretative practices and referential activities on basis of shared or individual experiences and knowledge of the same or different extra-linguistic realities. Thus, the commonalities of shared meanings among people constitute a prerequisite of their pragmatic skills in different domains of social life. Another thing is whether the performance of communicative actions can lead, in the case of each individual, to the development of the psychological potential of his or her self-actualization.

1.2. Clarifying the Roots of Practicism, Pragmatism, and Pragmatics

1.2.1. Practicality as a Way of Living

For the interests in human actions performed through the use of communication means, it is proper to mention that, in the Western philosophy, man as an individual and social being has been approached in terms of three activities in which he engages, that is, thinking, doing and producing. These typically human activities have been associated, as Stefan Swieżawski (1907–2004), a Polish historian of philosophy, put it, also with ways of living. Swieżawski (1987, 44–51) claimed that man has mostly been perceived, either within the sphere of abstract knowledge,


that is, according to his rational, contemplative thinking (called in Ancient Greek as ϑεϖϱία „theorìa‟), or, within the sphere of concrete action, that is, according to both his comportment (called as πϱᾶξιϛ

„practice‟) and production, creation, or making (called as ποίησιϛ

„poièsis‟). The distinction between the speculative reasoning, action and production as three kinds of human activities was made by Aristotle (384–322 B.C.) in Nicomachean Ethics, in particular, book six, devoted to the intellectual virtues of man (cf. Aristotle 1893 [ca 347–330 B.C. (or 349 B.C)], 183–187). To be added is that, according to Swieżawski, the concepts referring to the humans‟ way of living were ultimately adopted by Duns Scotus (c. 1266–1308), a philosopher and theologian of the Middle Ages, thanks to whom the Latin concepts vita contemplativa and vita activa (respectively, contemplative life and active life) as well as vita mixta (that is, a combination of both forms of life) were disseminated, especially as the philosophical and theological thought strongly influenced the mentality of people in Europe, in the Middle Ages and in later times. At this point, it is, however, important to concentrate on three formally similar and semantically related terms, such as practicism, pragmatism, and pragmatics, which etymologically originate from the Ancient Greek ππᾶξιρ „practice‟, a word for performing an action in general, being the opposite of theory, as an occupation that excludes any activity except for itself. All of these terms refer to such approaches to human action which privilege thoughtful and creative human activity over passiveness and desistance.

Clarifying the specific meanings of the notions of practicism, pragmatism and pragmatics, one has to be aware that human action has usually been evaluated in terms of good, right and truth from the viewpoint of an individual and/or a group on the basis of normative standards applicable to life in a society. As to practicism, it was, as Swieżawski (1987, 44–51) noticed, a directive attitude of certain cultural communities in Europe in the fifteenth century. In those times, featured by significant economic, social and political transformations, it recognized the priority of action over reasoning (wisdom). In Swieżawski‟s view, practicism as the humans‟ way of living was grounded on a more or less voluntarist philosophy, which accentuated the role of will in ethics, and accordingly, in the life of humans in general.


1.2.2. Acting Self with Its Beliefs and Habits in the Pragmatic Theory of Truth

Pragmatism, in turn, might be defined as a philosophy of human agency presuming that truth, comes out through human action. In terms of Ancient Greek πρᾶγμα (prâgma), it is evaluated as the functional usefulness of (linguistic) concepts. Exactly, it (pragmatism) has to be seen as a theory of meaning in which (linguistic) concepts are assumed to play a vital role in directing the rational conduct of humans. In accordance with the claims of the advocates of pragmatism, the success in achieving the goals can be estimated in terms of practical effects and consequences of human behavior. Especially for Charles Sanders Peirce (1839–1914) and for William James (1842–1910), this American philosophical movement was identical with the way of thinking according to which the truth of an idea (a statement, or proposition) was a consequence of its application that should bring satisfactory results from the viewpoint of the acting subject(s).

Pragmatists considered practicality to be the criterion of truth.

More specifically, Peirce reasoned, in his article from 1878 “How to Make Our Ideas Clear”, that the function of thinking processes, viz.

thought, is to produce the beliefs. Being conscious of the importance of beliefs for shaping the way of living and acting of humans in the world, Peirce stated: “But the soul and meaning of thought, abstracted from the other elements which accompany it, though it may be voluntarily thwarted, can never be made to direct itself toward anything but the production of belief”; maintaining that the thought as such is a belief, Peirce continued his reasoning: “[t]hought in action has for its only possible motive the attainment of thought at rest; and whatever does not refer to belief is no part of the thought itself” (cf. CP 5.396). Peirce argued also that the beliefs allow to form habits of acting. Accordingly, the pragmatic maxim, formulated by Peirce, says that each conception (i.e., idea, notion, or concept) is in fact an element of thought; therefore, its function is the same as the function of thought in general. To attain the

“clearness of apprehension”, one must be aware, in keeping with Peirce, that the conception of a given object is equal to its relevance from the viewpoint of habitual ways of behavior that might be guided by it (cf. CP.

5.402). According to Peirce, both truth and the real can be discovered through appropriate investigations.

One of the aspects of human action, taken into account from the viewpoint of pragmatism, was the personal development of the human individual. As one might assume, after James (1909 [1985]), while the


ideas (notions, concepts) of human mind are subordinate to effective acting, that is, they serve effective conduct, the learnt (acquired) social behavior, including habitual verbal behaviors through which personal values are communicated, can be considered as a prerequisite for human growth and successful life. One has to emphasize here the fact that James described the cognitive processes that underlie the functions of the human self, justifying this way the idea that cognition has to be approached as a function of consciousness. In James‟ conviction, people use concepts and symbols in a similar way, when speaking and thinking about the reality.

Importantly, James explained also the role of feelings in cognition, for example, in “The Function of Cognition”, a lecture read, nevertheless, before the Aristotelian Society, on December 1, 1884, and originally published in the journal Mind of 1885 (cf. James 1909, 1–42 [1885, 27–

44]). It must be noted that, for James (1909, 2, 6), man is capable even of self-transcendence when he rises above selfishness, improves himself, his life and the life of other people, under the condition, however, that his feelings are “cognitive in the specific sense”, and as such, “self- transcendent”. As James put it, the feelings “may be held” by man “to be cognizant” of reality.

In his legacy, James as a pragmatist and psychologist addressed the issues of selfhood, placing special emphasis on the development and maintenance of the individual as the self within multifarious social relations. According to James, the activity of the self is partially determined by its ability to exercise some control over its mind. What James accentuated was that man, who acts on his beliefs, has also a will, which is a state of mind (described by James in The Principles of Psychology 1890, volume II, chapter XXVI, 487–592, and 1892, 282–

327). Being aware of the uniqueness and worth of each human individual, James was convinced that the freedom of the will is not the freedom to create (a) new idea(s); it is, as he argued, nothing but the freedom to attend to (an) idea(s), and to act on it/them. Since ideas come to the individual beyond his or her conscious control, “attention with effort is all that any case of volition implies”; in other words, the achievement of the will, which is a voluntary act, is to focus on, or pay attention, “to a difficult object and hold it fast before the mind” (cited and quoted after James 1890, 563). As one might thus say, the pragmatic rule, formulated by James, having an application to the experiential consequences of scientific and philosophical, religious and political, social and personal ideas to which the individual may potentially adhere, pertains to the acts


of intentionally directed attention as a factor decisive in the estimation of truth and error from a subjective perspective.

1.2.3. Linguistic Pragmatics in the Philosophy of Meaning Moving on to pragmatics, a set of theories of how literal and nonliteral meanings are communicated linguistically in particular physical and social contexts, it is indispensable to allude, in the first instance, to the work of John L. Austin (1911–1960). It is essential to notice that, not incidentally, the twelve lectures, published as How to Do Things with Words in 1962, were delivered by Austin in the series the William James Lectures at Harvard University in 1955. The aim of the series of his lectures, organized by the Departments of Philosophy and Psychology, was to honor James, as an American pragmatist philosopher, a former faculty member of that academic institution. As James Opie Urmson, a specialist (working in Oxford) in British analytic philosophy, in Greek philosophy, ethics, and morality, pointed out, the design for Austin‟s lectures came into being already in 1939, when their author articulated his fundamental views about the functions of utterances in interpersonal communication in his article “Other Minds”, published in the Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volume XX (1946). Urmson (1962, v) emphasized the fact that, for the tasks of his lectures on “Words and Deeds” in Oxford in the years 1952–1954, Austin was working intensely on the topic of socially determined use of language. It must be stated, however, that, unlike James, for whom, the words of language had above all conventional meanings, Austin was interested in the meanings of verbal utterances in given situational contexts of everyday life. Moreover, deliberating on the relationship between language and truth, he defined the conditions under which certain statements can be declared true or false. Austin argued that, when speaking, the individuals create, in various communicative events, social realities embedded in particular contexts. Austin was aware that such verbal activity of humans when – in his words – saying something is

“doing something”, or “when speech is used in acting” (cf., e.g., 1962, 92), could be, analyzed, by both linguistics and psychology (cf. 1962, 122), with reference to the total actual speech situation.

Pursuant to Austin‟s advice, pragmatic meanings behind words, or utterances, considered to be deeds, or actions performed by communication participants, have been examined, inter alia, by his disciples, collaborators and other enthusiasts of research on language in use, such as, especially Herbert Paul Grice (1913–1988), having worked


with Austin at Oxford in the 1940s and 1950s, John Rogers Searle (b.

1932), having studied under the guidance Austin at Oxford, Geoffrey N.

Leech (1936–2014), and Stephen C. Levinson (b. 1947). Austin‟s lectures presented at Harvard University, in which he expounded his theory of speech acts, not only became influential in the philosophy of language, but also opened a way to empirical studies in the domain of pragmalinguistics.

To sum up, according to the assumptions of pragmatism, an idea, or proposition, has to be evaluated in terms of its truthfulness on basis of the effects it brings. The meaning of such an idea, or proposition, – found in the practical consequences resulting from the fact of accepting it – is decisive for the assessment whether it works satisfactory, or not. Dealing with the actual use of language by communication participants from the viewpoint of choices they make with regard to the means of communication and communicated contents in dependence on the constraints imposed by social encounters, and the effects which communication can have on interlocutors, pragmatics has eventually resulted in numerous empirical studies. Their task was, inter alia, to consider, verbal utterances from the viewpoint of aims which are realized through them by humans, either consciously or subconsciously. As to the factors motivating human communicative behaviors, the needs for self- actualization have to be taken into account as being of great significance.

2. Self-Actualization in the Light of Existentialist Humanistic Psychology

2.1. Personal Development of Human Self Embedded in Dialogical Relationships

Being aware of philosophical roots of pragmatics as a study of effectiveness of communicative acts of humans, one has to pass to the concept of self-actualization, originating in the existentially-oriented humanistic psychology, a movement in psychology concerned with the conditions under which the personal development of the individual can be achieved. From the humanistic perspective, the concept in question has been examined in connection with the motives of human behavior. What has been considered here refers to the abilities of humans to reflect on and evaluate things and states of affairs, which are anew every time, that is, to judge them with reference to a particular situation, and especially to the way they themselves as subjects perceive as objects among the other


objects. From the perspective of humanistic psychology, important is the selective attention of human selves (that is, focusing on elements and aspects of events or situations) which allows them to create personal meanings turning out to be (for them) the hints how to respond at a particular moment to a particular happening or incident. Likewise, essential is also the relevance of personal choices and decisions taken by the individual self, whose personal growth is determined by the variety of its relationships to itself, to others, to the world in which it lives, and to its personal situations resulting from its being in the world.

A considerable attention was given to the interpersonal development of individuals by Martin Buber (1878–1965), an Austrian religious philosopher of Jewish origin, in his existentialist philosophy of dialogue. Slightly earlier than humanistic psychologists, Buber argued, especially in his major work I and Thou (1937 [1923]), that the communicative activity of humans, with such its aspects as sensing, feeling, thinking and knowing, reflects interpersonal relations that can always be presented as the relations between “Me”, “Thou (You)”, and the “Other”. Commenting that interhuman relationships influence the formation of the subjectivity of the individual, Buber meant at least two issues, that is, the natural human need for contacts with other people and the intermediary role of language in these contacts. In his essay Zwiesprache. Traktat vom dialogischen Leben (Zwiesprache. A treatise on dialogical life) Buber (1978 /1932, 55) quoted a passage from the lecture of Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767–1835) „Über den Dualis…“ (On the dual number), read at the Academy of Sciences. on April 26, 1827 (1830, 183). He was inspired there by Humboldt‟s analysis of the personal pronouns in the languages of the world and ideas about man who can reach his definiteness and certainty only through the reverberation of the power of the other. Moreover, also Humboldt‟s conception of language as a mediator between the power of thought of one person and the power of thought of another person appeared to be crucial to Buber‟s dialogical principle.

In particular, Buber‟s contention was that the honest and trusting interpersonal relations, coming true in face-to-face encounters of two individuals, are crucial to their personal development. His view, firstly, that man can achieve his self-realization only through his awareness, and secondly, that another “I” arises, or actualizes itself on the basis of its potential, from the “I–Thou” than from the “I–It” relationship, has to be particularly accentuated. Worth quoting is a section from Buber‟s essay

“Elements of the Interhuman”, in which he alludes to the concept of


entelechy, from Ancient Greek ἐντελέχεια (entelékheia), coined by Aristotle, in order to highlight the openness of human beings to the world in which they co-exists in dual relationships with other human beings.

“That there resides in every man the possibility of attaining authentic human existence in the special way peculiar to him can be grasped in the Aristotelian image of entelechy, innate self-realization; but one must note that it is an entelechy of the work of creation. /…/ The self as such is not ultimately the essential, but the meaning of human existence given in creation again and again fulfills itself as self. The help that men give each other in becoming a self leads the life between men to its height.

The dynamic glory of the being of man is first bodily present in the relation between two men each of whom in meaning the other also means the highest to which this person is called, and serves the self- realization of this human life as one true to creation without wishing to impose on the other anything of his own realization.” Buber (1999 [1954], 85)

2.2. The Self-Actualization as a Self-Fulfilment of a Person

The notion of self-actualization itself was elaborated and popularized by Abraham H. Maslow (1908–1970), who, as a humanistic psychologist, accentuated the human need for self-fulfilment. Working out the hierarchy of human motivation, Maslow (1943, 383) adopted the term self-actualization directly from Kurt Goldstein (1878–1965), a German psychiatrist and neurologist, who used it, in his holistic theory of the organism, with reference to its general developmental tendencies.

While for Goldstein (1939/1995 [1934], 162, 237) self- actualization was a process of the becoming of the self under the influence of both environmental factors and internal, organismal drives, for Maslow (1943, 383–384), the self-fulfilment of the individual had many psychological aspects. That is to say, Maslow assumed that to feel happy, humans have to satisfy their need for self-actualization, which, according to him, takes various forms in the case of each person. He was interested in self-actualizing persons in terms of their relationships with reality, that is, how they perceive self and others and behave toward them.

Supporting the opinion that there must be a drive, desire, or urge that coerces the individual to realize his or her (full) potential, Maslow (1954, 279) tried to answer the questions, inter alia, how the individual can be a good man, live a good life, be fruitful and happy.


A specification of attributes of self-actualizing persons whose efficient perception of reality contributes to comfortable relations with it and effective communication with others can be presented here in brief on the basis of Maslow‟s book Motivation and Personality (1954, 153–180).

Most importantly, Maslow (1954, 158) argued that self-actualizing persons “are the most ethical of people even though their ethics are not necessarily the same as those of the people around them”, especially as the ordinary ethical behavior of the average person is largely conventional behavior rather than truly ethical behavior”. According to Maslow (1954, 161), self-actualizing persons show, openness and responsibility for themselves and their own destinies. Thus, having deep and profound relations with other people, and, at the same time, being “capable of more fusion, greater love, more perfect identification, more obliteration of the ego boundaries than other people would consider possible”, they are featured by “benevolence, affection, and friendliness” (cf. Maslow 1954, 166). What Maslow (1954, 167) particularly stressed, self-actualizing persons tend to be kind to everyone “of suitable character regardless of class, education, political belief, race, or color.” They also show acceptance of and affinity to/for the unknown, the ambiguous and unstructured, the mysterious, being, nevertheless, comfortable with and more attracted by it, than by the known. They accept self and others with all their shortcomings, limitations and weaknesses as one accepts the phenomena of nature, “have definite moral standards”, “do right and do not do wrong”, because “their notions of right and wrong and of good and evil are often not the conventional ones” (cf. Maslow 1954, 168). Even though means and ends are for self-actualizing persons “clearly distinguishable”, they “are fixed on ends rather than on means, and means are quite definitely subordinated to these ends”; self-actualizing persons often regard “as ends in themselves many experiences and activities that are, for other people, only means” (cf. Maslow 1954, 169). Moreover, they are characterized by spontaneity, simplicity, naturalness, philosophical, unhostile sense of humor, focused on personal growth, purposefulness, “work within a framework of values that are broad and not petty, universal and not local, and in terms of a century rather than the moment”, appreciate “the basic goods of life”, are humble, etc. (cf.

Maslow 1954: 157–168; 169–170). Since in Maslow‟s (1954, 176) view,

“[t]here are no perfect human beings”, for that reason, also self- actualizing persons are not perfect, as one might further assume, in spite of their virtues, they do not always act perfectly.


3. The Role of Speech Acts in the Discursive Becoming of Humans

3.1. Direct and Indirect Ways of Communicating About Reality

In linguistic pragmatics, the concept of the speech act was first used by Austin (1962, 52, 145–146, 147–149) and then by Searle who expanded the considerations of his teacher about the contextual interpretations of verbal performances of humans in his book Speech Acts: An Essay in the Philosophy of Language (1969). Following these philosophers, verbal utterances are approached in terms of speech acts, i.e., communicative actions which they accomplish, not solely in accordance with literal meanings of which they are the bearers. The significance of utterances, comparable to actions which have real-world consequences in everyday life of humans, is evidenced, inter alia, by some numerical facts pertaining to the frequency of their usage in communication.

Because of the ubiquity of speech acts in interpersonal communication, one may presume that human individuals achieve their fulfilment through their symbolic-pragmatic activity, involving language.

It is obvious that the personalities of communication participants develop through and manifest themselves in their verbal performances, that is, utterances produced and received in particular situations. For example, an average man produces about 16,000 words and 1200 turns at talk a day whereby each turn delivers a speech act, as Stephen C. Levinson (2017, 199–200) assumes, in his article “Speech Acts” written recently for the tasks of the search for meaning in interaction. Comparing speech acts to the moves in chess, Levinson also infers that man is participating in about 5,000 speech act moves a day. In order to respond on time (within the c.

200 ms allowed by the turn-taking system), he has to decode speech acts at lightning speed, because it is the assumed intention of the communication partner, not the literal meaning, that he primarily responds to.

As it results from Levinson‟s observation pertaining to the functioning of speech acts in human communication, their casual, spontaneous, intentional meanings are determined by both the conventions and expectations of those who perform them. Levinson agreed with the general opinion that language is primarily acquired through and used in conversation, because verbal utterances respond, in informal encounters, to the underlying action performed by the prior turn at talk, which might have been expressed in any number of ways, rather than to the form and/or the overall meaning that was communicated. Moreover,


verbal utterances usually have non-verbal equivalents with which they co- occur and synchronize forming sequences of communicative actions.

Thus, when communication takes place, its participants constantly face the challenge of interpreting the utterances of other communication participants. Since speech acts remain open to individual interpretations, which have a personal character, they usually exceed beyond social conventions. One can therefore assume that not only personality development but also self-actualization of human individuals through language acquisition in use comes to pass through them. In this sense, theories which explain how situational meanings are given/ascribed to verbal utterances by speakers and hearers as interpersonal communicators prove to be useful for the evaluation of the effectiveness of communication from the viewpoint of self-fulfillment of its participants.

3.2. Performativity of Speech Acts as

a Precondition of Semantic Changeability

Because of their performative nature, some communicative activities are responsible for introducing changes in the human lifeworld.

Also, self-actualization may be brought about by the activity of human beings themselves as interlocutors, who thanks to their verbal performances, undergo changes. In consideration of the fact that people speak in order to affect or change the world rather than to make statements about it, Austin‟s arguments (1962) about speech acts occurring in certain contexts of language use deserve here a short examination. For him, many utterances, to wit, being not mere

“constatives” (describing the reality) but also “performatives” (causing changes in the reality), should be considered in terms of felicity and infelicity conditions rather than evaluated in terms of truth or falsity.

In Austin‟s (1962, 14–15) depiction, felicity conditions, making a performative happy, are: (1) an accepted conventional procedure having a certain conventional effect, appropriate persons and circumstances, (2) a correct and complete execution of the procedure by all participants, (3) the presence of requisite thoughts, feelings and intentions of the persons being the parties performing the procedure, and (4) their consequent conduct. As he concluded, if some of these necessary conditions are not satisfied (do not exist), the performative utterance is, in one or another way, unhappy.

Austin pointed out to the conventional ritual (ceremonial) acts, which fail in the case when the required conventional procedures are not observed.


In Austin‟s view, the utterances as actions do not only have sense but, mostly also an intention behind them, that is, in his words, an illocutionary force, and, accordingly, an effect upon the hearer (Austin 1962, 53–66; 94–107). To Austin (1962, 108), a given utterance is, firstly, a locutionary act that amounts to uttering a sentence which has a sense and reference, or a meaning in the traditional sense, secondly, an illocutionary act which has a conventional force, for example, of informing, ordering, warning, threatening, etc., and, thirdly, often also a perlocutionary act the results of which, such as, for example, convincing and persuading, deterring and discouraging, surprising or misleading, etc., are achieved, or brought about, through saying something.

However, only illocution and perlocution are speech acts related to the realization of social goals in conversation, and/or in formal (official) communication. This means that communicating individuals act through utterances which have a pragmatic force. As one might say, employing Austin‟s (1962, 150–163, especially 162) terminology, they may (1) exercise a judgment through a verdictive, make an assertion of influence, or exercise power through an exercitive, (3) commit themselves to an action in the future, or declare their intention through a commissive, (4) adopt an attitude through a behabitive, and (5) clarify reasons, arguments, and communications through an expositive.

Being convinced of the significance of diverse communicative acts for the realization of the true potential of the human individual, one must admit that it is difficult, if not impossible at all, to investigate them in terms of means conducing towards self-actualization. Nevertheless, bearing in mind that each human individual is a unique psychological being, acting, every time, in specific interpersonal relationships, one can assume that it is possible, for example, to search for indirect, intermediary communicative aims, which he or she realizes through communication on the way to self-actualization.

3.3. Indirectness in Speech Acts as

a Manifestation of Interpersonal Relations

Amending Austin‟s (1962) typology of speech acts, Searle contrasted the illocutionary force of an utterance, defined in terms of indirectness, that is, inexplicit ways of expressing the meaning, with its propositional content, in his work Speech Acts: An Essay in the Philosophy of Language (1969). The questions bothering Searle (1975, 168–169) were: “how it is possible for the speaker to say one thing and


mean that but also to mean something else”, and “how it is possible for the hearer to understand the indirect speech act when the sentence he hears and understands means something else”. Searle‟s aim was to establish the fundamental principles of the functioning of indirect (illocutionary) speech acts; his merit was a classificatory proposal of speech acts according to the manners, or tactics, of using language in a society. Basing on formal criteria, Searle (1976, 10–16) presented a typology of illocutionary speech acts, including representatives (statements assessable as true or false), directives (attempts of the speaker to get the hearer to do something), commissives (statements that commit the speaker to an action in the future), expressives (expressions of the psychological states, especially the feelings of the speaker about him- or herself, or the world), and declarations (utterances which change the world, creating a new state of affairs). But he was particularly interested in the conditions which may determine individual interpretations of utterances, such as, especially (1) the differences in the point (or purpose) of the (type of) act, (2) the direction of fit between words and the world, (3) expressed psychological states of communicators, (4) the force or strength with which they present the illocutionary point, (5) the status or position of the speaker and hearer (as these bear on the illocutionary force of the utterance), (6) the way in which the utterance relates to the interests of the speaker and the hearer, (7) its relations to the rest of the discourse, (8) the propositional contents that are determined by illocutionary force- indicating devices, (9) the differences between those acts that must always be indirect speech acts, and those that can be, but need not be performed as indirect speech acts, as well as in the differences, (10) between those acts that require extra-linguistic institutions for their performance and those that do not, (11) between those acts where the corresponding illocutionary verb has a performative use and those where it does not, and in the differences, (12) in the style of performance of the illocutionary act (cf. also Searle 1976, 2–7). It was evident to him that, when interpreting verbal utterances, one cannot ignore the fact that they are produced within a social institution.

As one may gather from Searle‟s argumentation, the interlocutors, acting during the communicative events which take place in real time, being constantly influenced by a number of co-occurring circumstances, are not able to follow formal criteria such as those conceived by pragmatists for the tasks of their strict analyses. For the subjective interpretations of communicative acts made by the interlocutors, mutual relationships between them are decisive in the first instance, and


especially the way they themselves perceive these relationships. Such subjective factors, as emotions, attitudes, and intended goals of communication participants, their individual evaluations of cultural contexts and social situations, etc., determining the kind of relationship at the psychological (transactional) level, cannot be fully grasped by, and/or objectively known to the researchers. In real-life situations, the communicating individuals form and maintain, as acting subjects, their relationships with others freely and spontaneously. What is more, they usually have a subjective, one-sided understanding of what is going on, which is, nevertheless, self-evident for them. All in all, even though the degree, or kind, of indirectness of speech acts testifies to the kind of human relations, difficulties may arise if one tries to examine the dependencies between the factors involved in the formation of the illocutionary force of an utterance. Formal criteria are here insufficient.

As indirect speech acts are often differently interpreted by different parties in the communicative events, one can imagine situations when the addressee misunderstands what the speaker insinuates, or infers either something else from that what is not literally said by the speaker, or something in addition to what is meant. To deal with the nuances of meaning occurring among communication participants, Grice proposed, in his famous article „Logic and Conversation” (1975), the concepts of conventional and conversational implicatures. Thus, implicatures are, according to Grice, indirect (implicit) speech acts. More specifically, conventional implicatures communicate a certain information regardless of the context, while conversational implicatures convey important information which may vary according to the context in which it occurs.

It follows thus that an utterance may have another literal and/or nonliteral meaning, and hence illocutionary force, for the speaker than for the hearer, especially as each of them refers it to the physical and/or social contexts single-handedly (independently of his or her interlocutor).

Since speakers often hint their intentions by means of language only indirectly, the illocutionary force with which they deliberately endow their utterance can be misunderstood (or not understood) by the hearers, or addressees. It is not always simple and easy for them (the hearers) to infer what the words imply, that is, to deduce the intentional meaning expressed by the speakers, especially as to do this, they have to associate many linguistic, paralinguistic, and non-linguistic facts.

Therefore, communication partners should, in Grice‟s opinion, cooperate with one another. He assumed that they (both parties engaged in the communicative event) are reasonable beings who think rationally. As a


rule, thus, the hearers usually expect that the speakers, willing to cooperate with their communication partners, attempt to make their contribution truthful, informative, relevant and clear. Accordingly, the hearers, being influenced by these expectations, interpret the utterances produced by the speakers. In Grice‟s view, both the hearers can infer implicatures and the speakers can relatively freely take advantage of this ability of their communication partners. Nonetheless, as it seems, one can never be sure whether an intended implicature has been properly identified.

As can be argued, the Cooperative Principle, formulated by Grice, is essential from the viewpoint of the formation and maintenance of human relations. As it directly orders the communicating individual to add pertinent information to the subject of discussion in a particular situation, the Cooperative Principle is worth quoting verbatim. It says:

“Make your conversational contribution such as is required, at the stage at which it occurs, by the accepted purpose or direction of the talk exchange in which you are engaged” (Grice 1975, 45). Also Grice‟s conversational maxims, which are subordinated to his Cooperative Principle, clearly advise the communication participants to be cooperative, accommodating and supportive, favoring their communicational properties, such as truthfulness, informativeness relevance and clarity. Grice (1975, 45–46) gives the following practical instructions how to behave as a communicator. Firstly, “[m]ake your contribution as informative as is required (for the current purpose of exchange)”, and “[d]o not make your contribution more informative than is required” (the maxim of quantity), secondly, “[d]o not say what you believe to be false”, and “[d]o not say that for which you lack adequate evidence” (the maxim of quality), thirdly, “[b]e relevant” (the maxim of relation), and, fourthly, “[a]void obscurity of expression”, “[a]void ambiguity”, “[b]e brief (avoid unnecessary prolixity)”, and “[b]e orderly” (the maxim of manner).

In addition to Grice‟s Cooperative Principle and conversational maxims, the communicative principle of relevance, developed by Dan Sperber and Deirdre Wilson in 1986 deserves a special mention. Also Sperber and Wilson aimed at explaining how hearers recognize (comprehend) an intended meaning of an utterance. Like Grice, they assumed that inferential processes are governed by general principles of communication, but, unlike Grice, they argued that the hearers, or addressees, are able to make pragmatic interpretations because they have a natural ability to expect that all input, including utterances, are relevant in given contexts, and as such worthy of processing. Exactly, the principle of relevance constitutes, in Sperber‟s and Wilson‟s view (1995 [1986],


161–163), the only and sufficient explanation of the cognitive and communicative processes of humans. For them, it is not a maxim, or guideline, for a highly recommended behavior of communicating individuals but a generalization about the mechanisms of human cognitive processes. According to Sperber and Wilson, this innate ability of human individuals is universal, not culture-specific, which has far- reaching consequences for their approach to human acting subjects who, identifying the purpose of utterances and the intended contexts, interpret the implicatures.

Nevertheless, believing that aspects of verbal communication are correlated to human relations, one has to notice that it was Grice (1975, 49) who was particularly interested in the circumstances in which speakers blatantly do not observe (a) conversational maxim(s). As he reasoned, communication participants generally act on the assumption that the maxims will be observed by all parties. Being confronted with a non-observance of a maxim, they tend to guess at an implicature. Flouts of maxims may be the result of their clash with other maxims, but at times the speaker may act with a deliberate intention of generating an implicature. This means that, since individuals have to make choices, there are also situations in which they violate (a) maxim(s), that is, do not observe them to a large extent.

As to the interpretative difficulties in everyday-life situations, one can gather that they may be resultant from the indirectness of speech acts, in particular, from the properties of conversational implicatures.

According to Grice (1975, 57–58), conversational implicatures are: (1) cancellable (they may be annulled by new information or changes of the context), (2) non-detachable (in principle, they cannot expressed (put) another way), (3) calculable (they are deducible from the utterances after taking into account the background information), (4) non-conventional (they are not related to the systemic meaning of their lexical elements), (5) indeterminate (they may have various specific explanations). Even though the inclinations of particular communication participants to use certain implicatures cannot be presented in terms of (exceptionless) rules, it can be assumed that they are related to their personalities and individual attitudes. It depends on the individual habits of a person whether he or she is apt to express, inter alia, humor and mockery, irony and insinuations in certain situations. Most likely, however, the implicatures allow the communicating individuals to develop their imagination, inventiveness, and spontaneity. In the positive sense, their use, being favorable to the personal development of individuals, helps maintain and/or enrich


relationships between them. As indirect speech acts, implicatures facilitate the communicators to be tactful and polite, to appear to be modest and humble, to behave sympathetic and respectful.

At this point, it should be noted that the evaluation of the contribution of pragmatics to the understanding of the contextual meaning of utterances and their pragmatic force may help realize reasons why people communicate certain contents indirectly. The title of Jenny Thomas‟ book Meaning in Interaction (1995) suggests that indirectness in communication is determined by the human subjects themselves, who enter into mutual contacts and, if need be, collaborate with one another to achieve their goals. Her point was, inter alia, to discuss circumstances, which may make that people speak or respond to their interactants indirectly. In particular, it is possible, for Thomas (1995, 124–146), to detail such pragmatic parameters responsible for the course of social interactions which sometimes induce people to behave in such a way as if they wanted to change the perception of oneself and the other person(s).

Among them to be listed are, especially different kinds of the relationships of power, social distance; size of imposition, rights and obligations, and the like. As Thomas argues, the expression and interpretation of indirectness by communication participants depends on their beliefs, the background knowledge, co-occurring texts (utterances), communicative goas, etc., though sometimes people are indirect simply because they enjoy having fun with language, attempt to increase the force of their message, or cope with competing goals.

Assuming communication to be a kind of action, and, consequently, indirect speech acts to be subject to potential assessment (evaluation) in terms of whether they have turned out to be successful or not, pragmatists focus on linguistic performances of human individuals resulting, inter alia, from their interpersonal skills. At the margin of the present reflections on indirect speech acts and conversational implicatures, it should be noted that at present the development and use of skills which allow the individuals to communicate (interact) effectively with others in their personal life and at work in order to improve their relationships with others became an intriguing and eagerly explored issue in communication studies. Accepting a holistic approach to the human individual in personal and organizational communication, psychologically- oriented researchers provide practical tips about how to perfect personality, on the one hand, and how to overcome barriers in communication, take decisions, manage conflicts, conduct performance appraisal, etc. from the viewpoint of human relations in group and individual productivity, on the


other. For example, Barry Reece and Monique Reece, the authors of Effective Human Relations: Interpersonal and Organizational Applications (2017), convince the reader of the significance of interpersonal skills for successful relationships with coworkers, colleagues, family members, and friends. Human relations, understood by Reece and Reece (2017, 4–5) as all kinds of interactions among people in situations of effective cooperation and conflicts, are, nowadays, in their opinion, widely considered to be the key to both personal growth and professional success (cf. especially Reece, Reece 2017, 3–20). As Reece and Reece (2017, 15) maintain, for the reason that there is so much demand for knowledge about human relations in action, each year between 4,000 and 5,000 new books claiming to be about human resources management are published. Of course, the book of Reece and Reece (2017, 16–18) in question does not take advantage of the achievements of linguistic pragmatics. But it rather teaches the reader how to improve personal skills and competencies, and grow and develop as a person through effective human relations. As such, it offers a survey of communication-related topics, based on knowledge in the so-called industrial psychology, such as self-disclosure and emotional balance, positive energy in strengthening relationships, developing a professional presence, as well as self-awareness and self-acceptance, motivation and trust, conflict resolution, and the like, from the perspective of self- assessments and self-development.

4. Sociolinguistic Pragmatics in Relation to Interpersonal Rhetoric

4.1. Social Conditionings as Criteria for the Choice of Linguistic Material

Coming back to pragmatics, which deals with the choices the individuals make with reference to verbal means of expression in social interactions depending on their predilections and predispositions, one must state that the range of impact of the principles described by its practitioners is limited. In particular, it does not equally apply to different societies, and/or their members. According to Leech‟s belief, expressed in his Principles of Pragmatics (1990 [1983], 1), about the importance of the works in pragmatics having been issued from the 1960s until the publication of his book, one cannot understand the nature of language unless one understands how it is used in communication. But paraphrasing Leech‟s words, one should rather state that one can to a


certain degree understand the communicating individual if one explains how he or she communicates in his or her language. Leech argued that there is a need to conduct studies into the principles of language use within the framework of socio-pragmatics with the awareness that they

“operate variably in different cultures and language communities, in different social situations, among different social classes, etc.” (1990, 10).

This way, he attached importance to pragmatic descriptions and sociolinguistic analyses of the respective linguistic material relative to specific social conditions. The task of sociolinguistically-oriented research in pragmatics is, as stated by Leech, to deal with the use of pragmatic principles as socially determined rather than universal.

For Leech (1990, 15–17), however, language is primarily used in everyday conversation (and only secondarily also, for example, in public and prepared speeches). Therefore, he appreciated the study of language, as one might say, in interpersonal communication. Considering pragmatics in general to be a domain of rhetorical studies, Leech distinguished two potentially separate domains of studies, which in fact complement each other, such as interpersonal rhetoric and textual rhetoric – making, nonetheless, a direct and comprehensive allusion to the terms ideational, interpersonal, and textual functions of language coined by Michael Alexander Kirkwood Halliday (1973, cf. also Leech 1990, 56–58).

While textual rhetoric approaches utterances from the viewpoint of their formal organization, interpersonal rhetoric deals with utterances as products of rhetorical and goal-oriented activity of human individuals who communicate in order to produce intended effects in the minds of their interlocutors, At any rate, interpersonal rhetoric defines the principles of successfulness of verbal utterances as speech acts, taking into account the assumed communicative goals of communicating individuals in particular situations, searching, this way, for presumed contents of the minds of communication participants. Eventually, Leech‟s (1990, 79–150) interpersonal rhetoric concentrates on linguistic manifestations of different kinds of cooperation and politeness, including being ironic and bantering, as well as social consequences they bring.

4.2. Politeness in Communicative Interactions as a Major Topic in Interpersonal Rhetoric

Presuming that human individuals, who have a natural tendency to self-actualization, are not only open to the being-with-one-another, but also act rationally guided by the principle of relevance, one has to reflect


on interpersonal politeness as the most important aspect of human communication, indeed. At the same time, one has to admit that politeness in language use has been considered rather within the framework of social discourse, not in terms of individual cognition, or individual preferences for certain behavior. For the researchers working in the domain of pragmatics, politeness (showing respect and/or kindness to another person), similarly to deference (showing the high regard one holds a person in by virtue of his or her older age, higher status, outstanding merits, etc.), manifests itself through conventional nonverbal behavior and also through certain speech acts. Since behavior evaluated as polite can be directly observed in particular communicative situations, Leech (2014, 3–4) is inclined to call it communicative altruism.

Politeness was understood by Leech (1977, 1990 [1983], and 2014) and Penelope Brown and Stephen C. Levinson (1987 [1978] as a set of strategies, which the speaker applies to promote and/or maintain harmonious, friendly relations with his or her communication partners. In keeping with Leech, and Brown and Levinson, one can say that it (politeness) is identical with such a communicative activity which allows to control communication in order to make it pleasant and fruitful for both (all) parties. In his Principles of Pragmatics, Leech explicitly stated that the researcher of speech acts concerned with the (pragmatic) force in speech situations “cannot make any pragmatic claims about what is going on privately in someone‟s head” (1990, 34). Thereby, he assumed (after Grice and Searle) that in pragmatics, utterances must be seen as characterized by a reflexive intention which is fulfilled only then when the intention of the speaker is recognized by the hearer (cf. Leech 1990, 34–35). Of course, since true intentions of communication participants are in fact inscrutable, one can wonder whether and when the individual is candid in showing respect to the hearer or only gives the appearance of being courteous.

As a matter of fact, one must state, in agreement with Leech, that there are no universal rules governing the intended expression of politeness. And what is more, direct dependencies between good manners and good interpersonal relations seem to be obvious, but practically they cannot be substantiated. Therefore, pragmatic studies are confined to the classification of forms which serve both a direct and indirect and/or conventional and non-conventional expression of politeness, courtesy, civility, respect and good manners in different languages and cultures.

Still, its practitioners describe politeness in terms of principles and maxims which have to be respected by individuals who act rationally


when communicating with one another. They assume that reasonable speakers calculate means and ends as well as costs and benefits, when they give intentions to their utterances, deciding about their illocutionary force, and, accordingly, about the kind and degree of politeness towards the addressees.

For Leech (1977, 1990 [1983], 2014), politeness, which is related to tactfulness, sometimes implies that people communicate their meanings and intentions through indirect speech acts. In accordance with his conviction that pragmatic principles are not inviolable, Leech (1990, 81) introduces the Politeness Principle (PP), being comparable with Grice‟s Cooperative Principle. This principle advises the communication partners to “[m]inimize (other things being equal) the expression of impolite beliefs”, and accordingly, to “[m]aximize (other things being equal) the expression of polite beliefs”. Stressing that the real beliefs of the speaker cannot be taken into account, because only that what he or she purports to believe is recognized as his or her communicative intention, Leech (1990, 82) explains that the words polite and impolite, mean, to the hearer and/or to a third party, respectively favorable and unfavorable; and both can be measured on a relevant scale of values.

Before listing the detailed maxims of the Politeness Principle (resembling nota bene Grice‟s maxims of quality, quantity, relation and manner), which have been proposed in Principles of Pragmatics, one has to point out that Leech was aware of the fact that “different kinds and degrees of politeness are called for in different situations” and, accordingly, that speech acts, related “to the social goal of establishing and maintaining comity”, may be performed with different illocutionary aims-in-view (1990, 104–139). Following Leech‟s argumentation, the point of departure for the classification of the strategies of politeness constitutes thus a juxtaposition of illocutionary functions of speech acts, the illocutionary goal of which may (1) compete with the social goal, such as asking, begging, demanding, or ordering (competitive function), (2) coincide with the social goal, such as congratulating, greeting, inviting, offering, or thanking (convivial function), (3) be indifferent to the social goal, such as announcing, asserting, instructing, reporting (collaborative function), or (4) conflict with the social goal, such as accusing, cursing, reprimanding, threatening (conflictive function). In Leech‟s (1990, 231) view, dealing with politeness implies either interests in its socio-pragmatic factors within particular speech communities or in contrastive aspects of pragmalinguistic strategies used by representatives of different speech communities.


Significantly, Leech‟s maxims, as norms, or standards of behavior of the speaker, may have either a broad or occasional application. A formal classification of linguistic expressions of politeness has been elaborated and ultimately presented by Leech as a model of the general strategy of politeness in which each maxim is related to a type of a speech event (act), in The Pragmatics of Politeness (2014, 91). This model includes ten maxims: (1) the maxim of generosity, recommending the speaker to give a high value to the wants of the other(s), is applied in commissives; (2) the maxim of tact, recommending to give a low value to self‟s wants, is applied in directives; (3) the maxim of approbation, recommending to give a high value to the qualities of others, is applied in compliments; (4) the maxim of modesty, recommending the speaker to give a low value to his or her qualities, is applied in the speech events (acts) of self-devaluation; (5) the maxim of obligation of the speaker to others, recommending him or her to give a high value to his or her obligation to others, is applied in apologizing and thanking; (6) the maxim of obligation of others to the speaker, recommending to give a low value to the obligation of others to the speaker, is realized through his or her responses to thanks and apologies; (7) the maxim of agreement, recommending the speaker to give a high value to the opinions of others, is applied in the acts agreeing and disagreeing; (8) the maxim of opinion reticence, recommending the speaker to give a low value to his or her own opinions, is applied in the acts of giving opinions; (9) the maxim of sympathy, recommending the speaker to give a high value to the feelings of others, is applied in congratulating and commiserating, and (10) the maxim of feeling reticence, recommending the speaker to give a low value to his or her own feelings, is applied in the acts of suppressing feelings.

4.3. Face-Threatening and Face-Enhancing Acts in Relation to Politeness

Even though, as has been argued, true politeness, equal to inner feelings of the individual, does not belong to the domain of pragmatics, but it is rather the issue of moral or psychological traits of individuals and their determination towards being kind and sympathetic to their interlocutors, it seems proper to add that one of the key concepts in the pragmatic theory of politeness is the concept of face. It was defined, for the tasks of studies of social interactions, by Erving Goffman (1922–

1982), a Canadian-American sociologist, social psychologist, and writer, in his essay “On Face-Work. An Analysis of Ritual Elements in Social Interaction”, published in Interaction Ritual. Essays in Face-to-Face


Behavior (1967). In his model of the interaction ritual, Goffman discusses patterns of interactions the function of which is to save one‟s own face and the face of the other.

Face is, according to Goffman (1967, 6), a positive social value attributed to a person in a given communicative situation, when he or she appears, in the presence of others, in a specific role. It is an image the individual has of oneself “in terms of approved social attributes”; it is an image shared by communication participants, as when someone gives his or her profession or religion a good certificate, through presenting him or herself positively. For Goffman (1967, 6), since the own face of a person and the face of another person are constructs of the same kind, “the rules of the group and the definition of the situation” regulate the amount of feelings about the own face and the face of the other demonstrated in a given communicative event. Thus, the person has face, is in, or maintains face, when, in Goffman‟s words:

“the line he effectively takes presents an image of him that is internally consistent, that is supported by judgements and evidence conveyed by other participants, and that is confirmed by evidence conveyed through impersonal agencies in the situation. At such times the person‟s face clearly is something that is not ledged in or on his body, but rather something that is diffusely located in the flow of events in the encounter and becomes manifest only when these events are read and interpreted for the appraisal expressed in them” (Goffman 1967, 6–7).

Accordingly, Goffman (1967, 9) explains that ”to lose face” is the same as “to be in wrong face, to be out of face, or to be shamefaced”; he adds that “the phrase to save one‟s face” refers to “the process by which the person sustains an impression for others that he has not lost face”. It seems understandable that, in Goffman‟s view, an ambition of each individual is to save his or her face (through avoiding humiliation), because it is for him or her the most personal good, the source of joy and a sense of security. To put it differently, the individual, adhering to his or her role(s), acts, in a spontaneous way, as if he or she wanted that a consistent image of him or her is being created continually because he or she is afraid of the loss of his or her face through falling out of his or her role(s).

The term face, referring to the good name, good repute, or recognition of the individual, has been adopted by the researchers working in the domain of pragmatics. In their article “Universals in Language Usage” (1978), extended in the form of the book Politeness:

Some Language Universals in Language Use (1987), Penelope Brown


and Stephen Levinson put forward their theory of politeness. Brown and Levinson (1987, 61–65) claimed that each human individual as an interactant has both a negative face, to wit, is in want of having his or her thoughts and actions unimpeded by others and a positive face, a want of being approved of by others. Moreover, the individual as a rational being is able to balance the means applied for the realization of intended (communicative) goals, including the means which help save his or her own face and/or the face of his or her interlocutor.

With reference to self-actualization of human individuals as communicating agents, it is important to point out that searching for cross-cultural universals in the use of language, Brown and Levinson (1987, 65–84) propose to depart from the analysis face-threatening acts, that is, such acts that damage both negative and positive face of the speaker and addressee. Dealing with strategies for doing face-threatening acts, they enumerate expected payoffs, or advantages, resulting from the use of some of these strategies, and describe circumstances which determine the general rules governing their choice. Brown and Levinson (1987, 70, 101–211) juxtapose positive politeness that implies the concern for (preservation of) the positive face of the hearer, understood as

“the positive self-image that he claims for himself”, and negative politeness, that implies the orientation toward a partial satisfaction (redress) of the negative face of the addressee (1987, 70). As Brown and Levinson (1987, 238–255) conclude, their theory of politeness, unravelling patterns of interaction across different cultures, can be particularly useful for social anthropology.

5. Conclusions and Investigative Postulates

Thinking about the value of the achievements of sociolinguistic pragmatics and interpersonal rhetoric for the understanding of communicating individuals, one has to remember that their personal development takes place not only thanks to their involvement in interpersonal communication but also in public, mass, and mediated communication. Therefore, one could propose to elaborate such a conceptual and methodological framework which might be applicable to the study of principles and maxims governing intercultural communication at different levels in multinational societies. As an extended research tool, this framework might be helpful in checking how the general requirements of cross-cultural coexistence are observed by




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