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Pragmatic Stylistics

Elizabeth Black

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This volume is a study of the language of literary texts. It looks at the usefulness of pragmatic theories to the interpretation of literary texts and surveys methods of analysing narrative, with special attention given to narratorial authority and character focalisation. The book includes a description of Grice's Co-operative Principle and its contribution to the interpretation of literary texts, and considers Sperber and Wilson's Relevance Theory, with particular stress on the valuable insights into irony and varieties of indirect discourse it offers. Bakhtin's theories are introduced, and related to the more explicitly linguistic Relevance Theory. Metaphor, irony and parody are examined primarily as pragmatic phenomena, and there is a strand of sociolinguistic interest particularly in relation to the theories of Labov and Bakhtin.

Key Features

  • The first pragmatically oriented study of the language of fictional texts.
  • Introduces a range of pragmatic theories and offers a range of approaches that can be applied to texts.
  • Includes examples from literary texts, predominantly from the twentieth century - unlike many works on pragmatics which use invented examples.


1. Pragmatics and Stylistics
2. Pragmatic Theories
3. Signposts
4. Narrative Voices
5. Direct and Indirect Discourse
6. Politeness and Literary Discourse
7. Relevance and Echoic Discourse
8. Tropes and Parody
9. Symbolism
10. Psychonarration

About the Author

Elizabeth Black was formerly Lecturer in Theoretical and Applied Linguistics, University of Edinburgh.


This is an extremely objective and wide-ranging first exposition of a fascinating area of study.
- Forum for Modern Language Studies
A welcome addition to the series 'Edinburgh Textbooks in Applied Linguistics'… One of the strengths of the book is its wide use of examples from literary texts to test the usefulness of the pragmatic theories discussed. While this is territory covered in other textbooks, Black provides a perceptive and well illustrated account… Pragmatic Stylistics will be of interest to those studying or teaching stylistics and literature within Applied Linguistics and related courses. Its generous range of topics and literary examples would also, I think, appeal to students of English literature with an interest in linguistic theory.
- Diane Davies, University of Leicester, Baal News

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