A paradoxical pragmatic behaviour in ancient China
This paper examines the pragmatic properties of what we define as a ritual act of ‘admonishing’. We argue that admonishing represents a historically embedded realisation type of the speech act Suggest. We explore admonishing in ancient Chinese political and governance texts dated before the 2nd century BC. The results of our analysis show that admonishing often not only affords but even triggers paradoxical pragmatic behaviour. This paradox stems from the fact that, in many historical linguacultures like the ancient Chinese, admonishing was directed at a recipient, most typically a ruler, who was more highly ranked than the admonisher himself. While this context normally precluded threatening the recipient’s face, admonishing was realised in a ritual frame in which such a face threat was deindividuated. In pragmatics, a research gap exists in the study of the historical act of admonishing, and so the current study fills a knowledge gap.
Keywords: admonishing, speech act, Suggest, ancient China, ritual
Published online: 06 January 2021
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