Linguisic and Pragmatic Analysis of the Expression: “cuente conmigo” by peruvian speakers
Language is the most important way of communication that members of a society share. Languages have gone through many changes because of interactions amongst different cultures, the influence of non-native speakers on languages and the generational changing of the linguistic needs of the speakers. All of these have allowed for English, Spanish, French and other languages to evolve in their semantic and syntactic linguistic forms which have influenced the pragmatic forms that speakers use. Regardless of the speaker giving explicit information or leaving room for an implicature drawn by the hearer, there are always linguistic foundations that are intrinsic of each group of people and cultures and that its speakers are able to understand through their pragmatic knowledge.
Expressions, slangs, dialects and idioms are examples of linguistic tools that are conveyed within a specific civilization or that belong to a particular group of people. Among Latin-American countries there is a vast blend of different usage of the language; even though Spanish is spoken in almost every country, the pragmatic usage differs greatly from one country to another and sometimes even within the same country. There are some regions where colloquial Spanish and its linguistic forms have been maintained whereas other areas have adopted characteristics from neighborhood countries. The flux of commerce in some areas and the interaction of different type of speakers in those have taken Spanish to a level where speakers from a particular area may use a tone, vocabulary and grammatical forms that are different than the ones used in other regions which affects the pragmatic formulas used by them.
In countries like Peru it is very different the common language used in rural areas than the one used in urban zones; mainly because some people live in parts that have been less accessible for foreigners and immigrants which have sheltered them from the natural evolution of the language. In the Andes the influence of external linguistic characteristics has been minimal and the isolation of the area has allowed for the language to preserve its traditional forms, pragmatic formulas and formal expressions. Moreover, the cultural differences in speech acts in a same language community bring social implications that could complicate the interaction among speakers and lead to politeness issues between them as well.
Different studies have been made to analyze the assertive, directive, commissive and expressive speech acts in different languages such as Japanese, English, Korean, Spanish, Italian which has shed light on the understanding of how a society communicates and expresses among them. Many of the studies have shown that the differences among speakers of a same language lead to conflicts and misunderstanding and that this comes from the variations of pragmatic formulas that people coming from various social, cultural and educational backgrounds may use. Another finding has been that the lack of importance of pragmatics in the language learning environment has resulted on the correct usage of the semantic and syntactic formulas but the inappropriate usage of the language in a particular social or cultural context.
In an article written by Garcia (2009) we are able to understand how Peruvian males and females Spanish speakers express emotion, pain and sympathy and what feedback this may generate from the hearer’s side. The purpose was to analyze the way middle class males and females express sympathy and what type of pragmatic strategies they use to maintain the ‘face’ of the hearer. The study was compared to previous ones that used Brown and Levinson’s model of politeness and Scollon and Scollon’s model of deference and solidarity politeness. The study showed that the speech act of sympathy and the politeness formulas used by males differed greatly from those used by females; in addition, they expressions were dependent of the socio-economic level and the power and distance range among the speaker and the hearer.
As a result, in the act of request males showed to be more authoritative, deferent and distant while females demonstrated solidarity, familiarity and sympathy towards the hearer which would prove that pragmatic use of the language not only vary among cultures but also between genders. However, both groups used negative politeness when addressing the hearer which supports the distance among speakers and the respect towards the independence of the other; in addition, negative politeness cares about the ‘face’ of the hearer and preserving a polite but not familiar relationship between speaker and hearer.
The experiment included 10 males and females between the ages of 20 to 62 years old and ranging from various levels of education and occupation but from same social class. The study was based on a role-play scenario where the participants had to express the closest reaction or expression they would have in different sympathetic situations. The participants were asked to improvise a conversation, while they were recorded for data analysis purposes, which demonstrated that different pragmatic strategies are used according to the behavioral expectation of the group that is in the context. The participants played the role of a widow who just found out the death of her husband and of a co-worker who approaches her to show sympathy.
There were many pragmatic strategies used by the speaker to show sympathy and solidarity towards the hearer, including claiming in group membership, offering comfort, providing explanations, giving advice, requesting information, offering cooperation, praising the deceased or the addressed, giving preparators, providing business information and expressing disbelief, grief, sympathy or empathy. The participants respected the association principles of involvement, empathy and respect and the equity principles of cost-benefit, fairness-reciprocity and autonomy-control. In the experiment it was demonstrated that although some of the implicatures drawn by the hearer were not pleasing or considered appropriate, they were permitted behavior within the culture and considered part of pragmatic strategies used to in that particular society.
In the experiment the interlocutors showed respectability for the identity and face of the addresses which is a way of seeking to use socially accepted pragmatic formulas. Criticism is seen as a manifestation of the speaker’s belonging to the social group in the context which also shows that the speaker wants to maintain their “face” and that they are sensitive about the negative effects it may have from the hearer’s side. The different pragmatic strategies used by Peruvians were geared towards enhancing the interlocutor’s and speaker’s identity face by using a ‘positive social value’, also the speaker’s respectability face by protecting the way people perceive his/her comments and finally the interlocutor’s respectability face by offering them their self-positive values such as good name or role in the community.
The interlocutor’s responses were not subject of analysis but they were used to evaluate the context and utterances given by the speaker. The interlocutor confirmed the interaction with the speaker had a relational goal and that the comments made by the speaker showed a sincere concern for her well-being. The results of the experiment showed that males emphasized respect and empathy while females combined empathy and involvement in their expression of sympathy. The strategies used by the speaker demonstrated that his/her communication goal is to preserve relationships and consolidate a personal involvement with the hearer because of the importance of cultural ‘relatedness’.
Additionally, the analysis proved that for Peruvian speakers, even when there is a power differential and social distance with the hearer, the goal is to respect the equity and association principles and protect the interlocutor’s face above all. Although in some cases the speakers preferred to give advice, criticize the deceased or business information, violating the autonomy-control principle, these responses were seen as permitted behavior because the speaker did not fail to establish, enhance or maintain in-group relationships and the culture favors personal involvement. Furthermore, we understand the differences in pragmatic strategies used by males and females whose goals were dissimilar but both achieved to establish a bond with the interlocutor.
The study was very interesting and gave a different perspective on how gender could mark a difference in communication. Is fair to conclude that the type of society influences the roles males and females play in a conversation and the expected social behavior that is consider accepted from each of them. Where women tend to play a more nurturing role and embrace personal involvement with the community, it is more likely that their responses were charged with solidarity and empathy; whereas man that come from a society that favors machismo and authoritative behavior tend to respond less opened towards emotional acts and demonstrate respect and objectivity in a personal situation.
Garcia, C. (2009). “Cuente conmigo: The expression of sympathy by Peruvian Spanish speakers .” Journal of Pragmatics. pp: 1-18. Print. Project MUSE Database.
Huang, Y. (2006). Speech Acts. Pragmatics (Oxford Textbooks in Linguistics) (pp. 93-131). New York: Oxford University Press, USA.