The Grice Club


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Thursday, May 7, 2015

Grice's Ludicrous Allusion


Beckett opens "Murphy" like this:

(i) The sun shone, having no choice, on the nothing new.

Is this an allusion, as someone might ludicrously put it, on the original title to Remarque's famous "All quiet on the Western Front", "In Westen Nichts Neues".

Ah, the Great War.

O. T. O. H., there's allusion in Grice. Of all the Great War songs, Grice  was fascinated by one:

"It's the same the whole world over."

Not the refrain so much, whose melody he found trite (he was a fine pianist) but the 
first line to the first (out of the 34) verses:

"She was poor but she was honest".

Grice's conceptual analysis of 'but' reflects Fregean intentions, only Frege called it 'colour, while Grice prefers 'implicature': there is a conventional implicature to the effect that 'but', while carrying the same  logical form of 'and', triggers something in the addressee (Logical form: "p  & q").

As time passed on, Grice came back to earlier songs, and later ones. For example of hyperbole -- another type of implicature, this time conversational,  rather than conventional, he gives:

"Every nice girl loves a sailor".

The implicature being that the sailor is perhaps a different one. He  was one, so he would not know, but every girl would.

For example of a metaphor he gives the title of a late 1920s song,

"You're the cream in my coffee, you're the salt in my stew."

Vanderveken and Searle attempted an analysis of 'allusion'. Surely it's the Alluding that's basic, and even more, the utterer ALLUDING that p. Holdcroft  revises this in "Indirectness" in "Journal of Rhetoric".

What is that Grice is alluding?

Grice is alluding to a mock. His surname is French (cfr. the etymology of the colour 'grey' as in 'fifty shades of grice' -- now playing in France, dubbed).

allude: literally, 1530, "mock," from Middle French "alluder" or directly from Ancient Latin "alludere", as used by Cicero to mean, "to play, sport, joke,  jest,". Derived from prefix "ad-" "to" (see ad-) + "ludere" "to play" (see  ludicrous). The figurative extension "to make an indirect reference, point in passing" is only from 1570.

It's all different with Beckett.

In fact, a student of Grice's alluded to Beckett when alluding to Grice. Qua tutor at St. John's Grice would often (if not almost always) be late (which  are boring things anyway) since he'd rather stay at the "Lamb and Flag" or  across the street from St. Giles, at "Bird and Baby": therefore he was
known by  this tutees as "Godo'", which is how Beckett, alluding to a French  pronunciation, referred to a character who is alluded in the eponymous play, but  who is ONLY alluded, 'Godo'' not gracing the scene with his presence.

To allude, figuratively, the utterer must pick up the referent.

When in 1540 'allusion', was first used figuratively, the allusion was to  Latin "allusionem" (nominative "allusio") "a playing with, a reference to",  the  mere noun of action from past participle stem of "alludere (see allude).

As Holdcroft notes in his essay in "The Journal of Rhetoric", crediting  Grice, "an allusion is never an outright or explicit mention of the person or thing the speaker seems to have in mind", but an implicature.

Grice knew about this.

There is a book on allusion on Borges: he used to say that for "x" there is always the possibility that somone may make the theoretical claim that "x" alludes to "y": "the onus, however, is on the alluder, not the alludee", and in  this, he was being Griceian.

But then we doubt he  read Beckett in the original. What Beckett failed to allude was theat 'nothing new" (nichts new) is usually  disimplicated, as per the cliché, first ascribed to Gertrude Vanderbilt,

"No  news is good news" (ii). 

Applying (ii) to the orignal Beckett utterance (i) we get that Beckett is not being really logical.

For starters, the sun stars  shining as it raises from the east. It SETS on the west, and hardly shines as it  does so. It may be analytically true that the sun has no choice, but to ascribe  'choice' to the sun may trigger the wrong implicature. It is analytically true  that the sun has no choice, -- and this is literally what Beckett is saying. The  gist is the 'nothing new'.

For Vanderbilt, no news is good news (surely the  implicature behind Remarque's title).

For the record, allusion is an art, and the title of Ronald Christ's essay is "The Narrow Act: Borges's Art of Allusion". The first chapter of the essay is  dedicated to the four words of the expression: 'art', 'of', and 'allusion'.

The patterns Christ discovers in Borges's literary reworkings "his  own perplexities" and the perplexities of philosophy is described as the  "art of allusion.""

By "allusion", Christ means the adaptation of themes, centering mainly around the reality and autonomy of literary invention, more than borrowing of thoughts and attitudes, as is the case with Beckett.

Christ traces Borges's main significant allusions, and demonstrates how Borges turns ideas of others into fantasies of his own.

In common parlance, anyone who has engaged in linguistic botany, will note that the word ‘allusion’ may be thought to be  used in various senses, even if it only has one.

In its widest 'alleged' sense "allusion" is be used to mean any brief or passing reference, direct or indirect.

Allusion may also be used, however, to mean an indirect reference or hint.

In this sense an allusion involves a Griceian utterer choosing a vague  referential term in place of a more specific one so that the addressee is  apparently ‘kept guessing’ for a moment.

Consider the following example:

Fifne went off in a cab, as we have known more exalted persons of her  nation to do under similar circumstances: but more provident or lucky than  these, she secured not only her own property, but some of her mistress’s. (Thackeray, Vanity Fair.

In this passage the vague reference “more exalted persons of her  nation” is generally taken to be an allusion to Louis Philippe, who reputedly  fled  Paris in a cab in the 1848 revolution.

This was a topical allusion at the time of Thackeray's  utterance and was
unlikely to be missed by Thackeray’s Griceian  addressees.

Thackeray's is, however, not an echoic allusion.

An echoic allusion is what is sometimes, rather misleadingly, called a  ‘literary allusion’.

This is misleading because echoic allusions are firstly not limited to  literary works nor are all allusions in literary works of the echoic variety, as  witness the Louis Philippe example.

The echoic allusion is closely linked to the pun.

Indeed, the Classical rhetorical figure or trope "allusio" lirrealla meant  word-play, and although the earliest recorded meaning of  ‘allusion’ in English is that of ‘illusion’, by the early Renaissance
it had  acquired the meaning of ‘word-play’ or ‘pun’, and by about 1600 was also  being used more
generally for any form of symbolic comparison such as allegory,  parable or metaphor (Oxford English Dictionary).

It is these now obsolete meanings of ‘allusion’ which are actually most important for understanding how echoic allusion works in the manner of a  pun.

In echoic allusion, rather than one referent replacing another, a secondary associative level of meaning is set up by means of cryptic quotation.

More precisely, a secondary reference to a text in absentia is established and the addressee has to supply the relevant associations which it bears for the  text in praesentia.

In echoic allusion the utterer intends to remind the utterer of another text and, furthermore,  wants the uttererr to recognise this intention, alla Girce.

He therefore puts selected features of the source text into  the utterance and relies on the addresee’s familiarity with the  two utterances and the genres and traditions to which they belong for the  allusion to be taken, even though the two texts are quite unconnected, as in the case of Beckett and Remarque.

Nevertheless, the utterer accepts that not all uttererers will  necessarily take the allusion.

In this connection, we can define echoic allusion as the use of pre-formed language or names to convey implicit meaning, or implicature.

One example of echoic allusion she gives is from David Lodge’s novel Nice Work, in which a character says:

“Where are they now, the Hillman Imps of yesteryear? In the scrapyards, every one, or nearly."

We can actually identify two echoic allusions here:

“Where are they now, the Hillman Imps of yesteryear?” echoes

“Where are the snows of yesteryear?” -- Francois Villon, Le Grand  Testament, 1461: ‘Ballades des dames jadis’, in the translation of Dante  Gabriele Rossetti.

“In the scrapyards, every one, or nearly” echoes the line “In the graveyards, every one” from the song, ‘Where have all the Flowers Gone?’, written by Pete Seeger.

Those consulted by Leppihalme were more or less able to identify the sources and thought the implied meaning or implicature was nostalgia for innocence and naiveté, together with perhaps a touch of ironic,wry humour.

Echoic allusion has been described by literary scholars as a form of quotation.

We can see an echoic allusion as a cryptic or veiled quotation.

They are, however, more properly, a sort of anti-quotation in that they  break either one or both of the two crucial requirements for strict quotation, namely of being, firstly, verbatim with reference to their source texts and,  secondly, discrete with reference to the host texts.

The echoic allusion may be cryptic in various ways; it will often be  morphologically modified so as to incorporate it syntactically into the host text.

It is frequently not set off from the host utterance by quotation marks or other means.

Its source is normally not given.

It may be fragmentary, discontinuous or interspersed with non-allusive 

Often the original quotation will have been deliberately changed at the lexico-grammatical level for rhetorical effect.

If it is preserved in verbatim form, then it will inevitably have undergone some measure of semantic shift in  its new context and often this semantic shift will be considerable so that  there is a
measure of word play involved.

It is in these ways that the quotation  is cryptic and the allusion is echoic.

In literary writing the tradition of allusion by means of intentional echo  can be traced back at least to Latin Classical poetry.

Among the rhetorical figures of speech in Roman poetry was imitatio auctorum, or the reverent  imitation of a great poet, which could easily become aemulatio, or the attempt  to improve on the great poet, such as VIRGILIO.

Imitatio might necessarily  involve modification of the original quotation to integrate it
syntactically and  semantically into its new context.

Aemulatio would necessarily require tampering  with the original in order to improve it.

However, alongside this reverent  tradition of imitation there was also a tradition of irreverent imitation, which  played with an original and manifested itself in such literary forms as parody,  travesty, burlesque and pastiche.

It is actually this subversive  ludic tradition which is more relevant for an understanding of the punning  echoic allusions.

Clearly the Hillman Imp example from David Lodge, above, belongs to this tradition of parody.

Punning is clearly related to echoic allusion in that both devices trigger  two meanings, a primary and a secondary meaning.

Echoic  allusion is essentially concerned with playing with the semantics of the word  and the
pragmatics of the sentence.

The utterer not only reproduces the form (or certain features of the form) of a short  text segment, but also adapts its meaning to the new context.

This results in  intertextual punning or word play, achieved by displacing the quotation from
its  original context, possibly modifying it formally and then so integrating it into  the host text that it takes on a double meaning (or implicature) in the manner  of a pun.

Its primary meaning is determined by the host text but the  secondary meaning it bore in its source text is also activated and interacts  with the primary meaning.

Just as echoic allusions may vary along a scale from  verbatim quotation to vague echoes of a source, so puns may be more or less  perfect.

There is a distinction between perfect and more or  less imperfect puns.

One example may illustrate this, the punning  joke:

“Tough luck,” said the egg in the monastery, “out of the frying pan into  the friar.”

This this joke involves a perfect pun (on  ‘friar’ and ‘fryer’ -- cfr. Grice, "He was caught in the grip of a vice/vyce) as well as an imperfect pun (on either ‘friar’ or ‘fryer’and ‘fire’).

We can explain the difference between a perfect and an imperfect pun  as follows: a blend is what an utterer, often by way of a slip of the tongue, if  he tries to say two words or phrases at the same time.

If the two just happen to  be identical in phonological shape (as are ‘friar’ and ‘fryer’), then the effort  can succeed, and the blend is a perfect pun.

Otherwise, what actually comes out  can at most be composed of ingredients drawn from each of the two target words  or phrases (Lewis Carroll’s Richard and William yielding Rilchiam).

But as long  as the addressee can detect both of the targets it is still a pun, though  an imperfect one.

A great variety of contaminations, assimilations and  metatheses can be shown to be the result of blending, and all can occur, by  intent rather than accident, in a wisecrack or joke.

We are considering spoken language, where homophony satisfies the  condition for a perfect pun.

However, for puns in the written mode, one might  suggest the stricter criterion of homonymy, namely that the perfect pun must activate two or more targets which are both homographs and homophones. 

Furthermore, this definition needs to be extended to cover those cases  where two or more meanings of a polysemous word are activated, rather than two  homonyms.

The distinction between polysemy (if such a thing exist -- be reminded of Grice, "Senses should not be multiplied beyond necessity") and homonymy is actually by no means  clear cut anyway since what today are homonyms may have started out from a  common origin, for example, ‘bank’ of a river and ‘bank’ in the financial sense. 

It's VERY different with "He was caught in the grip of a vice", although Grice uses this as an instance of Modified Occam's Razor in "Meaning Revisited"!

We can distinguish between puns and allusions in terms of langue and  parole.

The idea is that puns play with two lexicalised meanings, usually of a  single word, whereas allusions play with phrasal meaning, which is determined by  context.

However, in practice, this distinction is not as tidy as it might  appear.

It is a feature of language that it under-exploits the word combinations  permitted by its grammar and prefers certain formulations for expressing certain  meanings in certain situations

In time, repeated  co-occurrence of certain lexical items to express particular meanings become 
established in the language and in the mental lexicon of members of that speech 

There thus emerge dominant discourse patterns in a speech  community.

Even  before the text is encountered, reader (or listener)  expectations are  established by the extra-textual context.

The skilled Griceian utterer and addressee have knowledge of different text types and the language or register  associated with them.

This knowledge functions to insulate a text against the  intrusion of unwanted meanings, or unwanted implicatures (if such a thing exist: be reminded: an unwanted baby is still a baby; an unwanted implicature ain't an implicature!)

During the actual process of uttering and understaning, people are also sensitive to the co-occurrence patterns of words and  match these against their stored knowledge of form-meaning pairings at the  phrasal level.

The intra-textual context of the unfolding text therefore primes  certain meanings of each word as it is encountered and other meanings are  suppressed.

In this way, situation, topic and the unfolding  linguistic context itself function to foreground certain word meanings and  background others, so that many potentially distracting ambiguities are never  allowed to intrude into the consciousness of the communicators.

This restriction of meaning potential we can term “the idiom principle”, even if we have to be careful with what an idiom is (For Grice, 'pushing up the daisies' is one, but 'fertilising the daffodils' is not, yet both are euphemisms for 'dead').

Nevertheless, in a sense the meaning of each word is redefined anew each time it is encountered.

Word meanings are dynamic rather  than static, flexible rather than rigid.

The potential ambiguity of word  meaning is resolved only in context.

Most words are more or less amgiguous (many  usages) rather than polysemous (many senses -- if such a phenomenon exists: be reminded of Grice, "Senses should not be multiplied beyond necessity"), and in combination with other  words create meanings not necessarily predictable from the meanings of the  individual words in isolation.

In punning and alluding, utterers may exploit  this feature of language to deliberately prime secondary meanings in addition to  the primary meaning. We can thus defined a pun as a  foregrounded lexical ambiguity.

Double meaning links allusion to the pun. The distinction between a pun and  an echoic allusion is illustrated in the following lines from Hilaire Belloc’s  poem 'On his Books’, which actually contain a pun embedded within an  echoic allusion:

When I am dead I hope it may be said:
“His sins were scarlet, but his  books were read.”

“His sins were scarlet but his books were read” is an echoic allusion to Isaiah 1.8, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow".

The allusion may be viewed as a piece of intertextual word-play, a weak pun at  the sentence

It belongs to the irreverent tradition of parody of an  authority, in this case parody of the Bible.

Within the allusive piece of  language, however, there is a pun at the word level: ‘read’ puns on its  homophone ‘red’, which intrudes on the addressee’s consciousness, even if he misses the Biblical
allusion, because it has been primed by its near synonym  ‘scarlet’.

However, the apt Griceian addressee who has recalled the Biblical quotation will be  doubly reminded of  the pun, since ‘white’will also prime ‘red’. This is a  near-perfect pun, since ‘red’ and ‘read’are homophones, although not  homographs.

The couplet will be understood differently according to whether the addressee  takes the allusion or not.

For the addressee who misses the allusion, the pun on  ‘red’ and ‘read’ will just be seen as a piece of facetious humour which  contributes nothing to the meaning of the text in praesentia.

For the addressee  who recognises the allusion, however, the Biblical quotation in absentia does 
contribute a secondary level of meaning to the line, suggesting that an utterer’s utterances may in some sense redeem his personal shortcomings.

This links into the  piece of received cultural knowledge that writers may achieve immortality  through their works, an idea which if expressed directly rather than allusively  would be
far too pompous for Belloc.

The allusion is therefore "sinnkonstituierend", as Frege would put it, because it contributes to the meaning of the  text in praesentia.

The pun demands only  linguistic knowledge of the addressee while the echoic literary allusion relies  heavily on cultural knowledge as well.

Intermediate points on  the scale would be occupied by allusions to lexicalised quotations, proverbial 
expressions and the like, since they represent lexicalised cultural knowledge. 

There is a gradational rather than a  categorical distinction between puns and allusions.

However, the boundary  between linguistic and cultural knowledge itself turns out to be rather
fuzzier than this.

What is an allusion to a quotation for one addressee  may be a  pun on a lexicalised phrase for another.

This is because frequent allusion to a specific target quotation may lead to its being lexicalised in the language.

For example, the genial Max Beerbohm’s description of radio as a

“pot of message” 

echoes Chapter 25 of Genesis in the Geneva Bible, 1560,

“Esau selleth his  birthright for a mess of potage (sic)” and for erudite addressees will be an 
echoic allusion.

For others it will be a piece of word  play since the phrase has become lexicalised.

Chambers Twentieth Century  Dictionary defines it as “a material advantage accepted for 
something of higher worth, as by Esau (Genesis 25.29ff.).”

Sometimes an original  quotation will be forgotten and a later allusion to it will become better known. 

For example, Margaret Thatcher once said

“The lady’s not for turning”

and this quotation has become better known to many people than the title of Christopher Fry’s play The Lady’s not for Burning to which she  alluded.

It is, of course,  too early to say whether it will become a lexicalised phrase.

Puns which play with a lexicalised phrase rather than a single word, even  where no quotation is involved, are often highly culture-bound and demand not  only linguistic but also cultural knowledge if they are to be understood.

It is  therefore doubtful whether the separation of linguistic and cultural knowledge  is a workable distinction for marking off puns from allusions.

Consider for example:

"Into injury time – for life"

(Daily Telegraph)

This punning headline headed a report about the dangers of chronic injury resulting from children overtraining for sports.

‘Injury time’ will initially be  understood  by the reader in its lexicalised sense as meaning the
playing  time added on to games such as football to compensate for time lost during play  because of attending to injured players.

However, this initial meaning will then  be deconstructed by the unfolding text in praesentia and
the reader will have to  reinterpret the phrase in a novel manner to mean something like ‘time spent  being (chronically) injured’, without dismissing the initial meaning, which now  becomes
secondary rather than primary.

It underlines the fact that the chronic  injuries referred to in the article cannot be quickly cured in a few minutes  of treatment so that the game can go on.

The two meanings interact, rather than  the lexicalised meaning being replaced by the nonce meaning.

The pun is at the  level of parole rather than langue, since a lexicalised meaning and a nonce  meaning are involved.

The context in praesentia and the context in absentia  interact in the manner of an echoic allusion, even though there is no source  quotation.

The allusion is situational, the reference is to a secondary script. 

Two contexts, one for each meaning of the word to be punned on, are primed. 

Contextual priming is very important in the genre of punning jokes (jokes with a  double entendre).

Freud gives various examples, one of which is  the following, topical at the time of the Dreyfus affair:

“The girl reminds me of Dreyfus. The army doesn’t believe in her innocence.”

This is a perfect pun on ‘innocence’, but it has an allusive element in  that alongside the overt reference to the Dreyfus affair, in which the legal  meaning of ‘innocence’ applies, there is an implied imaginary situation in absentia in which the sexual meaning of ‘innocence’ would obtain. In fact two  separate scripts are set up in two separate contexts (triggered by the separate  associations of ‘girl’ + ‘innocence’ and ‘Dreyfus’ + ‘innocence’).

Each script  primes a different meaning of ‘army’, too (‘soldiers’ in the ‘girl’-script  versus ‘generals’ in  the ‘Dreyfus’- script).

Many weak phrasal puns may be  viewed as an allusion to some sort of set phrase in absentia.

The method is to achieve maximal semantic change with  minimal phonological change.

The target may be a lexicalised quotation, as in  Queen Elizabeth II’s description of the year 1992, when the marital problems of  her children had caused her great adverse publicity, as an annus horribilis  (reported in T he Times).

This neologism clearly puns on or alludes to the annus mirabilis or year of wonders, which has become a lexicalised phrase in English, but was also the  title of a poem by Dryden.

Weak phrasal puns often depend on set phrases  which have no source in a quotation, but the method of slot and filler  substitution is still the same, as in the Independent, which  described a meeting as “short and sour”, with obvious allusion to the set phrase  “short and sweet”.

Even verbatim echoic allusions to literary sources,  complete with quotation marks, may function in the manner of a pun.

The  following example hinges on a perfect pun at the word level and is taken from a  reader’s letter to The Times.

It may be compared in its method to allusive  puns such as the Dreyfus example above:

I consider this “the most unkindest cut of all”. (The Times, Letters to the editor)

In this example the writer is complaining about having to pay capital gains tax on the investments he has been forced to sell in order to pay for nursing  home care for his wife, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease.

The phrase in  quotation marks is a verbatim quotation from Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, III,  iii, 188.

In its new context, however, the quotation takes on a completely new  meaning.

This semantic shift is based on the pun on ‘cut’.

It is a perfect pun. 

In this case, as in the example from Freud, above, the effect is one of double  meaning at the phrasal level.

In other cases the allusive chunk of discourse may differ  lexico-grammatically from the target quotation.

If lexico-semantic manipulation  is employed, it will often involve minimal formal change with maximum semantic  shift, for example by substituting a similar sounding word with a very  different meaning, in the manner of a weak pun. In such cases, the punning  allusion functions in the
manner of a deliberately distorted echo, often with  humorously grotesque effects.

These perlocutionary effects (recall Grice, "I may be mistaken, but I'm not confused" -- Cited by Neil Wilson, "Grice's Ultimate Counter-Example", Nous) may contribute to  various aspects of pragmatic
meaning, especially irony, parody and satire.

Yet  the modified quotation must nevertheless still remind the reader of the wording  of the underlying quotation in its original context, otherwise the allusion  will be lost.

In the following newspaper heading to an article about gardening  in the winter months the allusion
hinges on a weak pun at the word  level:

When your tiny land is frozen

(Daily Mail)

This alludes to the line

“Your tiny hand is frozen”

in Act I of La Bohème, music by Puccini, libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica.

The words ‘hand’ and ‘land’ differ  phonologically only in terms of the initial phoneme, but the meaning of the  whole phrase is transformed.

Sometimes the weak pun may not be limited to a single word, but may extend to a phrase.

An example from a newspaper headline is:

They’re guarding the change at Buckingham Palace.

-- Daily Telegraph.

The headline is to a consumer survey which reported that Buckingham Palace  is Britain’s most overpriced tourist attraction and the allusion is to “They’re  changing the guard at Buckingham Palace”, the first line of the refrain in A. A.  Milne’s poem for children, ‘Buckingham Palace’.

Here a weak phrasal  pun is created by the permutation of ‘guard’ and ‘change’ while maintaining the  syntax, prosody and rhythm of the original because the ‘ing’ suffix does not  move with ‘change’ but attaches itself to ‘guard’.

The meaning is of course  completely transformed with minimal formal change.

Provided the prosody and  rhythm of the original are not disturbed, allusion can be achieved by similar  sounding phrases (phonological play), as in the next example: ...if he needs  a slogan, he should look no further than Shakespeare’s “King Richard III”, Act  I, Scene I:

Now is there discount / On our winter rent.

Daily Telegraph

This is taken from a newspaper report of an estate agent who was fighting a slump in the housing market by announcing a ‘sale’ of properties on his books. 

The original is, of course, “Now is the winter of our discontent.”

In this case  the allusion takes on the form of a deliberate misquotation, complete with  quotation
marks and exact reference to the source.

There are other echoic  allusions which retain an element of language play not at the phonological level  but at the semantic level, by exploiting the structural relations in the  lexicon.

In the next example this involves substituting one colour word for  another:

Paint it Green

New York Post.

This headline broke the news that Jerry Hall was suing Mick Jagger for  divorce to the tune of 50 million dollars.

On the face of it the headline bears no relation to the news item reported, at least no direct relation.

Most addressees will, however, perceive it as a punning allusion to the title of the Rolling  Stones song “Paint it Black”.

The substitution of ‘green’ for ‘black’ is  semantically motivated and is presumably to be taken as an allusion to the fifty  million dollars, with ‘green’ being metonymic for ‘greenbacks’. 

Interestingly, in 2000, when Luciana Morad, the Brazilian lingerie model, sued  Mick Jagger for child support of $35,000  a month, the New York Post repeated the  punning allusion:

The mother of Mick Jagger’s love child wants the wrinkly  Rolling Stone to paint it green.

New York Post.

The most influential account of how indirect language works remains that of Grice.

Herbert Paul Grice, an Oxford philosopher, regards the processing of indirect language as involving two  steps, firstly a recognition phase and secondly an inferencing phase. 

Essentially interested in the way conversation functions, Grice makes the crucial  point that many conversational utterances are potentially ambiguous and only  disambiguated by an agreed understanding (or etiquette) of  conversational conduct, which he called the Co-operative Principle.

This  maintains that, unless they have good reason to suppose  otherwise, addressees will assume that
utterers are being helpful or  co-operative by observing various conversational maxims

(He's making fun of  Kant).

Grice formulates these as maxims following under the four Kantian  categories, adding that there might be other as yet unidentified  maxims.

The four categories are Quantity, Quality, Relation and Modus

(Grice is  using an English translation of Kant -- none of this Kantian allusion is in the earlier Oxford "Conversation" tutorials).

Utterers assume that utterers will normally provide neither too  little nor too much information for their communicative purpose (Quantity), will  be truthful and will not make statements for which they have no evidence  (Quality), will be relevant (Relation) and will be sufficiently clear (Modus).

Unlike the other three maxims, the Maxim of Manner refers not to the  content of the utterance but to its form, the manner of expression.

Grice specifies four sub-categories of the Maxim of Modus: avoidance of  obscurity of expression, avoidance of ambiguity, succinctness and orderliness.

These desiderata (the term used in the earlier "Conversation" tutorials: he refers to clarity, candour, self-love and altruism) enable conversation to be conducted in an economical  manner and dispense with the need for utterers to explicitly exclude logical  possibilities of interpretation which are not intended by the utterer and  not assumed by the addressee.

In order to cope with the problem of  how addressees understand figurative language, Grice introduced the notion  of ‘conversational implicature’, which is determined by context and has to be 

Grice does not specifically refer to echoic punning allusion (but cfr. "He is in the grip of a vice", and "Peccavi"), but among  the figures of speech he did refer to are metaphor, hyperbole, litotes and  irony.

These will tend to be incompatible with one or more Maxims.

According to  Grice, the Co-operative Principle is so robust that when the addressee perceives discrepancy between the utterance and a maxim, he  will look for clues which might resolve the discrepancy in terms of non-literal meaning.

Grice thus distinguished two sorts of non-observance of a maxim, ‘violation’ versus  ‘flouting’.

Violation of a maxim involves unostentatiously departing from it, as for  instance in lying, which would be a violation of the Maxim of Quality.

Flouting  a Maxim, on the other hand, involves ostentatiously breaking with it and  thereby  creating a ‘conversational implicature’.

Non-literal language  will flout rather  than violate one or more maxims.

Echoic allusion may be seen as a two-stage process of conversational implicature, namely allusive reference and allusive  implication, if an additional maxim to those of Grice is added, namely a 
Maxim of Repetition:

“Avoid repetition of your own or anyone else’s discourse  or any features thereof.”

However, it is probably not necessary to introduce  this new maxim since echoic allusion will flout one or more of Grice’s original  maxims anyway.

Cfr. Speranza, "Do not multiply maxims beyond necessity").

In particular, apart from flouting the Maxim of Quality  (truthfulness -- the key for disimplicature), allusive language, like other forms of figurative language, is  likely to be stylistically marked (flouting of the Maxim of Modus), and also perhaps apparently unrelated to the topic at hand (flouting of the Maxim of  Relation)

Grice suggests the addressee will use the following sources of evidence in  working out the implicature:

(1) the conventional meaning of the words used,  together with the identity of any references involved

(2) the Co-operative  Principle and its maxims

(3) the context, linguistic and non-linguistic, of  the utterance

(4) other items of background knowledge

(5) the fact (or  supposed fact) that all the relevant items falling under the previous headings  are available to both participants and both participants know or assume this to  be the case.

For punning allusion the basic two stage model may be expanded  and adapted as follows into a three stage model, with the third stage  optional:

(1) recognition

(a) parallel processing of the alluding language and the  source

(b) holding of the remembered meaning of the source and the  constructed meaning of the alluding language in consciousness

(c)  experience of productive cognitive dissonance

(2) inferencing

(a) comparison at the micro-level of the form and  meaning differences between the alluding language and the source in the  manner of metaphor topic and vehicle

(b) macro-comparison of the two  contexts or scripts

(3) appreciation of the writer as alluder (optional level  of phatic bonding)

The above model departs from Grice’s model in one important respect, namely that at 1a it allows for parallel processing.

In fact, since Grice’s contention  that figurative meaning is only understood indirectly via literal
meaning has  come under heavy attack from various quarters.

Grice's assumption that  communication is necessarily aimed at reducing the potential ambiguities in 
words can be challenged.

Activation of apparently irrelevant senses of a word at  the referential level has important pragmatic functions in language  generally, especially in jocular language where the interpersonal, phatic  function is important.

This is ‘conspicuous’ or ‘purposive’ ambiguity  and one may want to  counterbalance
Grice’s Maxim of Modus (“Be perspicuous”)  by a Maxim of Conspicuity, which would have two sub-maxims: “Make your  conversation as interesting / witty / surprising as possible” and “Make your  utterance / text as expressive as possible, but still accessible”

In punning echoic allusions a stored holistic meaning of a piece of  composed language competes in processing with a meaning arrived at by lexical  and syntactic analysis (top-down versus bottom-up processing).

Apt Griceian utterers may have as many as 80,000 fixed  expressions stored in memory, including quotations, proverbs, idioms and so  forth.

In cases where a stored holistic meaning is held in consciousness, rather  than losing out to
an epistemic meaning before it reaches consciousness, the addressee will assume in accordance with the Co-operative Principle, the principle of effort after meaning that the  secondary  meaning is relevant at the pragmatic and affective levels in the  manner of a pun.

The addressee will be alerted to the possibility of an intended  allusion by experiencing a stumbling block or check in language processing as  the meaning of the piece of composed language in its original context intrudes  on consciousness alongside a meaning being constructed epistemically.

This is the first stage of recognising a conversational implicature.

There then follows the inferencing stage.

The echoic allusion works  first by means of metonymy at the recognition stage as the piece of alluding  language triggers a larger text or context of use and then in the manner of a 
covert metaphor or simile at the interpretation stage as an implicit comparison  between the two scripts or texts is perceived.

It is a characteristic of  allusion, however, that the intertextual reference may be missed by some
readers  or, even if it is taken, that the implied meaning may not be understood in  exactly the same way by all addressees.

It is legitimate to ask why writers use echoic punning allusions at all. 

There are various reasons.

As stylistically marked language, echoic punning  allusions may function first of all to attract reader attention.

In this respect  they work according to the foregrounding principle, which depends on  ‘linguistic deviation’.

As an example consider the advertisement for cheese which used the phrase

“the smell which  launched a thousand barbecues”.

This alludes to “the face that launched a  thousand ships” (Christopher Marlowe, Dr. Faustus, 1604, Act V, scene 1), where  the reference is to Helen of Troy.

The effect achieved by replacing ‘face’ with  ‘cheese’ and ‘ships’ with ‘barbecues’ is one of grotesque incongruity and  nothing more.

The allusion functions solely as an attention catcher.

However  some allusions may also contribute to the meaning of the text in praesentia.

For  example:

The sound and the fury

-- The Times --

is a  verbatim quotation from Macbeth, which functions firstly to attract the  addressee’s attention by re-using a familiar Shakespeareian phrase.

The  accompanying article is about the infuriatingly poor quality of the sound track  to some
films, and the reader who recalls that the phrase occurs in Macbeth’s  nihilistic expression of despair,

“Life’s but a walking shadow ... a tale /
Told  by an idiot, full of sound and fury, / Signifying nothing” (Macbeth Act
V, scene  v, lines 16–18),

will be prompted to reinterpret the semantics of the  quotation to suit its new context.

The phrase may be seen as elliptical for  something like “the fury the cinema-goer experiences when confronted with a poor  sound track”.

The allusion also contributes affective meaning since the implied  comparison with the text in absentia is humorously incongruous.

This example  illustrates the way in which allusions may, on the one hand, ease the cognitive 
processing load for the addressee, because the well-known quotation is quickly  recognised, and, on the other hand, present a cognitive challenge for the addresseer, who has to reinterpret the meaning of the quotation in its new  context. 

In headline allusions, as in ‘the sound and fury’ example, this involves  reading on. In other cases it may involve retracing and reflecting.

Recognising  and interpreting allusions also involves a measure of aesthetic pleasure, as Freud notes.

It is important for writers to impart aesthetic pleasure  to their readers.

This is one way of establishing rapport with the addressee.

Not  only is stylistic embellishment involved, but, more  importantly, the utterer is given the chance to display wit and linguistic  ingenuity.

In this way common-ground (as Grice would have it -- 'common ground' was his third favourite expression) can be established with the reader against  the background of shared cultural knowledge.

Comic effects of incongruity may function to achieve phatic  bonding between utterer and addressee.

Humorous allusions may also serve as a  vehicle for indirect criticism or ridicule by means of grotesque implicit  comparison (Grice's "You're the cream in my coffee").

Often multiple functions of a given allusion can be identified, some  major and some minor.

The weightings of these different functions may vary for  different addressees according to how fully they understand the  allusion, as is illustrated by the following example:

Soufflé and up she rises.

Daily Express.

This was a headline to an article about baking.

It alludes to “Hooray and  up she rises”, the chorus line to the sea-shanty ‘What shall we do with the
drunken sailor?’

By the use of this allusive headline

(1) the utterer attracts  the addressee’s attention, the main function.

(2) the addressee also experiences the  pleasure of recognition and

(3) the utterer has the chance to display some wit. 

However, the borrowed stylistic effects of rhythm and inverted word order (4)  embellish the text in praesentia, the productive ambiguity of the word ‘rise’  (of pastry versus of a ship) is exploited so that (5) physical economy of  expression is assured and the implication is that, if you read on, you will  learn how to make a successful soufflé (more is meant than is said).

At the  interpersonal, phatic level, (6) there is a touch of grotesque humour evoked by  the juxtaposition of the two contexts.

At the processing level, (7) initially  comprehension is eased by the recognition of
the familiar refrain, but then the  reader is (8) cognitively challenged to infer the relevance of the refrain for  an article about cooking.

This will (9) encourage the reader to read on.

From  the utterer’s perspective the echoic punning allusion functions to (10) establish  common ground with the reader (the song is shown ro be part of their mutual  stored cultural knowledge).

Nevertheless, there is also (11) an element of the  facetious in “Souffé and up she rises”.

This links the allusion to the genre of  corny jokes involving play with hackneyed quotations to raise a groan response. 

In other cases an allusion may function to (12) debunk a famous quotation from a  revered

Famous quotations from Shakespeare (such as “to be or not to  be”) are a frequent source for such ‘groan response’ allusions.

This debunking of famous quotations may also be seen as part of the ‘low’ irreverent tradition,  which also delights in using language to confuse and confound.

We have focussed on the form and function of punning echoic allusion.

The  form is that of cryptic quotation.

Typically, a short phrase from a well-known  source text is incorporated into the text in praesentia, either verbatim or,  more usually, deliberately manipulated so as to achieve maximum
semantic  contrast with the original at the expense of minimal phonological change in the  manner of a pun.

The distance between the contexts of the source in absentia and  the unfolding text in praesentia makes for strong contrasts in terms of  pragmatic meaning at the sentence level.

This in turn results in interplay in  meaning between the two different meanings in their two
different contexts, so  that the secondary allusive meaning may be taken as a sotto voce gloss or  commentary on the primary meanng.

In this way, the allusion may contribute to  the meaning of the unfolding text in important ways.

However, punning echoic allusions also function at the language processing  level and at the socio-affective level.

They both ease processing loads for addressees by providing familiar language chunks while 
simultaneously presenting a cognitive challenge to the reader who has to  solve the riddle
of the allusion.

In this way the responsibility for meaning  construction is transferred to the addressee.

The utterer, for his or his part, is  challenged to so engineer the allusion that the addressee will both recognise it  and understand it in the way intended.

This in turn requires that the utterer correctly estimate not only the reader’s linguistic, but also his or his cultural knowledge.

It is necessary that reader and writer understand each other  at each move in the ludic (if not ludicrous -- cfr. etymology above of 'alludere') process.

In this way allusions also contribute to  phatic bonding between utterer and addressee.

In this connection, as a variety of  indirect language, they are an important means of bringing humour, but also  censure, into texts and of expressing certain attitudes indirectly which it  would be inappropriate to express directly.


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