5 Pragmatics 89
An operational definition of an insecure science is: a science whose leaders say they are in quest of a paradigm, or have just found a paradigm.
Over the past 30 years or so, pragmatics has grown into a well-established, ‘secure’, discipline in institutional terms. There are a number of specialist journals (Journal of Pragmatics, Pragmatics, Pragmatics and Cognition, Multilingua as well as others), there is at least one major professional organization (The International Pragmatics Association) whose membership reaches into thousands and regular international conferences are held the world over. Yet, despite these achievements, pragmatics remains a good example of an insecure science in terms of Hacking’s definition. None of the many pragmatic theories and frameworks comes close to being a generally accepted paradigm and, in fact, there is no consensus as to the domain of pragmatics. Nevertheless, most people working in the field would probably not disagree with some interpretation or other of the suggestion, put forward by Charles Morris (1938: 30), that pragmatics is ‘the science of the relation of signs to their interpreters’. In other words, pragmatics is concerned not with language as a system or product per se, but rather with the interrelationship between language form, (communicated) messages and language users. It explores questions such as the following:
• How do people communicate more than what the words or phrases of their utterances might mean by themselves, and how do people make these interpretations?