Herbert Clark - Using Language

(The following is from great summary by Clark on p. 391)

Studying language - 2 categories:

  1. Language structure (syntax, semantics, pragmatics)

  2. Language use (Clark's focus of book)


On Language Use: 

we use signals- acts by which one person means something for another

There are three basic methods of signaling:

  1. describing as - we describe something as a fish when we present the word fish

  2. indicating - we indicate an individual fish when we point at it

  3. demonstrating - we demonstrate the size of the fish when we hold our hands so far apart

The signals created by these three methods form a coherent category of human action, where linguistic utterances do not.

Most linguistic utterances are composite signals (Ch. 6). 

Example:  "That book is mine" while pointing at the book

In this case, the reference to the book is describing as and indicating:  it requires both words and a gesture.  We cannot make sense without both of the signals.

Example #2:  "At the baseball game today, one guy got so mad at the umpire that he went [rude gesture] and yelled 'Go back where you came from' [imitating an angry voice and cupping his hands around his mouth]"

In this case the utterance contains as constituents two demonstrations of what the fan did - the rude gesture and the quotation.  We cannot account for meaning without appealing to both signals (indicating and demonstrating) - which are two non-linguistic methods of signaling

Language use (signaling) is very important to the study of language- and we should not study language by simply studying language structure, but rather as a whole (language use and language structure)