Research Topic

Experimental Approaches to Pragmatics

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Since the pioneering work of Wittgenstein and Grice, Pragmatics, the study of how language is used in context, has been traditionally addressed by philosophers and linguists from a theoretical perspective. However, classic pragmatic notions such as communicative intentions, implicatures or usage-based meaning ...

Since the pioneering work of Wittgenstein and Grice, Pragmatics, the study of how language is used in context, has been traditionally addressed by philosophers and linguists from a theoretical perspective. However, classic pragmatic notions such as communicative intentions, implicatures or usage-based meaning must now be understood in light of a psychological and neural account of language. Thus, today, Pragmatics is a highly interdisciplinary enterprise that is investigated by psychologists, neuropsychologists and neuroscientists as well as philosophers and linguists.

Today, due to the recent introduction of empirical approaches to this topic, Pragmatics faces new challenges and offers new and exciting venues of research. We can identify three different lines of research in this area that aim to identify the neural bases of language use and a plausible psychological model that functionally describes it using different experimental approaches:

• Neuropragmatics, which investigates the neural correlates of pragmatic aspects of linguistic communication;
• Clinical Pragmatics, which studies pragmatic impairments in clinical populations such as Autistic Spectrum Disorder, schizophrenia or neurodegenerative disorders and Acquired Brain Injuries;
• Experimental Pragmatics, which aims to empirically validate theoretical models of Pragmatics by behavioral experiments.

These lines of research are autonomous since they exploit different methodologies of investigation and have slightly different objectives. However, from a broader perspective, they are certainly complementary. Despite the huge number of theoretical and empirical studies in recent years, many open questions remain; While pragmatic phenomena such as metaphors and other forms of figurative language or conversational implicatures have been largely investigated from an empirical standpoint and the neural and psychological processes underlying them are partly known, the neural and neuropsychological processes underlying other classic pragmatic phenomena (e.g., the pragmatic dimension of negation or presuppositions) need to be more closely addressed from an empirical point of view.

The goal of this Research Topic is two-fold: We aim to advance our knowledge of the neural, psychological and neuropsychological bases of the many different aspects of Pragmatics and we would like to bring together scholars working on this topic from different perspectives to provide a neural, functional and conceptual account of Pragmatics.

We encourage manuscript submissions that address an aspect of the interaction between Pragmatics and brain networks/processes or psychological mechanisms underlying language use, from a theoretical or from an experimental point of view. Articles that explore the interaction between Pragmatics and the sensorimotor bases of language are also encouraged.

Contributions may include but are not limited to the following topics:
- Figurative language (metaphor, metonymy, irony)
- Types of inferential processes underpinning linguistic acts
- Implicatures/Explicatures and meaning saturation/disambiguation processes
- Communicative intentions
- Speech acts
- Negation
- Pragmatics in clinical conditions
- Pragmatics/Semantics, Syntax interface
- Pragmatics and Theory of Mind

We welcome contributions from cognitive neuroscience, neuropsychology, psychology, psychopathology, philosophy, linguistics. Original Research articles, Brief Research Report, Case Report, Empirical Study articles are welcome as well as Conceptual Analysis, Perspective, Hypothesis & Theory, Review, Systematic Review, General Commentary and Opinion articles.


Keywords: Pragmatics, neural basis of pragmatics, Theory of Mind, Pragmatics in clinical conditions, psychological model of Pragmatics


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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