Common Ground as (Inter)cultural ‘Inbetweeness’ in Human – Machine Communication: A Literary Pragmatic Perspective

30 May 2024
Room G1

Common Ground as (Inter)cultural ‘Inbetweeness’ in Human – Machine Communication: A Literary Pragmatic Perspective

Recent advancements in artificial intelligence technology have given impetus to extensive research in human-machine linguistic interactions, dialogues in particular, that render a feeling of almost natural conversation (e.g.Dombi et al 2022). The interest in such interactions has called either for revisions of  “theoretical models and frameworks that conceptualize interactional language use”(Dombi et al 2022:4) or have affirmed that  some pragmatic models, normally developed to pertain to human-human conversation, prove applicable and suitable to human-machine interaction, as is  the socio-cognitive approach (SCA) as proposed by Kecskes & Zhang (2009) and  Kecskes (2010), in particular the concept of asymmetry in common ground establishment between speakers of different linguistic backgrounds (Dombi et al, 2022).  However, the subject of research presented in this paper are the fictional dialogues/conversations between characters in the latest novel “Klara and the Sun” by Kazuo Ishiguro. Following the trail of the question of credibility of fictional characters’ voices  that Mey (1998) puts in his work on literary pragmatics and drawing on  Giesen’s (2012) concept of ‘inbetweenness’ that is “essential for the construction of culture” (Giesen 2012:788)  I examine the dialogues that Klara, a humanoid artificial friend (AF) enters within at least two  different communities (K) – the community of other AFs and  the communities she forms  with humans. Taking into account factors such as conceptual and background knowledge, egocentrism and salience, I observe the emergence of common ground between the fictional conversationalists, whom I take to be ‘intercultural speakers’. The emergent common ground, however, consistently proves, in the majority of such conversations, deficient, cropped and unattainable. I argue, finally, that this failure to increment common ground gives credibility to Klara’s voice, making her a permanent ‘inbetweener’.



Dombi, J., Sydorenko,T. and V. Timpe-Laughlin (2022). Common ground, cooperation and recipient design in human-computer interactions.  Journal of Pragmatics Vol.193, (pp.4-20).

Giesen, B. (2012). Inbetweenness and Ambivalence. The Oxford Handbook of Cultural Sociology. Oxford University Press. (pp. )788-810.

Kecskés, I. (Ed.). (2010). The Paradox of Communication: Socio-cognitive approach to pragmatics.  Pragmatics and Society 1 (1). (pp.50-73).

Kecskes, I. and F.Zhang (2009). Activating, seeking and creating common ground. A sociocognitive approach. Pragmatics and Cognition 17(2). (pp.331-355).

Mey, J.L. (1998). When Voices Clash.  Berlin: New York: Mouton De Gruyter.