On the social meanings of the use of explicatures or lack thereof

31 May 2024
Room G1

On the social meanings of the use of explicatures or lack thereof

The term ‘explicatures’ pertains to the inferential developments made in the explicit aspect of utterances with the objective of attaining a greater degree of clarity (Sperber & Wilson, 1986). It was first introduced by relevance theory to provide evidence that the explicit part of communication may contain a pragmatically inferred material which facilitates communication and makes it more ostensive (Carston, 2000). Nevertheless, there are instances where explicatures are deliberately avoided in order to achieve certain social meanings and communicative goals. This research article examines the social functions, which are accomplished when communicators do not articulate pragmatically inferred material, which is part of the explicit meanings of the utterance, resulting in intentionally less explicit utterances during communication. Based on the analysis of genuine communications obtained from real-life interactions from Jordanian Arabic, the findings of the study demonstrate that the act of not articulating explicatures serves certain social purposes, such as not inviting evil eye, not damaging the positive face of the addressee or the person under discussion, and avoiding the explicit mentioning of delicate matters like illnesses and social taboos; hence conforming to the established social conventions. Furthermore, the results referred to a remarkable association between particular areas of explicatures identification and certain social functions and meanings.


Carston, R. (2000). Explicature and semantics (Vol. 12, No. 1, pp. 44-89). UCL Working Papers in Linguistics.

Sperber, D. & Wilson, D. (1995). Relevance: Communication and cognition (2nd ed.). Oxford: Basil Blackwell.