Pragmatic failure, mind style and characterisation in fiction about autism

Semino, Elena (2014) Pragmatic failure, mind style and characterisation in fiction about autism. Language and Literature, 23 (2). pp. 141-158. ISSN 0963-9470

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This paper presents an analysis of different types of pragmatic failure in the interactional behaviour of the ‘autistic’ protagonists of three recent novels. Three main types of pragmatic failure occur across all three novels: problems with informativeness and relevance in conversational contributions; problems with face management resulting in unintentional impolite behaviours; and problems with the interpretation of figurative language. These problems are salient and frequent enough to contribute to the projection of distinctive mind styles, and more generally to the characterisation of the protagonists as individuals with communication and socialisation difficulties that are likely to both reflect and reinforce general perceptions of autism-spectrum disorders. It is also argued that pragmatic failure contributes to the potential defamiliarisation of ‘normal’ communication, which is presented as being fraught with obscurity, ambiguity and insincerity.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Language and Literature
Additional Information:
The final, definitive version of this article has been published in the Journal, Language and Literature, 23 (2), 2014, © SAGE Publications Ltd, 2014 by SAGE Publications Ltd at the Language and Literature page: on SAGE Journals Online:
Uncontrolled Keywords:
?? autism characterisation fictionfigurative language grice impoliteness metaphormind stylepragmatic failuretheory of mindlinguistics and languagelanguage and linguisticsliterature and literary theory ??
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Deposited On:
19 Dec 2013 08:52
Last Modified:
21 Apr 2024 23:52