Sign-like Pragmatic Devices: pro et contra
The paper introduces a new concept of sign-like pragmatic devices as the pragmatic phenomena regularly associated with the connotative signified of certain situations. Drawing on Barthes’ conception of three levels of signification, denotative concept of utterance and data evidencing the isomorphism of particular pragmatic phenomena to the situational connotatum of awkwardness/non-preferentiality (dispreferred acts), the research identified, explained and interpreted sign-like pragmatic devices in the aggregate of their significative, pragmatic and formal-structural properties. The study reached four major findings. First, identified devices are marked by certain features of indexicality as they signify the same connotated attribute of the situation, and bear certain traits of iconicity since the awkwardness/ complicity of the situation is reflected by equally complicated pragmatic means. The latter are manifested by quantitative accumulation of pragmatic devices and complication of the inference process. Second, the identified groups of devices, similar in their signifying properties in regard to the situational connotatum, encompass negative politeness strategies, cooperative maxims flouting, conversational implicatures, and illocution of indirect speech acts. Third, in their formal-structural properties, sign-like pragmatic devices (SLPDs) are arranged by the similar linguistic markers: hesitation pauses, pre-sequencing, apologising, self-corrections, pseudo-consents before disagreement, means of indirectness, hedging, mitigation, etc. Fourth, the same signifying functions and structural design explain different relationships between sign-like pragmatic devices: interchangeability when designating the same connotative property of a situation and relations of sequential (linear) actualisation of some units by others.