Allusions in the Press: An Applied Linguistic Study by Paul Lennon

By Paul Lennon

This corpus-based examine of allusions within the British press indicates the variety of ambitions newshounds allude to - from Shakespeare to television soaps, from Jane Austen to Hillary Clinton, from hymns to nursery rhymes, proverbs and riddles. It analyzes the linguistic varieties allusions take and demonstrates how allusions functionality meaningfully in discourse. It explores the character of the historical past cultural and intertextual wisdom allusions call for of readers and units out the processing phases interested by realizing an allusion. Allusion is built-in into latest theories of oblique language and associated with idioms, wordplay and metaphor.

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Cultural communities usually form nested sets based on such variables as nationality, residence, education, occupation, employment, hobby, language, religion, ethnicity, subculture, gender (Clark 1996: 103–108). Where communicators are members of a highly specified, deeply nested cultural community, then the phenomenon of “insider language” may occur, incomprehensible to non-members of the insider group. This exclusivity will derive from encoded meanings. It involves both the community lexicon (code) and the community encyclopaedia (shared assumptions) so that code and context interact and are bridged by text (compare also Widdowson 1998).

Paradigmatic relationships of various sorts exist between any given linguistic item in a syntagma and a set of linguistic items with which it is associated: “le rapport syntagmatique est in praesentia: il répose sur deux ou plusieurs termes également présents dans une série effective. Au contraire le rapport associatif unit des termes in absentia dans une série mnemonique virtuelle” [a syntagmatic relationship is in praesentia: it is based on two or more terms equally present in an actual series.

Nerlich and Clarke (2001) suggest that Grice’s maxim of Manner, “Be perspicuous”, should be counterbalanced by a maxim of conspicuity to cover purposive ambiguity. This maxim would subsume two pragmatic principles: “Make your conversation as interesting / witty / surprising as possible” and “Make your utterance / text as expressive as possible, but still accessible” (Nerlich and Clarke 2001: 15). These authors challenge the assumption that communication is necessarily aimed at reducing the potential ambiguities in polysemous words.

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