Pragmatics and inference

Billy Clark*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


While he does not use the term, the process of arriving at conclusions mentioned in the above quote by the film-maker David Lynch is what psychologists describe as inference. Lynch is suggesting that people draw conclusions based on what they observe in life and also when watching films. To take a simple example, if I see a colleague at work moving very quickly down a corridor, I might conclude that they are late for an appointment. We also make inferences when people communicate with us in everyday spoken and written communications. And we make inferences when reading texts and watching all kinds of performances. Pragmatics is the field which studies inferences like this. Linguists are interested in inference because it plays a role in linguistic communication. Stylisticians are interested in inference because it plays a role in how we respond to literary and non-literary texts.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Handbook of Stylistics
EditorsPeter Stockwell, Sara Whiteley
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9781139237031
ISBN (Print)9781107028876
Publication statusPublished - 30 Apr 2014


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