Leech’s conception of interpersonal rhetoric

An interesting approach to interpersonal rhetoric seeks to apply the hierarchical model of pragmatic principles to the description of English (Leech 1983: 79). The Cooperative and Politeness principles are regarded as first-order principles and seen in interaction when interpreting indirectness. The Irony and Banter principles are regarded as higher-order principles and are identified to complete the hierarchy. In addition to these traditionally discussed principles, Leech proposes another two, the Interest and Pollyanna principles. The Interest principle is regarded as a conversational principle which underlies cases of overstatement in ordinary conversation (see examples (6) and (7) below). This principle embodies the force, which makes us “say what is unpredictable, and hence interesting” (Leech 1983: 147). Additional pragmatically relevant aspects of literary discourse can be observed when considering the Pollyanna hypothesis, which states that “people will prefer to look on the bright side rather than on the gloomy side of life” (Leech 1983: 147). Interpreting it in the communicative framework of a real-life spoken discourse would mean that participants in a conversation will prefer pleasant topics of conversation to unpleasant ones. Considering the framework of literary discourse, where the range of topics may vary (especially on the narrator’s level), this hypothesis will probably not work. However, looking at the dialogues, which can be seen as parallels of real-life conversations, the Pollyanna principle may work in the same way as in spoken discourse. Some evidence can be found in example (2) above, where the response “Probably. But what’s the matter with that?” indicates that the speaker does not want to discuss details and chooses to ignore potential negatives of her attitude. The Irony principle is parasitic on the Cooperative and Politeness principles in the sense that it enables the speaker to be impolite while seeming to be polite. As observable in the following example, irony is an apparently friendly way of being offensive-the Cooperative and Politeness principles are not violated:

(6) (DL: 106)

‘Well, I can’t afford it, I don’t have the money, but Oliver can and he’ll

pay for me.’

Joan smiled. ‘Certainly one way making him responsible for you.’

The ways the speakers employ humour and irony vary according to a number of interpersonal reasons they aim to achieve in communication. In this final section of my paper, I wish to discuss some aspects of interactional humour and irony as observed in the analysed material.

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