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By Paul Lennon

This corpus-based research of allusions within the British press exhibits the variety of pursuits 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 kinds allusions take and demonstrates how allusions functionality meaningfully in discourse. It explores the character of the history cultural and intertextual wisdom allusions call for of readers and units out the processing levels occupied with knowing an allusion. Allusion is built-in into current theories of oblique language and associated with idioms, wordplay and metaphor.

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This implies that Grice’s (1975) “generalised conversational implicatures” are not implicatures at all but contextual inputs to sentence understanding (Gibbs 1999: 471). Gibbs (1999) suggests there may be two sorts of pragmatic knowledge, general or primary pragmatic knowledge, used to help the hearer / reader to decide on what is said, and Objections to the Standard Pragmatic Model 39 context-specific or secondary pragmatic knowledge, which bridges the gap between what is said and what is meant (Gibbs 1999: 472).

The constraints on producing and understanding indirect language differ in speech and in writing. On the one hand, the writer has more time to compose indirect language and the reader has more time to process indirect language than is possible in speech. On the other hand, writing lacks the meaning contribution of prosody, which in speech can resolve potential ambiguity, and face to face interaction is also precluded in the written mode (Chafe 1994: 42). In conversation, meanings may be negotiated by the speakers.

Decoding the linguistic data alone is insufficient. The listener / reader must convert it into pragmatic significance in the light of contextual assumptions (Widdowson 1998: 16). This latter process is inferencing. Decoding starts with a signal and recovers a message. Inferencing starts from a set of premises and results in a set of conclusions (Sperber and Wilson 1995: 12–13). In cognitive psychology it has been postulated since Bartlett (1932) that background knowledge based on experience (including the vicarious experience of reading) is stored in the mind in the form of cognitive structures that represent abstractions of those individual examples of the class under consideration which have so far been encountered.

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