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Hardcover | $38.00 Short | £26.95 | ISBN: 9780262014113 | 320 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 48 b&w illus.| May 2010

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Essential Info

Cognitive Pragmatics

The Mental Processes of Communication


In Cognitive Pragmatics, Bruno Bara offers a theory of human communication that is both formalized through logic and empirically validated through experimental data and clinical studies. Bara argues that communication is a cooperative activity in which two or more agents together consciously and intentionally construct the meaning of their interaction. In true communication (which Bara distinguishes from the mere transmission of information), all the actors must share a set of mental states.

Bara takes a cognitive perspective, investigating communication not from the viewpoint of an external observer (as is the practice in linguistics and the philosophy of language) but from within the mind of the individual. Bara examines communicative interaction through the notion of behavior and dialogue games, which structure both the generation and the comprehension of the communication act (either language or gesture). He describes both standard communication and nonstandard communication (which includes deception, irony, and "as-if" statements). Failures are analyzed in detail, with possible solutions explained. Bara investigates communicative competence in both evolutionary and developmental terms, tracing its emergence from hominids to Homo sapiens and defining the stages of its development in humans from birth to adulthood. He correlates his theory with the neurosciences, and explains the decay of communication that occurs both with different types of brain injury and with Alzheimer's disease. Throughout, Bara offers supporting data from the literature and his own research. The innovative theoretical framework outlined by Bara will be of interest not only to cognitive scientists and neuroscientists but also to anthropologists, linguists, and developmental psychologists.

About the Author

Bruno G. Bara is Director of the Center for Cognitive Sciences at the University and Polytechnic of Turin, Italy.

Table of Contents

  • Cognitive Pragmatics
  • Cognitive Pragmatics
  • The Mental Processes of Communication
  • Bruno G. Bara
  • Translated by John Douthwaite
  • A Bradford Book
  • The MIT Press
  • Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • London, England
  • This translation
  • © 2010
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form by any electronic or mechanical means (including photocopying, recording, or information storage and retrieval) without permission in writing from the publisher.
  • Based upon
  • Pragmatica cognitiva: I processi mentali della comunicazione
  • , © Bollati Boringhieri, Milan, 1999
  • MIT Press books may be purchased at special quantity discounts for business or sales promotional use. For information, please email or write to Special Sales Department, The MIT Press, 55 Hayward Street, Cambridge, MA 02142.
  • This book was set in Stone Sans and Stone Serif by Toppan Best-set Premedia Limited. Printed and bound in the United States of America.
  • Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
  • Bara, Bruno G., 1949–.
  • Cognitive pragmatics : the mental processes of communication / Bruno G. Bara; translated by John Douthwaite.
  •  p. cm.
  • “A Bradford Book.”
  • Includes bibliographical references and index.
  • ISBN 978-0-262-01411-3 (hardcover : alk. paper)
  • 1. Pragmatics. 2. Cognitive psychology. 3. Communication. I. Title.
  • P99.4.P72B3713 2010
  • 306.44—dc22
  • 2009039302
  • 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
  • to Simona and Elena
  • sweetest strawberries
  • timeless promises
  • Contents
  • Preface ix
  • 1 Not Just Language
  • :
  • A Taxonomy of Communication 1
  • 1.1 Social Interaction 5
  • 1.2 Linguistic and Extralinguistic Communication 23
  • 1.3 The Difference between Linguistic and Extralinguistic Is a Process, Not a Product 30
  • 1.4 Communication Acts 41
  • 1.5 Principles of Communication 50
  • 2 Tools for Communicating 55
  • 2.1 Cooperation 58
  • 2.2 Mental States 67
  • 2.3 Intentionality 76
  • 3 Behavior Games and Conversation Games 93
  • 3.1 Behavior Games 95
  • 3.2 Free Interactions 120
  • 3.3 Conversation Game 126
  • 4 Generation and Comprehension of Communication Acts 131
  • 4.1 Recognizing the Expression Act 134
  • 4.2 Speaker Meaning 137
  • 4.3 Communicative Effect 149
  • 4.4 Reaction 159
  • 4.5 Response 165
  • 4.6 Motivation 167
  • 5 Nonstandard Communication 171
  • 5.1 Nonexpressive Interaction 173
  • 5.2 Exploitation 174
  • 5.3 Deception 185
  • 5.4 Failure 192
  • 6 Communicative Competence 203
  • 6.1 The Evolution of Communicative Competence 205
  • 6.2 The Emergence of Communicative Competence 246
  • 6.3 Neuropragmatics 260
  • 6.4 Silence 273
  • References 277
  • Author Index 295
  • Subject Index 301


Cognitive Pragmatics undoubtedly achieves its aims by describing the mental states of the participants in a communicative interaction . . . The book is a notable attempt to bridge the gap between philosophy of language, developmental and cognitive psychology, and neurolinguistics.” — Lucas Bietti, Philosophical Psychology


"In Cognitive Pragmatics, Bara unites a deep knowledge of theoretical cognitive science with the wisdom of a renowned innovator, teacher, and practitioner of cognitive therapy to elucidate a theory of interpersonal human communication. Lying at the interface of language and thought, his model is based in equal doses on philosophical observation, empirical scientific results, and clinical experience. This book demonstrates profound vision and remarkable insight, and has strong relevance for both psychology and linguistics, as well as sociology, anthropology, economics, neuroscience, and clinical medicine."
--Steven L. Small, Professor of Neurology and Psychology, The University of Chicago