Intention and diverging interpretings of implicature in the 'uncovered meat' sermon
AbstractThe standard model of communication in linguistic pragmatics is founded on the assumption that “successful” communication involves the addressee making inferences about the intentions of the speaker. Miscommunication of implicatures thus presumably arises when the addressee does not correctly infer the speaker's intention. In this paper, however, it is argued that this view of the (mis)communication of implicatures does not adequately account for the manner in which intentions may become the subject of discursive dispute in interaction thereby giving rise to diverging interpretings of implicatures. Drawing from an analysis of the “uncovered meat” comments made by Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali and the ensuing controversy over what was implied by them, it is argued that to label such an incident as simply a misunderstanding of the speaker's intentions is misleading. Instead, it is suggested that the way in which Hilali's comments were shifted from a specific audience in the Muslim community to wider Australian society by the media engendered discursive dispute over Hilali's intentions, and thus gave rise to the co-constitution of diverging interpretings of what was implied by Hilali. Building a model of the communication of implicatures must therefore move beyond the received view that it involves “correctly” inferring the intentions of speakers to encompass a broader view where both converging and diverging interpretings of implicatures emerge through their conjoint co-constitution in interaction.