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Language Game: calculus or Pragmatic act?


The authors have tried to make the potentiality inherent in the concept of the linguistic game evident by taking it back to its original context in the work of Wittgenstein. This paper aims to re-examine some features of Wittgenstein’s thought, considering in particular the notion of ‘language-game’. The authors believe that the language-game might play a role in overcoming once and for all the classic distinction between semantics and pragmatics. We deal with the exegetical discussion of the notion ‘language-game’ as it was interpreted in two different senses: as a synonym of calculus or as a minimal unit of linguistic activity that is directed to obtaining certain pragmatic effects in a societal context. The latter, broader interpretation, is characterized by three different features: topicality, broader normativity and multimodality. Starting from an interpretation of language game as a pragmatic act, the authors work out a possible parallel between language games and the notion of pragmeme as presented by Mey. Both language game and pragmeme refer to an extended notion of the linguistic symbol seen as a non- linear, multimodal concept that overlaps the mere verbal unit of expression and is now considered as a set of diverse expressive resources (such as gesture, tone of voice and so on). This comparison will also work for a problem common to both language-game and pragmeme, that is the need to set a boundary to these units of analysis, thanks to which they could be identified. The authors advance a possible solution to this problem, which is rooted in a rethinking of Wittgenstein’s notions. The proposal consists in focusing on the topic for which the language game is played. The topic is taken to be the organizing aspect of understanding of the game. The societal rules, the worldly knowledge, often taken to be the ground of understanding in our discourse are considered as merged together in a holistic unit called language game.