Bonjour tout le monde,
I started working at the VU as an UD last September. I’ve been hired to perpetuate the French touch in Linguistics after Danièle’s departure, even though neither of my Swiss and British passports bears the Gallic blue, white and red colours. Hopefully my training at the Universities of Geneva and Neuchâtel, Switzerland, will do the trick (that, and the fact that French is my mother tongue, which helps).Speaking of tricks, they are precisely the type of phenomenon I’m interested in. Linguistic tricks, that is, and in particular the reasons lying behind our failure to identify them – and therefore also the reasons we fall for them. In my PhD thesis I tried to develop a cognitive pragmatic account of manipulative and uncooperative communication in order to understand why it is that, despite what we assume to be standard cooperative communicative settings – remember, Grice is nice –, manipulation and fallacious argumentation can still be successful.
The idea I developed rests on a fairly simple general premise: it is very easy to miss something you’re not looking for. Thus, I take it that successful manipulators are proficient at keeping their addressees from looking for the manipulative intention. I argued accordingly that there are specific linguistic, pragmatic and discursive phenomena that can be exploited precisely to that end, as they allow fostering the salience and relevance of certain information while at the same time reducing the salience of other information (crucially, information that would arouse the addressee’s suspicion).