27 jul. 2004

The Pragmatics of Metaphor

I've been trying to remember my dreams all week. Last night, I dreamed I was explaining to my father (who is no longer living in real life) my new theory of the "pragmatics of metaphor." We were in some kind of classroom. I didn't get very far in my explanation in the dream. My explanation was very slow and laborious.

Pragmatics is the study of language use. The character "Data" on Star Trek TNG is a robot that has not been programmed for pragmatics. Thus he answers rhetorical questions or corrects hyperboles: in short, he demonstrates the rules of pragmatics by breaking them. He has perfect syntax and a complete vocabulary, so it is easy to see that his deficiency in understanding language is entirely pragmatic. He would not be able to understand the assertion like "It's cold in here" as a complaint, a request, etc... For him all utterances are either questions or factual statements.

This is my waking understanding of what I was trying to explain in the dream. All I really remember, however, was the laboriousness of the explanation.