THESIS DEFENCE Nick Toews, MA Ling: “Relevance Theory and Proverbs: Exploring context through explicatures and implicatures”

Academic Events
Trinity Western University
Rm 208, CanIL Harvest Centre
Langley, BC V2Y1Y1

Examining Committee

Thesis Supervisor: Dr. Steve Nicolle, MA Ling

Second Reader: Dr. Sean Allison, MA Ling

Third Reader/External Examiner: Dr. Pete Unseth, DIU


Relevance Theory (Sperber & Wilson 1986/1995) is a theory of communication that states that the human brain is geared towards processing relevant stimuli for little effort. While proponents of Relevance Theory have endeavored to explain various linguistic phenomena such as metaphor, irony, sarcasm, and idioms, there has been little work done on the proverb. The current thesis fills in this gap within Relevance Theory by applying Relevance-Theoretic principles to the interpretation of proverbs in context. This study explains how proverb meaning carries both a base meaning as well as an implicated meaning in context, with the use of Relevance Theory’s explicatures and implicatures. In addition, this thesis makes use of ad hoc concept formation (Wilson & Carston 2007) to account for meaning modulation and contrasts proverbs with Vega-Moreno’s (2003) analysis of idioms under Relevance Theory.