Relevance, effects and affect

Louis de Saussure, Tim Wharton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


In this paper, we argue that the successful integration of expressive acts of communication into an inferential theory of pragmatics faces a major challenge. Most post-Gricean pragmatic theories have worked to develop accounts of the interpretive processes at work in the communication of propositions; the challenge, therefore, is how expressive acts be integrated when their content is, as it appears to be, non-propositional. Following previous research, we link the affective effects produced as a result of such acts to descriptive ineffability and procedurality, and argue that they activate experiential heuristics through which they find relevance. Our approach stands at least partially within the development of recent approaches to emotion as evaluative devices (appraisal theory) and we suggest that certain cognitive effects arise in communication thanks to affective effects, which then act as attention attractors and boosters for optimally relevant cognitive effects. We show that, sometimes, affect can win out over the non-affective side of cognition and also that least some poetic artefacts may activate ‘pure affective effects’, which can be relevant in their own right, i.e. relevant without cognitive effects.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183–205
JournalInternational Review of Pragmatics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 19 Aug 2020


  • relevance
  • affective effects
  • emotion
  • non-propositional meaning

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