Yan Huang. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. Pp. ix + 346.

Reviewed by Gregory P. Glasgow
Teachers College, Columbia University
Tokyo, Japan

The field of pragmatics has come a long way from its erstwhile characterization as the wastebasket of linguistics (Mey, 2001, p. 10), and the past twenty odd years has seen a steady growth of interest in pragmatic problems as the world abounds with a myriad of contexts where language use serves to be a worthy subject of examination. Huang (2007), in his new textbook, Pragmatics, a book written for second and third-year undergraduate and graduate students of linguistics, addresses this.
Beginning with Aristotle, the introduction and remaining two sections of his text provide a fresh overview of established paradigms and a thorough interpretation of newer ones. In the first chapter, which is also the introduction, Huang stresses that pragmatics needs to be recognized as a major component of language along with syntax, phonetics and phonology, morphology, and semantics. This outlook encompasses the central tenets of the Anglo-American Component school of pragmatics, a contrast from the wider Continental Perspective school which regards pragmatics to be more overarching, intersecting with wider disciplines such as sociolinguistics, discourse analysis, and psycholinguistics. Huang cautions against the latter and argues that this outlook risks making pragmatics seem like the study of everything, which, in his view, it is not.
Chapters 2 through 4 which comprise part 1, Central Topics in Pragmatics, delve into the areas of implicature, presupposition, and speech act theory, respectively, and the section concludes with a discussion of deixis–usual areas covered in a pragmatics textbook. What makes Huang s approach innovative and provides the text with a very up-to-date feel, however, is the way in which he interweaves more current areas of inquiry such as neo-Gricean pragmatic theories of implicature and cross-cultural speech act concepts across a variety of languages. Also, aside from delineating the major concepts of these sub-areas, Huang raises awareness of new developments in these areas such as attempts to integrate classical and neo-Gricean pragmatic theories and areas that need further demarcation (e.g. a further analysis of presupposition cross-linguistically).
The remaining chapters which make up part 2, Pragmatics and its Interfaces,” commence with the exploration of Sperber and Wilson s newly formed Relevance Theory and its comparison to neo-Grecian theory. The section then progresses with a detailed description of the relation of semantics to pragmatics, areas which overlap in many ways due to their mutual concern with meaning in language– inextricably . . . intertwined in a neat and systematic way (p. 242). The section concludes with an analysis of Chomksy s binding theory (a paradigm generalizing binding conditions for anaphors and pronomials) and its presence in a variety of world languages. At this stage, Huang engages the reader in the interesting question of whether through Chomsky s binding theory there are generalizable claims of absolute restrictions; a fact that Huang contradicts, as he contends that these rules are general, violable tendencies (p. 271).
In addition to providing wide coverage, the book has two notable features which make it quite appealing. First, the exercises interspersed within the chapters, occasioned after the explanation of key constructseffectively assist absorption of the material. Second, the way in which Huang applies a wide variety of languages to the theories is very impressive and adds global validity to the presentation of the information. Of course some readers may contest Huang s rigid delineation between the Component and Perspective schools of pragmatics; that is they may agree that the study of everything is hardly a viable academic enterprise (p. 5) but take exception to his limiting pragmatics to more of a linguistic role and thereby forsaking its societal importance. Despite this possible criticism, there is no doubt that Huang s Pragmatics successfully consolidates both earlier and more recent knowledge in the exciting field of linguistics and therefore applied linguists and TESOL educators will find it to be a valuable addition to their professional libraries.
Mey, J. (2001). Pragmatics: An Introduction. Oxford: Blackwell.