Towards Non-Spontaneity in Interpretation of Implicature Serving Implicit Characterization: The Case of Subsidiary Trait Precipitation in Arthur C. Doyle’s ‘A Study in Scarlet’

Hammed Mohammadpanah, Samira Hamzehei, Lale Massiha


Although characterisation is a much-aged matter in literature, certain aspects have yet to be explored, such as how fictional characters implicate in their discourse, what takes influence from this, and what comes to pass in the production and interpretation process of the phenomenon. As the contribution is of subtlety, implicata in characters’ discourse have not exclusively been studies in detail as elements of characterisation. Therefore, in view of the cognitive approach leant towards by leading researchers on the subject of characterization such as Jonathan Culpeper, this research relies on Sperber and Wilson’s ‘relevance theory’ to define cognitive procedures into instances of implicata verbally exchanged between fictional characters to determine a) how authors exploit such instances for trait progression of their characters and upholding character discourse credibility, and b) how readers can achieve what Furlong terms a ‘non-spontaneous’ interpretation of such exchanges. To address the stated issue, we conducted a detailed cognitive-effectual analysis on five instances of implicata made by four flat and round characters within Arthur C. Doyle’s ‘A Study in Scarlet’, the results of which yielded a mechanism wherein writers’ making implications and readers’ calculating and interpreting them hinge on both parties making presuppositions on certain topics to ensure certain pragmatic presuppositional effect for readers. A five-stage bottom-up process was also proposed which links character traits to implications conveyed within inter-character discourse, following through which can lead to readers’ achieving maximal relevance on the made implications and a non-spontaneous interpretation of them.


Implicature, Presupposition, Characterization, Non-spontaneous Interpretation, Relevance Theory

Full Text:



Beaver, D.I. (2001). Presupposition and Assertion in Dynamic Semantics. Leland Stanford Jr. University.

Blakemore, D. (1992). Understanding Utterances. Cowley Rd, Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.

Chapman, S., & Clark, B. (Eds) (2014). Pragmatic Literary Stylistics. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.

Cruse, D.A. (2000). Meaning in Language: An Introduction to Semantics and Pragmatics. Great Claredon St, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Culpeper, J. (2001). Language and Characterization: People in Plays and Other Texts. New York, NY: Routledge.

Davis, W.A. (1998). Implicature: Intention, Convention, and Principle in the Failure of Gricean Theory. The Edinburgh Building, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Eder, J. et al. (2010). Characters in Fictional Worlds: Understanding Imaginary Beings in Literature, Film, and Other Media. Berlin: de Gruyter.

Furlong, A. (1996). Relevance Theory and Literary Interpretation (Doctoral Dissertation). London: University College London.

Geis, M.L. (1995). Speech Acts and Conversational Interactions. The Edinburgh Building, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Grice, H.P. & White, A.R. (1961). The Causal Theory of Perception. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 35 (suppl.), 121-52. doi:10.1093/aristoteliansupp/35.1.121

Grice, H.P. (1991). Studies in the Way of Words. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Johnstone, B. (2008). Discourse Analysis. Garsington Road. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Levinson, S.C. (1983-2008). Pragmatics. The Edinburgh Building, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Martin, P. (2004). Characterisation in the Novel: An Aesthetic of the Uncanny (Master’s Thesis). School of Communications: Dublin City University.

McKee, R. (1997). Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting. East 53rd St. New York: HarperCollins.

Portner, P. (2006). Meaning. In Fasold, R.W., & Connor-Linton J. (Eds) (2006). An Introduction to Language and Linguistics. The Edinburgh Building, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Rimmon-Kenan, Sh. (2005). Narrative Fiction (2nd edition). London: Routledge. doi: 10.4324/9780203426111

Roberts, E.V. (1995). Writing about Literature (8th edition). Englewood Cliffs. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

Schmitt, N. (2010). An Introduction to Applied Linguistics (2nd edition). Euston Rd. London: Hodder Education.

Sperber, D., & Wilson, D. (1995). Relevance: Communication and Cognition (2nd edition). Cowley Rd. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.

Sperber, D., & Wilson, D. (2002). Relevance Theory: A Tutorial. Proceedings of the Third Tokyo Conference on Psycholinguistics: 45-70.

Sperber, D., & Wilson, D. (2006). Relevance Theory. In Horn, L. R., & Ward G. (Eds), The Handbook of Pragmatics (pp. 607-632). Garrison Rd, Oxford: Blackwell.

Thomas, J. (2013). Meaning in Interaction: An Introduction to Pragmatics. New York, NY: Routledge.

Verschueren, J. (2003). Understanding Pragmatics. Euston Rd, London: Arnold.

Yule, G. (1996-2017). Pragmatics, Oxford Introductions to Language Study. Great Claredon Street, Oxford: Oxford University Press.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

2012-2023 (CC-BY) Australian International Academic Centre PTY.LTD

International Journal of Applied Linguistics and English Literature

To make sure that you can receive messages from us, please add the journal emails into your e-mail 'safe list'. If you do not receive e-mail in your 'inbox', check your 'bulk mail' or 'junk mail' folders.