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When lying is more than deceiving : A pragmatic study of lying, based on the relevance-adaptation model

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Abstract

Lying is a common but controversial verbal phenomenon in human society. This paper aims to uncover the motivation and mechanism of lying as regards its definition, classification and operation by analyzing both the speaker’s production and the addressee’s interpretation process. The Relevance-Adaptation Model is adopted as its theoretical framework. Lying cases, retrieved from an American TV drama Lie to Me, are analyzed from different perspectives to provide concrete evidence for the theoretical assumptions.

The findings are two-fold: Theoretically, this paper formulates a working diagram of the Relevance-Adaptation Model with some modifications to the original to be better applied to the field of lying. Empirically, it supports the claim that the presumption of relevance motivates both the speaker and the addressee to lie or to process lying in the first place. Then, both communicators will enter a relevance-adaptation phase through making structural choices inter-adapt with relevant contextual correlates. An optimal lie is one which is maximally relevant and maximally adapted to the context to benefit the speaker and/or the addressee.

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Keywords: inter-adaptation; lying; optimal lies; presumption of relevance; production and interpretation; relevance-adaptation model

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 30, 2020

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