Context (language use)

In semiotics, linguistics, sociology and anthropology, context refers to those objects or entities which surround a focal event, in these disciplines typically a communicative event, of some kind. Context is "a frame that surrounds the event and provides resources for its appropriate interpretation".[1]:2–3 It is thus a relative concept, only definable with respect to some focal event within a frame, not independently of that frame.

In linguistics

Verbal context refers to the text or speech surrounding an expression (word, sentence, or speech act). Verbal context influences the way an expression is understood; hence the norm of not citing people out of context. Since much contemporary linguistics takes texts, discourses, or conversations as the object of analysis, the modern study of verbal context takes place in terms of the analysis of discourse structures and their mutual relationships, for instance the coherence relation between sentences.

Neurolinguistic analysis of context has shown that the interaction between interlocutors defined as parsers creates a reaction in the brain that reflects predictive and interpretative reactions. It can be said then, that mutual knowledge, co-text, genre, speakers, hearers create a neurolinguistic composition of context.[2]

Traditionally, in sociolinguistics, social contexts were defined in terms of objective social variables, such as those of class, gender, age or race. More recently, social contexts tend to be defined in terms of the social identity being construed and displayed in text and talk by language users. Influenced by space.

The influence of context parameters on language use or discourse is usually studied in terms of language variation, style or register (see Stylistics). The basic assumption here is that language users adapt the properties of their language use (such as intonation, lexical choice, syntax, and other aspects of formulation) to the current communicative situation. In this sense, language use or discourse may be called more or less 'appropriate' in a given context. It is the language or derigitave terms surrounding set paragraph, novel or article.

In linguistic anthropology

In the theory of sign phenomena, adapted from that of Charles Sanders Peirce, which forms the basis for much contemporary work in linguistic anthropology, the concept of context is integral to the definition of the index, one of the three classes of signs comprising Peirce's second trichotomy. An index is a sign which signifies by virtue of "pointing to" some component in its context, or in other words an indexical sign is related to its object by virtue of their co-occurrence within some kind of contextual frame.[3]

Contextual variables

Communicative systems presuppose contexts that are structured in terms of particular physical and communicative dimensions, for instance time, location, and communicative role.

See also


  1. ^ Goodwin, Charles; Duranti, Alessandro, eds. (1992). "Rethinking context: an introduction" (PDF). Rethinking context: Language as an interactive phenomenon. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 1–42. Retrieved February 19, 2017.
  2. ^ Finkbeiner, Rita; Meibauer, Jörg; Schumacher, Petra B. (2012). What is a Context?: Linguistic Approaches and Challenges. John Benjamins Publishing. ISBN 978-9027255792.
  3. ^ Silverstein, Michael (1992). "The Indeterminacy of Contextualization: When Is Enough Enough?". In Auer, Peter; Di Luzio, Aldo (eds.). The Contextualization of Language. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company. pp. 55–76. ISBN 978-9027250346. Retrieved February 19, 2017.
Aberrant decoding

Aberrant decoding or aberrant reading is a concept used in fields such as communication and media studies, semiotics, and journalism about how messages can be interpreted differently from what was intended by their sender. The concept was proposed by Umberto Eco in an article published first in 1965 in Italian and in 1972 in English.


Context may refer to:

Context (language use), the relevant constraints of the communicative situation that influence language use, language variation, and discourse summary

Archaeological context, an event in time which has been preserved in the archaeological record

Opaque context, the linguistic context in which substitution of co-referential expressions does not preserve truth

Trama (mycology) (context or flesh), the mass of non-hymenial tissues that composes the mass of a fungal fruiting body


Context-sensitive is an adjective meaning "depending on context" or "depending on circumstances". It may refer to:

Context-sensitive meaning, where meaning depends on context (language use)

Context-sensitive grammar, a formal grammar in which the left-hand sides and right-hand sides of any production rules may be surrounded by a context of terminal and nonterminal symbols

Context-sensitive language, a formal language that can be defined by a context-sensitive grammar (and equivalently by a noncontracting grammar). Context-sensitive is one of the four types of grammars in the Chomsky hierarchy

Context-sensitive help, a kind of online help that is obtained from a specific point in the state of the software, providing help for the situation that is associated with that state

Context-sensitive solutions (also called Context Sensitive Design), a theoretical and practical approach to transportation decision-making and design that takes into consideration the communities and lands through which streets, roads, and highways pass ("the context")

Context-sensitive user interface, in computing

Interpretive discussion

An interpretive discussion is a discussion in which participants explore and/or resolve interpretations often pertaining to texts of any medium containing significant ambiguity in meaning.

Machine-readable document

A machine-readable document is a document whose content can be readily processed by computers. Such documents are distinguished from machine-readable data by virtue of having sufficient structure to provide the necessary context to support the business processes for which they are created.

Trace (semiology)

The trace in semiotics is a concept developed by Jacques Derrida in Writing and Difference to denote the history that a sign carries with it as the result of its use through time. Words like "black", for example, carry the trace of all their previous uses with them, making them sensitive, loaded words when used in any context. The trace then reveals the possibility for alternative interpretation of concepts, regardless of how carefully articulated they may be, whenever they are expressed in language.

World view

A world view or worldview is the fundamental cognitive orientation of an individual or society encompassing the whole of the individual's or society's knowledge and point of view. A world view can include natural philosophy; fundamental, existential, and normative postulates; or themes, values, emotions, and ethics.Worldview remains a confused and confusing concept in English, used very differently by linguists and sociologists. It is for this reason that James W. Underhill suggests five subcategories: world-perceiving, world-conceiving, cultural mindset, personal world, and perspective.Worldviews are often taken to operate at a conscious level, directly accessible to articulation and discussion, as opposed to existing at a deeper, pre-conscious level, such as the idea of "ground" in Gestalt psychology and media analysis. However, core worldview beliefs are often deeply rooted, and so are only rarely reflected on by individuals, and are brought to the surface only in moments of crises of faith.

The term worldview is a calque of the German word Weltanschauung [ˈvɛltʔanˌʃaʊ.ʊŋ] (listen), composed of Welt ('world') and Anschauung ('view' or 'outlook'). The German word is also used in English. It is a concept fundamental to German philosophy and epistemology and refers to a wide world perception. Additionally, it refers to the framework of ideas and beliefs forming a global description through which an individual, group or culture watches and interprets the world and interacts with it.


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