On the basis of Mey’s Pragmatic Act Theory, this paper investigates the cross-cultural and cross-language variations in the pragmemes to call for social distancing in public health campaigns to combat COVID-19. We compare the officially released posters calling for social distancing in English and Chinese in two neighboring cities with distinctive socio-cultural contexts – Guangzhou and Hong Kong. Our main findings are: (1) Guangzhou takes one pragmeme to suit a short illocution-perlocution distance in calling for social distancing – “admonition,” and Hong Kong takes two pragmemes to meet a larger illocution-perlocution distance – “recommendation” and “reminder”; (2) Cross-cultural differences between the two cities are manifested in the individuated pragmatic acts of the pragmemes in both propositional contents and metapragmatic co-construction of personal references, polarity, modality, and mood; and (3) In both cities, cross-language differences can be observed in the propositional and metapragmatic dimensions of pragmatic acts, with the English posters bearing a weaker sense of addressee obligation than the Chinese. Adding the new angle of illocution-perlocution distance, our rethinking of the illocution versus perlocution dichotomy in pragmemes leads to an elaboration of the classical perlocution formula proposed by Austin in 1962.
|Publication status||Published - Feb 2022|