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Gricean theory and linguicism: Infringements and physical violence in the relationship between Manuel and Basil Fawlty


The present paper aims to demonstrate how a refined version of the Gricean theory of non-observance of maxims based on the Schutzean notion of imposed thematic relevance can be applied to shed some light on the intercultural issue of the relative imbalance in native (or ‘expert’ non-native) vs. (‘non-expert’) non-native communication. This demonstration will be accompanied by examples from the British comedy series Fawlty Towers, where the relationship between Basil Fawlty and his Spanish dogsbody Manuel offers a neat caricature of the issues at stake. The paper argues that the (often) higher number of occurrences of deviations from (native speaker) norms (=non-observance of ‘maxims’) in non-native speech causes an over-attentiveness in the hearer and an increased interpretational activity which often ‘does not pay off’, something which, may trigger negative reactions and support the growth of linguicism. This tendency, it is claimed, can perhaps be countered by raising the awareness of the general public as well as that of political representatives as regards the specific drawbacks of being a second/foreign language speaker in a globalized world.

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