A Pragmatic Factor In The Decision In Institutional Discourse: Situational Approach


The article proposes a discursive approach to the problem of decision-making and substantiates the pragmatic nature of the decision-making situation. The authors pay special attention to the principles of the theory of problem solving and decision-making, developed in the mathematical theory of games, in the theory of artificial intelligence, in philosophy, psychology and linguistics. It is determined that in the natural Sciences and Humanities decision-making is considered as associated with the constructive ability of a person aimed at the most profitable solution. It is concluded that the theoretical results of the research have found practical application in different types and genres of institutional discourse of speakers / writers as brainstorming technology. A non-situational and situational approach to the definition of decision-making is distinguished; according to the situational approach, the decision-making process is carried out within the framework of the situation requiring a decision, and represents the choice of one of the two options and its adoption as an institutional decision. The importance of cognitive approach to the study of pragmatic situation of decision-making is emphasized. The situation of decision-making in the institutional discourse (parliamentary and news) and the institutional discourse of decision-making are considered. Language markers show that in the discursive aspect the decision-making situation is formed from three types of situations: institutional, communicative and pragmatic.

Keywords: Comic sensediscoursedecision-makingpragmatic situation


Recently, linguistics has deepened the scientific understanding of the relationship between cognitive and communicative processes with pragmatics, which focuses on the pragmatic content of the message. Taking into account the pragmatic factor is due to the interest of scientists to the selection of the speaker of those linguistic means that meet his communicative intentions. The theory of problem solving and decision-making is actively studied in a number of natural Sciences and Humanities. In mathematics and Economics, the study of the decision-making process is associated with an interest in the knowledge of the laws of rational human activity; one of the first theories in this area was the theory of games. Neyman and Morgenstern (1970), which deals with "rational solution theory", or "solution logic". They propose the principle of maximization of expected utility, considering it as a criterion of rationality of decisions, since a person gets the maximum benefit when choosing the optimal alternative.

Problem Statement

The problem of decision-making is in the center of the theory of artificial intelligence. The research of the processes of search and decision-making by their computer modeling led to the creation of programs for solving logical problems ("General problem solver", "Logical theorist”) (Newell, 1977; Simon & Newell, 1964; Simon, 1972; Zadeh, 1976). With the help of these programs, which are systems for finding solutions, it is possible to find and create a sequence of actions in order to convert this situation into the desired with a large number of opening alternatives (Simon, 1972). Simon calls the search for successful solutions "constructions"; they form the basis of reasonable human behavior. Designs can be presented as possible worlds, possible solutions to problems, from a large number of which the constructive ability of a person makes it possible to choose an option that maximizes the value of the solution and satisfies the purpose of the search.

The theoretical view on problem solving and cognitive approach to decision-making

Within the framework of this theory, Newell introduced the concept of problem space, consisting of separate States of knowledge, which contributed to the development of a cognitive approach to problem solving. According to Newell (1977), problem solving occurs in the problem space: the elements of this space consist of separate knowledge related to the problem under consideration, including the initial and desired situation.

The theory of problem solving and decision-making is also developed in philosophy (Bono, 2007; Nozick, 1993; Stegmuller, 1987), where the concept of "problem" was defined: "in a broad sense – a complex theoretical or practical issue that requires resolution; in a narrow sense – the situation" (world encyclopedia: Philosophy, p. 827). In psychology, two approaches to decision-making are distinguished: non-situational and situational. According to the recitative approach, "every volitional act involves a decision as it implies the adoption of a purpose and opens the corresponding desire access to the engine area, to action towards its implementation" (Rubinstein, 2000, p. 473).

de Bono (2007) reveals the difference between the method of traditional thinking, the key stage of which is the judgment (or / or, correctly / incorrectly), leading to the choice between the two options through the proof of the wrongness of one of the parties, and the method of "parallel" thinking, the key concept of which is the concept of construction. All options are taken into account, that is, each option is considered as one of the possibilities of the solution (Bono, 2007).

The concept of value is part of the design process and is determined by context and circumstances. Thinking constructively means to construct the solution, i.e., the result is achieved by constructing of "invention", not selecting from existing ones. The emphasis is on creating new ideas and new opportunities. Instead of rigid judgments accepting or rejecting the idea, the concept of possibility and cooperation is introduced. The traditional system, emphasizes de Bono, involves the conduct of disputes and decision-making through the elimination of the causes of these disputes, but not all problems can be solved in this way. He proposes to leave the reasons alone and look for a way out of the situation, and in general, to make people pay more attention to inventing solutions and thus develop the habit of constructive thinking (Bono, 2007).

de Bono's ideas complement Simon's concept of constructive thinking, which helps to make decisions by creating new ideas and leads to cooperation. He also emphasizes that the value of the solution is part of the opportunities offered.

These ideas formed the basis of a new method of decision-making in the institutional discourse of modern corporations, the so-called brainstorming. This method of doing business was developed in the 40–50s of the 20th century by the American journalist, founder of the advertising agency Osborne, who defines it as "one of the most popular methods of stimulating creative activity, allowing one to find a solution to complex problems through the application of special rules of discussion" (Personnel management. Online Dictionary).

In the modern theory of institutional discourse, the idea of rational problem solving is developed, in which the norm for choosing a solution in the process of its discussion is proclaimed: 1) worldview / sign value (symbolic utility), that is, the greatest utility from the point of view of the worldview of the decisive and its social relations; 2) undoubted actual benefit (obviously expected utility), that is, the expected receipt of the most significant practical results; 3) systemic benefit (causally expected utility), that is, the benefit that will be obtained from the overall consistency and ordering of the causes and consequences of the actions taken (Nozick, 1993). Normative principles that take into account the relationship of the action chosen as a solution with its result are thought of as the cognitive basis for decision-making in institutional discourse.

The results of the research, developed the theory of decision-making, has found practical application in the field of production management and marketing, insurance and other sectors, where decision-making is seen as an integral part of the management function (Akoff, 1982; Eddowes, 1997; Payne, 1976).

The approach to decision-making in institutional discourse through the technology of general institutional brainstorming is complemented by the situational approach of Kahneman and Tversky, in the concept of which the decision-making process is defined as the formulation of a problem that requires a solution (decision problem), and decision-making (decision making) in the presence of two options (options), i.e., two choices. The authors emphasize that in cognitive terms decision-making is always associated with the final choice of the two options. For example, in a test, when several possible answers are given to a given question, the decider first filters out, in the process of cognition, all but two options that are most appropriate, and then chooses one of them as a solution (Kahneman & Tversky, 1981).

Research Questions

What is the linguistic essence of such phenomenon as decision-making in institutional discourse of different types?

The pragmatic situation of decision-making in parliamentary discourse

Consider the situation of decision-making in one of the types of institutional discourse – in parliamentary discourse. Parliamentary communication as a prototypical genre of political communication is the basis of any political activity, and the discourse produced within it takes place within the framework of problem situations; political problems are constantly formulated, discussed, comprehended, but not all problem situations are aimed at a certain solution.

The cognitive situation of decision-making finds its realization, first of all, in the communicative and institutional situation, which are of a general nature and are inherent in parliamentary communication in general. These situations have a number of common language markers, as they both occur in a certain place, at a certain time and in the presence of specific people: the place and time of both situations is fixed with the help of the same language markers ( I remind the House that the debate must end at 7 o'clock; 10 hours, start working ).

In the process of their deployment, various pragmatic situations can be realized, including the pragmatic situation of decision-making, which has a number of linguistic features. First of all, it is determined by the fact that all politicians, as participants in the institutional and communicative situation, position themselves in the pragmatic role of decision-makers. The use of the words decision (decide) / decision in the speech of politicians forms the pragmatic content of the situation under consideration ( We obviously want to ensure that those making the decisions do so properly; it is Necessary that this issue is resolved comprehensively ). Language markers of the pragmatic situation of decision-making are also phrases pass a law, pass the legislation, pass the bill, to adopt a law by which politicians emphasize the main purpose of the current parliamentary hearings − to make a decision, that is, to adopt, approve the considered law (bill) ( We need to pass this Energy Bill if Britain is to have a credible and ambitious energy and climate change policy. To pass the legislation that need and need of which future generations will be proud-legislation for one nation ). The pragmatic focus of participants on decision-making is reflected at the language level. According to the theory of problem solving, a rational solution takes into account the value of the chosen action as a solution and consists of the systemic, factual and ideological usefulness of this action (Nozick, 1993). This is manifested in the use of descriptions with meliorative semantics and expressions with semantics of "benefit" (the Bill is vital; it is a very important Bill; the purpose of this excellent Bill. We attach great importance to these hearings ). Decisive with the help of speech acts assertives provide factual information about those who will directly benefit from the actual actions taken by them − it is the voters, that is, the main customers of this social institution (I welcome the Bill, which is long overdue and of tremendous significance to our constituents; we must support, improve the social situation of people in the most important from the point of view of demographic policy areas of the Russian Federation ). These proposals are aimed at persuading other participants to the correct, rational decision (The Energy Bill representations the most complete and complex reform of the energy market to date ). Thus, the pragmatic situation of decision-making becomes such due to the fact that all politicians, as participants of the institutional and communicative situation, position themselves in the pragmatic role of decision-makers (decision-makers), as indicated by certain language markers.

The argument in the pragmatic situation of decision-making, realized through discursively, the dynamic creative process of discourse generation "here and now", in real time and space (Plotnikova & Serebrennikova, 2013), is carried out in the form of a polylogue unfolding between participants who accept or challenge the future world, presenting arguments of a pragmatic nature to the opposite party. Arguments, accompanied by speech acts of appeal to the opposing decisive in order to attract him to his group, permeate the entire discourse of the participants in the decision-making situation and are saturated with pragmatic meanings. In the process of argumentation, presentation of arguments to the opposite party, the transfer of knowledge from one participant to another and the assimilation or rejection of the acquired knowledge through speech acts of consent or disagreement is carried out. Transfer of knowledge, transfer of the known to the new, unknown, from one area of knowledge to another (Demyankov, 2016), in the pragmatic situation of decision-making in parliamentary communication has a pragmatic focus and is also manifested in the exchange of views, when members of parliamentary communication share information with each other from their own knowledge Fund. Each of the participants is included in the discursivization and verbalizes his personal understanding of the problem and one of the options for its solution with the help of appropriate language means. Personal knowledge in such a discourse becomes a common collective asset when other decision makers accept and share it ( I agree with him on that issue like most hon. Members) , which confirms the fact that, being United by a common pragmatic goal, to make a decision, the participants in the decision-making situation are the figures creating a pragmatic situation, and their institutional role of "policy" and the communicative role of "addresser / addressee" overlaps with the pragmatic role of "decision-maker".

The pragmatic situation of decision-making in mass media/news discourse

A pragmatic factor in the situation of decision-making is also seen in the mass media/news institutional discourse, requiring a journalist active reasoning, in order to create a social recipient perlocutionary effect of persuasion of the correctness of the communicated designed news (Panchenko, 2005). The belief by clever reasoning involves the management by the course of communication, which the discursive construction of a future reality and acceptance of the "other" news destination. So, in the article “Joking apart” (Gritsanov, 2001) author Birkett defines some topics which are not allowed to be laughed at. A tragic event (such as, for example, the rape of a woman by an HIV-infected criminal) cannot cause a journalist's intention to make a reader or viewer laugh:

Are you sitting comfortably – in your sitting room in front of the television, perhaps, with your ready-made chicken korma on your lap, your partner curled up in the armchair opposite? Then I shall begin. Have you heard the one about the black single mother who's been raped by a paraplegic who's just discovered he's HIV positive? Feeling uncomfortable yet? Is your smile slipping from your face? Does the korma taste a little bit too sour? Good. That was exactly my intention. I didn't want to make you laugh. I wanted to make you think.

In this passage, the journalist clearly indicates that the way he presents news information is chosen deliberately. The journalist understands that the tragic news will interrupt the complacent mood of mere readers, but he must begin to report it (Then I shall begin). During the message of the tragic news, people feel uncomfortable, the smile disappears from their faces, what they eat begins to seem tasteless – but this is the intention of the journalist, because at the moment he does not want to make people laugh, but he makes them think (That was exactly my intention. I didn't want to make you laugh. I wanted to make you think).

Birkett writes further that the modern British press is beginning to assert the opinion that all events contain comic potential, with which he disagrees (I don't believe that everything is potential comic material). He notes numerous instances where the comic is used to support what cannot be supported – manifestations of racism, abuse of persons with disabilities, etc. Jokes of this kind are offensive; they are not intended to make readers think (I don't find racist one-liners funny, or gags that have a go at people with disabilities because they're disabled. These jokes are offensive because they collude with prejudices, stereotypes and orthodoxies, rather than challenge them. They support the insupportable. But they are also cosy, comfortable and ever so safe. They don't make you think. They wouldn't interrupt your late TV supper).

However, continues Birkett, a truly intelligent journalist can appropriately use the comic in the disclosure of serious and even tragic topics. As an example, the British television programme, in which elements of the comic were used in the discussion of the topic of violence against children to criticize the activities of some charitable organizations (But this Thursday's programme goes where comedy has been feared to tread. The subject of Morris's wisecracks is child abuse).

At the end of the analyzed article, it is indicated that witty argumentation in news reports is included in the journalist's intention and that it is time for a serious study of this phenomenon (it's clearly time to consider how far comedy can go). The management of the social addressee by means of witty argumentation affects him exclusively with the "right of reason"; the addressee remains completely free and decides whether to join him in the constructed sense or not.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this article is to prove that the pragmatic factor of decision-making plays a fundamental role in the process of constructing a decision-making situation in the institutional discourse.

Research Methods

In accordance with the nature of the phenomenon under study, its purpose, subject, and tasks, we used a complex of complementary research methods, such as: situational, interpretative methods and the method of axiological analysis.


Comprehension of pragmatic choice is the result of interpreting activity of each participant through his knowledge of the problem and the development of knowledge about the problem. Interpretation is aimed at understanding and adaptation of collective knowledge in their individual refraction; it is associated with the objectives of communication, serves to convey their own opinions, their own vision of the world, resulting in the formation of new knowledge of the evaluative nature (Boldyrev, 2016). When making a decision, the process of cognition is associated with the interpretive activities of the decisive, and the transfer of knowledge in a pragmatic decision-making situation plays a fundamental role. In discursively by transfer of knowledge generated by the collective consciousness of the decision is transmitted from one participant to another. Decision-making as a pragmatic choice of one of the two options, developed in the process of collective cognition, is realized through the interpreting activities of the participants and the principle of knowledge transfer.


The role of argumentation in the construction of the future world is emphasized, through which the transfer of knowledge about the situation from one participant to another is carried out. It is established that the interpreting activity of the speakers plays an important role in understanding the pragmatic choice of one of the solutions to the problem.

Thus, the situational approach to the study of institutional discourse allows us to consider it from the point of view of the implementation of different types of situations in it, which are characterized by a specific theme of discourse and a specific set of linguistic means, that is, the special content and specificity of its linguistic expression. One such situation is the pragmatic decision-making situation, which is formed by the pragmatic motivation of the communicants and includes both their personal and social pragmatic attitudes, according to which the communicants assume the pragmatic role of the decision-maker.


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National interest, national identity, national security, public organizations, linguocultural identity, linguistic worldview

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Kuznetsova, L. V., & Panchenko, N. N. (2021). A Pragmatic Factor In The Decision In Institutional Discourse: Situational Approach. In & I. Savchenko (Ed.), National Interest, National Identity and National Security, vol 102. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 574-581). European Publisher. https://doi.org/10.15405/epsbs.2021.02.02.72