Settings and Interpretation: ‘Umfelder’ and ‘Verstehen’. Text Linguistics from a Coserian Perspective


  • Klaas Willems


text linguistics; contexts; universe of discourse; conversational implicatures; editorial cartoon


E. Coseriu’s seminal article ‘Determinación y entorno’ (1955-1956) introduces a complex matrix of settings (‘Umfelder’) that is intended to serve as a framework for the analysis of all kinds of text and discourse. Coseriu’s framework differentiates between ‘situation’, ‘region’, various ‘contexts’ and ‘universe of discourse’. In order to determine the role of each setting in the interpretation of a specific text, the paper provides a detailed analysis of an editorial cartoon. The paper concludes by pointing out the complementarity of Coseriu’s framework with alternative approaches to texts and discourse such as D. Hymes’ ethnographic SPEAKING model and the (Neo-)Gricean theory of conversational implicatures.


Blommaert, J. & C. Bulcaen (2000). Critical Discourse Analysis. Annual Review of Anthropology 29, 447-466.

Brown, P. & S. Levinson (1987). Politeness. Some universals in language usage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Bühler, K. (1933). Die Axiomatik der Sprachwissenschaften. Kant-Studien 38:1-2, 19-90.

Bühler, K. (1934). Sprachtheorie: Die Darstellungsfunktion der Sprache. Jena: Gustav Fischer. (Reprints Stuttgart: UTB 1982, 1999.) English translation: Bühler, K. 1990. The theory of language: the representational function of language. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Cathcart, T. & D. Klein (2018). I think, therefore I draw. Understanding philosophy through cartoons. New York: Penguin Random House.

Coseriu, E. (1955-1956). Determinación y entorno. Dos problemas de una lingüística del hablar. Romanistisches Jahrbuch 7, 29-54. Also in: E. Coseriu. 1973 [1962], Teoría del lenguaje y lingüística general. Cinco estudios (third edition). Madrid: Gredos.

Coseriu, E. (1956). El problema de la corrección idiomática. Manuscript. Montevideo. DOI 10.20345/digitue.22126

Coseriu, E. (1985). Linguistic competence: what is it really? The Modern Language Review 80:4, xxv-xxxv.

Coseriu, E. (1995a). My Saussure. In: T. de Mauro & Sh. Sugeta (eds.), Saussure and linguistics today, 187-191. Roma: Bulzoni.

Coseriu, E. (1995b). Von den universali fantastici. In: J. Trabant (ed.), Vico und die Zeichen – Vico e i segni, 73-80. Tübingen: Narr.

Coseriu, E. (2007) [1980]. Textlinguistik. Eine Einführung. Edited by J. Albrecht (fourth edition). Tübingen: Narr.

Coseriu, E. (2007) [1988]. Sprachkompetenz. Grundzüge der Theorie des Sprechens. Edited by H. Weber (second edition). Tübingen: Narr.

Coseriu, E. (2015). Geschichte der Sprachphilosophie. Vol. I: Von Heraklit bis Rousseau. Vol. II: Von Herder bis Humboldt. Edited by J. Albrecht. Tübingen: Narr-Francke-Attempto.

Coseriu, E. (2019). Competencia lingüística y criterios de corrección. Edited by A. Matus Olivier & J. L. Samaniego Aldazábal. Sevilla: Editorial Universidad de Sevilla.

de Beaugrande, R.-A. & W. U. Dressler (1981). Introduction to text linguistics. London & New York: Longman (seventh impression 1994). (English translation of: R.-A. de Beaugrande & W. U. Dressler. 1981. Einführung in die Textlinguistik. Tübingen: Niemeyer.)

Fairclough, N. (2015). Language and power (third edition). London: Routledge.

Fillmore, Ch. (1982). Frame semantics. In: Linguistic Society of Korea (ed.). Linguistics in the morning calm, 111–137. Seoul: Hanshin Publishing Company.

Fillmore, Ch. (1985). Frames and the semantics of understanding. Quaderni di semantica 6, 222-254.

Goffman, E. (1967). On Face-work. An analysis of ritual elements in social interaction. In: E. Goffman, Interaction ritual. Essays on face-to-face Behaviour, 5-45. New York: Pantheon Books.

Grice, H. P. (1975). Logic and Conversation. In: P. Cole & J. Morgan (eds.), Syntax and semantics, Vol. 3: Speech acts, 41-58. New York: Academic Press.

Grice, H. P. (1981). Presupposition and conversational implicature. In: P. Cole (ed.), Radical pragmatics, 183-198. New York: Academic Press.

Haiman, J. (1985). Natural syntax. Iconicity and erosion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Halliday, M. A. K. & C. Matthiessen (2014). Halliday’s Introduction to Functional Grammar (fourth edition). London & New York: Routledge.

Hymes, D. (1974). Foundations in sociolinguistics. An ethnographic approach. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Jakobson, R. (1960). Concluding statement: linguistics and poetics. In: T. Sebeok (ed.), Style in language, 350-377. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Kabatek, J. (2015). Warum die ‘zweite Historizität’ eben doch die zweite ist – von der Bedeutung von Diskurstraditionen für die Sprachbetrachtung. In: F. Lebsanft & A. Schrott (eds.), Diskurse, Texte, Traditionen. Modelle und Fachkulturen in der Diskussion, 49-62. Bonn & Göttingen: Bonn University Press & Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.

Kabatek, J. & A. Murguía (1997). ‘Die Sachen sagen, wie sie sind…’. Eugenio Coseriu im Gespräch. Tübingen: Narr.

Kienpointner, M. (ed.) (1999). Ideologies of Politeness. Special Issue of Pragmatics 9:1, 1-176.

Lakoff, R. (1973). The logic of politeness; or: minding your P’s and Q’s. CLS 9: Papers from the ninth regional meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society, 292-305.

Leech, G. (1983). Principles of pragmatics. New York & London: Longman.

Leech, G. (2014). The pragmatics of politeness. Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press.

Levinson, S. (2000). Presumptive meanings. The theory of generalized conversational implicature. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Munteanu, Cr. (2016). Eugenio Coseriu and the hermeneutical principle of trust. Philologica Jassyensia 12:1, 77-86.

Munteanu, Cr. (2019). Wilbur Marshall Urban’s philosophical influence on Eugenio Coseriu’s Integral Linguistics. Acta Universitatis Danubius. Communicatio 13: 1, 114-120.

Schrott, A. (2021). Eugenio Coseriu and pragmatics. In: K. Willems & C. Munteanu (eds.), Eugenio Coseriu: past, present and future, 211-226. Berlin & Boston: De Gruyter.

Stöckl, H. (2004). In between modes. Language and image in printed media. In: E. Ventola, C. Charles & M. Kaltenbacher (eds.), Perspectives of multimodality, 9-30. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Trabant, J. (1975). Vom Sinn. In: B. Schlieben-Lange (ed.), Sprachtheorie, 277-285. Hamburg: Hoffmann und Campe.

Urban, W. M. (1939). Language and reality. The philosophy of language and the principles of symbolism. London: Macmillan.

Willems, K. (1996). Eigenname und Bedeutung. Ein Beitrag zur Theorie des ‘nomen proprium’. Heidelberg: Winter.

Willems, K. & Cr. Munteanu (2021). Introduction. In: K. Willems & C. Munteanu (eds.), Eugenio Coseriu: past, present and future, 1-44. Berlin & Boston: De Gruyter.




How to Cite

Willems, K. (2022). Settings and Interpretation: ‘Umfelder’ and ‘Verstehen’. Text Linguistics from a Coserian Perspective. Acta Universitatis Danubius. Communicatio, 16(3 (Special issue). Retrieved from