I’ve been reading an article on pragmatics by my father, who is an emeritus professor of linguistics. A number of connections to exegesis have struck me. At one point he comments:
Knowing what words and sentences mean is one thing: knowing what people mean is another
In other words, people in real life situations can use words, sentences, and silences in ways that aren’t exhausted by an analysis of the grammatical content. At another point, he states:
when people communicate they are using a system which can bypass the linguistic form. Very incomplete linguistic forms can convey complete messages, and linguistically complete forms can be ignored because communicators may be attending to something else.
This relates, of course, to Speech Act theory.
A clear application to exegesis is to ask the question: what is Paul doing with this statement or question or command? For example, when Paul tells the Corinthians in 1 Cor 15 that he needs to ‘remind’ them of the basic gospel, what action is this ‘reminder’ performing? Keep in mind that these people thought they were highly spiritual judges of apostolic competence!