Pages

Define pragmatics. What are the goals of pragmatics?


Pragmatics is a systematic way of explaining language use in context. It seeks to explain aspects of meaning which cannot be found in the plain sense of words or structures, as explained by semantics. As a field of language study, pragmatics is fairly new. Its origins lie in philosophy of language and the American philosophical school of pragmatism. As a discipline within language science, its roots lie in the work of (Herbert) Paul Grice on conversational implicature and the cooperative principle, and on the work of Stephen Levinson, Penelope Brown and Geoff Leech on politeness.

Pragmatics involves three major communication skills:

  • Using language for different purposes, such as
    • greeting (e.g., hello, goodbye)
    • informing (e.g., I'm going to get a cookie)
    • demanding (e.g., Give me a cookie)
    • promising (e.g., I'm going to get you a cookie)
    • requesting (e.g., I would like a cookie, please)
  • Changing language according to the needs of a listener or situation, such as
    • talking differently to a baby than to an adult
    • giving background information to an unfamiliar listener
    • speaking differently in a classroom than on a playground
  • Following rules for conversations and storytelling, such as
    • taking turns in conversation
    • introducing topics of conversation
    • staying on topic
    • rephrasing when misunderstood
    • how to use verbal and nonverbal signals
    • how close to stand to someone when speaking
    • how to use facial expressions and eye contact
These rules may vary across cultures and within cultures. It is important to understand the rules of your communication partner.
What does pragmatics include?
The lack of a clear consensus appears in the way that no two published accounts list the same categories of pragmatics in quite the same order. But among the things you should know about are:
  • Speech act theory
  • Felicity conditions
  • Conversational implicature
  • The cooperative principle
  • Conversational maxims
  • Relevance
  • Politeness
  • Phatic tokens
  • Deixis

Members

Translate