Materi Kuliah: Pragmatics

November 23, 2011 at 9:43 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

By: Koesnandar, S.Kom (0923385P1 – STKIP PGRI Sidoarjo)

What is pragmatics?

“Pragmatics studies the factors that govern our choice of language in social interaction and the effects of our choice on others.” (David Crystal)

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.

Context is a dynamic…concept…as the continually changing surrounding…that enable the participants in the communication process to interact, and in which the linguistic expressions of their interaction become intelligible.

The key word “dynamic” reminds us that context is changeable according to different circumstances. Only in certain context can our language become pragmatic meaningful and allow our utterance “to be counted as true pragmatic acts”.

Speech acts

Speech act theory broadly explains these utterances as having three parts or aspects: locutionary, illocutionary and perlocutionary acts.

* Locutionary acts are simply the speech acts that have taken place.
* Illocutionary acts are the real actions which are performed by the utterance, where saying equals doing, as in betting, plighting one’s troth, welcoming and warning.
* Perlocutionary acts are the effects of the utterance on the listener, who accepts the bet or pledge of marriage, is welcomed or warned.

Some linguists have attempted to classify illocutionary acts into a number of categories or types. David Crystal, quoting J.R. Searle, gives five such categories: representatives, directives, commissives, expressives and declarations. (Perhaps he would have preferred declaratives, but this term was already taken as a description of a kind of sentence that expresses a statement.)

* Representatives: here the speaker asserts a proposition to be true, using such verbs as: affirm, believe, conclude, deny, report.
* Directives: here the speaker tries to make the hearer do something, with such words as: ask, beg, challenge, command, dare, invite, insist, request.
* Commissives: here the speaker commits himself (or herself) to a (future) course of action, with verbs such as: guarantee, pledge, promise, swear, vow, undertake, warrant.
* Expressives: the speaker expresses an attitude to or about a state of affairs, using such verbs as: apologize, appreciate, congratulate, deplore, detest, regret, thank, welcome.
* Declarations the speaker alters the external status or condition of an object or situation, solely by making the utterance: I now pronounce you man and wife, I sentence you to be hanged by the neck until you be dead, I name this ship

Conversational maxims and the cooperative principle

The success of a conversation depends upon the various speakers’ approach to the interaction. The way in which people try to make conversations work is sometimes called the cooperative principle. We can understand it partly by noting those people who are exceptions to the rule, and are not capable of making the conversation work. We may also, sometimes, find it useful deliberately to infringe or disregard it – as when we receive an unwelcome call from a telephone salesperson, or where we are being interviewed by a police officer on suspicion of some terrible crime.

Paul Grice proposes that in ordinary conversation, speakers and hearers share a cooperative principle. Speakers shape their utterances to be understood by hearers. The principle can be explained by four underlying rules or maxims. (David Crystal calls them conversational maxims. They are also sometimes named Grice’s or Gricean maxims.)

They are the maxims of quality, quantity, relevance and manner.

* Quality: speakers should be truthful. They should not say what they think is false, or make statements for which they have no evidence.
* Quantity: a contribution should be as informative as is required for the conversation to proceed. It should be neither too little, nor too much. (It is not clear how one can decide what quantity of information satisfies the maxim in a given case.)
* Relevance: speakers’ contributions should relate clearly to the purpose of the exchange.
* Manner: speakers’ contributions should be perspicuous: clear, orderly and brief, avoiding obscurity and ambiguity.

What is an implicature?

An implicature is anything that is inferred from an utterance but that is not a condition for the truth of the utterance.

Example :
The expression Some of the boys were at the party implicates in most contexts Not all of the boys were at the party.

Conversational implicature

Paul Grice identified three types of general conversational implicature:

1. The speaker deliberately flouts a conversational maxim to convey an additional meaning not expressed literally. For instance, a speaker responds to the question “How did you like the guest speaker?” with the following utterance:

Well, I’m sure he was speaking English.

If the speaker is assumed to be following the cooperative principle, in spite of flouting the Maxim of Quantity, then the utterance must have an additional nonliteral meaning, such as: “The content of the speaker’s speech was confusing.”

2. The speaker’s desire to fulfill two conflicting maxims results in his or her flouting one maxim to invoke the other. For instance, a speaker responds to the question “Where is John?” with the following utterance:

He’s either in the cafeteria or in his office.

In this case, the Maxim of Quantity and the Maxim of Quality are in conflict. A cooperative speaker does not want to be ambiguous but also does not want to give false information by giving a specific answer in spite of his uncertainty. By flouting the Maxim of Quantity, the speaker invokes the Maxim of Quality, leading to the implicature that the speaker does not have the evidence to give a specific location where he believes John is.

3. The speaker invokes a maxim as a basis for interpreting the utterance. In the following exchange:

Do you know where I can get some gas?
There’s a gas station around the corner.

The second speaker invokes the Maxim of Relevance, resulting in the implicature that “the gas station is open and one can probably get gas there”

Scalar implicature

According to Grice (1975), another form of conversational implicature is also known as a scalar implicature. This concerns the conventional uses of words like “all” or “some” in conversation.

I ate some of the pie.

This sentence implies “I did not eat all of the pie.” While the statement “I ate some pie” is still true if the entire pie was eaten, the conventional meaning of the word “some” and the implicature generated by the statement is “not all”.

Conventional implicature

Conventional implicature is independent of the cooperative principle and its maxims. A statement always carries its conventional implicature.

Joe is poor but happy.

This sentence implies poverty and happiness are not compatible but in spite of this Joe is still happy. The conventional interpretation of the word “but” will always create the implicature of a sense of contrast. So Joe is poor but happy will always necessarily imply “Surprisingly Joe is happy in spite of being poor”.

Reference and Anaphora

1 Definition of Reference:
The relationship between a word and the things, actions, events and qualities they stand for.
Reference: (1) direct reference—-proper reference—-proper noun
(2) Indirect reference—-regular nouns
For regular nouns, they have a certain indefiniteness in their naming, so
They need an indexical expression to refer to a particular name.

2 Indexical and deictic
(1) Index:
Is use to denote the body part which serves as the human pointer.
Indexical expressions: are particular kinds of referential expression.
Are pragmatically determined, that is they depend for their reference on the persons who use them.
(2) Deictic: the adjective to deixis.
The act of point.
Is use to indicate the function that the certain words have in the language which is always bound up with the tine and place of the utterance, seen in relation to the speaker.

3 Deixis and Anaphora
(1) Anaphora: the referent comes before the pronoun the pure functions of the referring to earlier mentions of the noun that the definite article in question identifier. This referring function is called anaphora.
(2) Contrast to anaphora, there is cataphora—-the referent occurs in later in the text
(3) Pragmatic approach to anaphora concerns not only the antecedent, but also the whole situation.


1. The deliberate repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of several successive verses, clauses, or paragraphs; for example, “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills” (Winston S. Churchill).
2. Linguistics The use of a linguistic unit, such as a pronoun, to refer back to another unit, as the use of her to refer to Anne in the sentence Anne asked Edward to pass her the salt.

Most proper nouns (for example, Fred, New York, Mars, Coca Cola) begin with a capital letter. Proper nouns are not usually preceded by articles or other determiners. Most proper nouns are singular.

An indexical expression (such as today, that, here, utterance, and you) is a word or phrase that is associated with different meanings (or referents) on different occasions.

Deictic is a word (such as this, that, these, those, now, then) that points to the time, place, or situation in which the speaker is speaking. Also known as deixis.

“The term deixis applies to the use of expressions in which the meaning can be traced directly to features of the act of utterance–when and where it takes place, and who is involved as speaker and as addressee. In their primary meaning, for example, now and here are used deictically to refer respectively to the time and place of the utterance. Similarly, this country is likely to be interpreted deictically as the country in which the utterance takes place.


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