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Pragmatics is the study of the ways people use language in actual conversations. Pragmaticists study both how context helps to determine
whether a particular utterance is appropriate or inappropriate as well as how
changes to context alter sentences’ meanings.


What is the difference between sentences and utterances?

A sentence is a phrasal expression that expresses some (complete) idea.
Whenever a person speaks the sentence is becomes an utterance.



Something you utter, or say out loud.



Sentences don't have context, but utterances do.



Or placeholder words are always determined by the context in which they are uttered.


What are the three types of context?

1. Linguistic
2. Situational
3. Social


linguistic context

Related to what preceded a particular utterance in a discourse, what others have said earlier in a conversation. The answer 'yes' depends fully on the question asked before it.


situational context

Information about the situation in which it is uttered, even though it has not mentioned before in the discourse. If a goat walks by and someone says 'it smells'.


social context

Says something about the relationships between the two people that are speaking and the roles. Your coach can tell you to run laps, but you cant tell him.



An utterance that is situationally appropriate (How do I look? You look great!).



An utterance that is inappropriate (where do you work? I am happy).


cooperative principle

That what one says is intended to contribute to the purposes of the conversation. This depends on the context (the way to speak in a business meeting, or at a bar).


Which four conversational maxims are there?

1. quality
2. relevance
3. quantity
4. manner


conversational maxims

Principles guiding the conversational interactions of both speakers and hearers. Following these maxims is an important aspect of ensuring that our utterances are felicitous.


maxims of quality

Our expectations of honesty in conversation. Effective conversation is hindered if the speaker randomly mixes lies with the truth. Two maxims:
1. Don't what you believe is false
2. Don't say that for which you lack adequate evidence.

(Example: saying a spider can kill people- for a biologist at a conference, and a bitten human with his friends: they could believe the same statement and say it, it will be in different contexts, but their level of certainty can be the same: felicitous).


maxim of relevance/relation

Be relevant. When someone asks you for your dinner plans, don't tell him how your work day was. When we make an inference, it is an assumption. "Is Renee dating anyone?" "Well, she goes to Zeeland every weekend". The inference is that Renee is dating someone in Zeeland. Topic changing can happen, if you introduce it.


maxims of quantity

How much information it is appropriate for a speaker to give in a discourse. Sometimes less information is needed than other times, it depends on the circumstances: what is rude, or annoying?


maxims of manner

Differ critically from the other three maxims. They all have to do with the information a speaker gives/doesn't give. Manner is about giving and interpreting information: being a good speaking partner. Four "guidelines":
1. Avoid obscurity of expression (jargon)
2. Avoid ambiguity (he promised to phone at noon: did he promise to phone at noon, or did he promise it at noon?)
3. Be brief (don't use more words than needed)
4. Be orderly (correct order in words)


flouting a maxim

Violating a maxim, but in the circumstances it's ok and both people understand this.

- not wanting to hurt someones feelings
- Changing the subject quickly while gossiping
- Being ironic



A conclusion a person is reasonably entitled to draw based on a set of circumstances (seeing a colleague looking at the clock, and assuming the colleague needs to go).



Saying something, without having to literally say it.

A: "I would like coffee"
B: "There is a place around the corner named Flo's".

Implication: Flo's sells coffee.


speech act

Anytime you (try to) speak, you perform a speech act.


felicity conditions for a request

1. Speaker believes action has not been done
2. Speaker wants the action to be done
3. Speaker believes the hearer is able to do the action
4. Speaker believes the hearer is willing to do the action


felicity conditions for a question

1. Speaker does not know the asked information
2. Speaker wants to know the information
3. Speaker thinks the hearer can supply the information


exceptions for flouting questions

- Teachers giving exams
- Lawyers questioning the whitness
- Parents teaching children linguistics


performative speech act

When an action named by the verb is accomplished in the performance of the speech.

Example: "I am throwing a ball".
NOT: "I promise to take you to the store later", as the verb "promise" refers to something happening later and not now.


direct speech act

Speech type for saying exactly what you are doing or want done (often rude). There are two ways:
1. Making a direct literal utterance
2. By using a performative verb that names the speech act
Example: I request that you take out the garbage


indirect speech act

Speech type for polite way of requesting or asking something Example: would you mind giving me the sugar (please)?



Which speech type are these?
He is cooking.
I would like to know.
I ask you.



Speech type that is always a question (Is he cooking the chicken?)