Grice maxims


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Grice maxims

  1. 1. MEANING IN LANGUAGEDr. Papadopoulou D.Student’s Name: Karamadouki Stella
  2. 2. We as speakers seem that we try to produce meaningful utterancesto contribute to conversation and as listeners we try to assume that ourpartner in the conversation does the same. There are examples when oneis not cooperative, maybe he is being interrogated or hates the person heis talking to, but the majority of the participants in a conversation try tocooperate. Therefore, several errors that may occur during the speech areignored and we focus on the meaning, instead. We also try to find themeaning of statements that may seem untrue, unrelated, under-informative, over-informative, sarcastic, metaphoric or even ridiculous!We mostly deal with the effects of the context the utterances take place,as we sometimes mean beyond the literal side of the words. Resolution ofambiguity or vagueness can be jeopardized with reference to propernames, indexicals, demonstratives or presupposition but still facts aboutthe utterance can be found beyond these meanings. To facilitate meaningone should sometimes apply something more than just conventional rules.Communication seems to be based on the encoding of the thoughts onbehalf of the speaker and the decoding of the listener. This sometimesrequires the competent interpretation and implicit mastering to deduce thetruth and find meaning.It is obvious that speakers do not always mean what they literallysay or even if they do they also may mean some more besides, somethingwhich is altogether another thing of what they say. For example, we canall imagine situations like the following: “I would pay 150 euros for thatdress.” Speaker’s meaning: I would not pay more than 150 for such athing! So, it seems that what the speaker means by an utterance can be cutdown into two pieces: what the speaker “says” and what the speaker“implicates” ( Neale 1992, pp.523–524). Saying what someone has inmind though related to the actual meaning of the words, is somewhattechnical and refers to “a favoured notion of saying that must be furtherelucidated.” (Grice 1989, p.86). One should make amends of the notionby linking it to the utterer’s concept. There are also cases in which theutterer obviously says something without meaning it, which can be a“mock saying” or a “play saying” (Neale 1992, p.554). Another pointcould be the relation of what the speaker says and the expression’stimeless meaning. “In the sense in which I am using the word say, Iintend what someone has said to be closely related to the conventionalmeaning of the words he has uttered.” (Grice 1989, p.25).The speakerdoes not just “say” but actually “implies”. The implicature’ is a blanketword to avoid having to make choices between words like “imply”,“indicate”, “suggest” and “mean”( Grice 1989, p.86). According to Grice
  3. 3. there is a distinction between what someone says and what someoneimplies.Conversational implicatures seem to stem form contextual factors,unlike entailments or presuppositions that are tied to words. Moreover,the additional meaning can also be related to the understanding of theconventions in a conversation. The theory of the ConversationalImplicature is attributed to Paul Herbert Grice, who observed thatmeaning is also inferred and predicted. Consider the following sentence:(1) Dora ate some of the sweets.The proposition is that Dora ate a portion of the sweets and it is true aslong as it corresponds to the true world. Intuitively, all the sweets canconstitute a portion and so, the sentence is true even if she ate all thesweets! However, in a conversation like:(2) A: “Dora ate some of the sweets”B: “I knew she would. How many are left?”It is clear that the conversation is based on the literal meaning conveyedby A – the semantic content- or at least that B infers the followingproposition:(3) Dora didn’t eat all of the sweets.It can be suspected that the word some means a portion of the sweets, soDora ate a portion but not all. But this may not be so:(4) a. Dora ate some of the sweets.# In fact, she ate none of the sweetsb. Dora ate some of the sweets.In fact, she ate them all.In 4a this can not be the case because the second obviously contradictsthe first one. In other words, the real world could not correspond to bothsentences the same time. Nevertheless, in 4b the two sentences areconsistent and true. This proves that No. 1 does not necessarily entail No.3. While No. 3 is not part of the literal meaning of No. 1, yet it isimplicated by No.1. The speaker should intend and encourage theaddressee to infer:
  4. 4. (5) Dora ate some of the sweets.+> Dora didn’t eat all of the sweets.This inference should include reasoning and should also rely on thecooperation of the participants in the conversation. If this is a fact, thenthe speaker is as informative as she should be in the exchange of the factsand the addressee believes in her. The latter reasons that if the speakerhad known Dora ate all the sweets she would have said so. In otherwords, the speaker knew that Dora did not eat them all and so theaddressee infers that there must be some sweets left!So, the parts in a conversation seem to undergo an exchange that isguided by principles and determine the way in which language is usedwith maximum effects in order to achieve the goals. This is what Gricecalled the Cooperative Principle. This tries to distinguish differencesbetween the semantic meaning and the speaker’s meaning that should becalculated on the basis of communicating. The concept of implicature isattempted to be defined through Maxims. What is of grave importance inthis attempt is that the parts in a conversation try to make a contributionas required, when it is needed, by the purpose of the talk in which theyare engaged. This Principle stands as an umbrella term for morecomponents of how we communicate. All these components are groupedtogether under the Maxims.When engaged in a conversation the Maxim of Quality requiresthat you make a contribution that is true. You should provide informationthat is genuine and justified. So, you:a. Do not say what you believe to be falseb. Do not say that for which you lack adequate evidence.According to this Maxim there should be a certain kind of regularity inthe behaviour with respect to authenticity provided in the conversation.For example:A: Nadia, do you know where the Acropolis is?B: Yes, it is in Greece.B does not contribute what he believes to be false and lack evidence andso he observes the quality Maxim. He does not reply something like: “It’sin Hong Kong.”
  5. 5. The Maxim of Quantity relates to the amount of the informationthat someone should provide. So, you:a. Make your contribution as informative as it is required.b. B. Do not make your contribution more informative than isrequired.This tries to explain the regularity of the behaviour with respect to theportion of the information needed. For example:A: what time is it?B: It’s 12 o’clock.Given the purpose of the conversation, the man only provides as muchinformation as is required:– Not excessive like “it’s 12:00 at night, Greenwich Mean Time, 22, …”– Not inadequate like, “it’s night”The Maxims of Relation requires someone to be relevant to theconversation topic:A: How do you like your steak?B: I’d like it mid-done.B contributes something relevant for the purpose of the conversation andnot something irrelevant like: “The curtains are of nice colour!” ThisMaxims tries to explain the regularity of being relevant in a conversation.The Maxim of Manner requires form someone to be perspicuous.This may include avoiding obscurity, ambiguity, prolixity and a non-orderly manner. For example:A: What did Tom do when the boat arrived?B: He jumped and headed for the pier.B does not answer something like: “He headed for the pier and jumped!”The important contribution also seems to be the explanation of theregularity with respect to the way the information is offered in aconversation.
  6. 6. There is always the chance that the speaker may not follow the fourmaxims, at least one of them at a time. So, she may observe them or optout by refraining from the co-operation. She may violate the maxims bylying or flouting them deliberately so as to create effects. In some level itcan be claimed that the spear observes the co-operative principle even ifthis is literary said but implied. Observing the maxims in a non-literallevel can result in conversational implicatures. So, when a speakerappears to violate a maxim by saying something as if it was false,uninformative or over-informative, irrelevant or obscure, the assumptionthat she is in fact following the maxims as in regularity, leads theinterpreter to infer hypothesis about the meaning of the utterances(Kordić 1991, pp.91–92). The fact that the interpreter will do so, mayallow the speaker to intentionally flout the maxims to get the implicatureacross or just rely on the listener’s background knowledge.Quality Implicatures:a. - Alexandra has two MAs.+> I believe that Alexandra has two MAs and I have adequateevidence that she has.b. – What if Europe blockades Cyprus and all the oil?_ Oh come one, America rules the seas! [sarcasm]+> American con not do anything about it.Quantity Implicatures:a. – The flag is blue+> the flag is only blue.b. – Beauty is beauty!+> That’s its nature.
  7. 7. Relation Implicatures:a. – Pass the pepper.+> Pass the pepper nowb. – How was your date, yesterday?- Nice weather, isn’t it?+> the question is irritating to answer.Manner Implicatures:a. – How do I get to you shop?-You cross the park, turn left as far as it goes and cross the streetapposite themuseum.+> Pay particular attention to the instructions I am giving you.b. – What are you baking?- A see ay kay ee !+> Spelling is confusing.Another case of implicature could appear when the speaker’ desireto fulfill the two maxims results in violating one of them. For example:A: _ where is Melpo?B: - Somewhere in the building.In such a case the speaker tries to be co-operative but she fails to providefor the Maxim of Quantity. She invokes the maxim of Quality whichleads to the implicature that the speaker does not have the evidence togive specific information about the location of where Melpo is (Grice1975, p. 33).There is of course a way for the speaker to opt out of the maximsusing a special phrase or expression which are known as hedges. Thesesuggest that Grice’s maxims are not on the right track! The Maxims areviolated and the speaker is aware of that. For instance:• As far as I know…, I’m not sure if this is true but…,I may bewriong, but…. [Quantity]
  8. 8. • I can’t say any more…, I don’t really need to say this, but…., Asyou already know….. [Quality]• Oh, by the way…., I don’t want to change the subject,but….[Relation]• I’m not sure if this is clear enough,but…, I’m not sure if it makessense, but… [Manner]The truth may be that when we speak we all try to be co-operative with on another in order to construct meaningfulconversations. The assumption may be that “Make yourconversational contribution such as required, at the stage at whichit occurs, by the accepted purpose or direction of the talk exchangein which you are engaged.” (Grice, 1975). This means that we asspeakers try to contribute meaningful and productive utterances tohelp the conversation. As listeners, we assume that the addresserdoes the same. But there are also reasons that the case is not so andspeakers opt out. What may be explained by this Principle is thatwe can find meaning in utterances which on the surface seemuntrue, unrelated or ridiculous. Rather than inferring that ourpartner might be crazy or a liar, we assume that she tries to getsomething across and we can really figure out what she means!
  9. 9. ReferencesGrice, H.P. (1975). "Method in Philosophical Psychology: From theBanal to the Bizarre", Proceedings and Addresses of the AmericanPhilosophical Association (1975), pp. 23–53.Grice, H.P. (1989). Studies in the Way of Words. Harvard UniversityPress.Kordić, Snježana (1991). "Konverzacijske implikature" [Conversationalimplicatures]. Suvremena lingvistika (in Serbo-Croatian)17 (31-32): 87–96. ISSN 0586-0296. Archived from the original on 2 September 2012.Retrieved 6 September 2012.Neale, Stephen (1992). “Paul Grice and the Philosophy ofLanguage,” Linguistics and Philosophy, 15, pp. 509–559.
  10. 10. ReferencesGrice, H.P. (1975). "Method in Philosophical Psychology: From theBanal to the Bizarre", Proceedings and Addresses of the AmericanPhilosophical Association (1975), pp. 23–53.Grice, H.P. (1989). Studies in the Way of Words. Harvard UniversityPress.Kordić, Snježana (1991). "Konverzacijske implikature" [Conversationalimplicatures]. Suvremena lingvistika (in Serbo-Croatian)17 (31-32): 87–96. ISSN 0586-0296. Archived from the original on 2 September 2012.Retrieved 6 September 2012.Neale, Stephen (1992). “Paul Grice and the Philosophy ofLanguage,” Linguistics and Philosophy, 15, pp. 509–559.