The term “pragmatics” was first coined in
the 1930s by the philosopher C.W.
Morris; developed as a subfield of
linguistics in the 1970s.
Pragmatics is needed if we want a
fuller, deeper, and generally more
reasonable account of human
Pragmatics is a subfield of linguistics
which studies the ways in which context
contributes to meaning.
Pragmatics studies the factors that govern
our choice of language in social
interaction and the effects of our choice
on others. (David Crystal)
The Oxford Companion to
Philosophy (Fotion 1995). Pragmatics is
the study of language which focuses
attention on the users and the context of
language use rather than on reference,
truth, or grammar.
Bach 2004. Semantic information is
information encoded in what is uttered —
these are stable linguistic features of the
sentence. Pragmatic information is
(extralinguistic) information that arises
from an actual act of utterance, and is
relevant to the hearer's determination of
what the speaker is communicating.
Outside of pragmatics, no understanding;
sometimes, a pragmatic account is the
only one that makes sense, as in the
following example, borrowed from David
Lodge's Paradise News:'I just met the old
Irishman and his son, coming out of the
'I wouldn't have thought there was room
for the two of them.'
'No silly, I mean I was coming out of the
toilet. They were waiting.’ (1992:65)
How do we know what the first speaker meant?
Linguists usually say that the first sentence is
ambiguous, and they excel at producing such
Flying planes can be dangerous
The missionaries are ready to eat
what is meant by 'ambiguous': a word, phrase,
or sentence that can mean either one or the
other of two (or even several) things.
Whereas semantic information is encoded
in what is uttered, pragmatic information
is generated by, or at least made relevant
by, the act of uttering it.
Four fundamental cornerstones of
The points are
(1) Communication involves complex
(2) These communicative intentions have
to be inferred.
(3) Communication is governed by
(4) There is a fundamental distinction
between explicit and implicit conveyance
Pragmatics involve three major communication
Using language for different purposes,
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
requesting (e.g., I would like a cookie,
Changing language according to the
needs of a listener or situation, such as
talking differently to a baby than to an
giving background information to an
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
how to use facial expressions and
Difference between Semantics and
Semantics attempts to relate meanings to
logic and truth, and deals with meaning
as a matter primarily of sense-relations
within the language.
Pragmatics attempts to relate meanings to
context of utterance; it views language as
action which is performed by speakers.
Pragmatics is the study of meaning of
words, phrases and full sentences, but
unlike semantics which deals with the
objective meanings of words that can be
found in dictionaries, pragmatics is more
concerned with the meanings that words
in fact convey when they are used, or
with intended speaker meaning as it is
sometimes referred to.
Semantics is concerned with the
word and sentence meaning,
pragmatics entails utterance
meaning. An utterance can be
defined as a word or sentence which
is uttered by a speaker.
Pragmatics attempts to analyze how
it happens that often more is
communicated than said.
Types of Contexts
pragmatics is the study of the
contribution of context to meaning.
Context of an utterance consists of-
speaker, the sentence which is uttered,
the act performed in the uttering of
sentence, and the hearer.
In pragmatics four types of context can
Physical context: The physical context is the
location of a given word, the situation in which
it is used, as well as timing, all of which aid
proper understating of the words
Epistemic context: the epistemic context refers
to what speakers know about the world. For
example, what background knowledge is shared
by the speakers is part of your epistemic
Linguistic context: the linguistic context refers
to what has been said already in the utterance.
For example, if I begin a discussion by referring
to Jane Smith and in the next sentence refer to
"her" as being a top notch athlete, the linguistic
context lets me know that the antecedent of
"her" (the person "her" refers to) is Jane Smith.
Social context: the social context refers to the
social relationship among speakers and hearers.
A sentence is uttered by a speaker, and
when the speaker utters it he/she
performs an act. This is called a speech
Pragmatics is also concerned with the
functions of utterances such as promising,
requesting, informing which are referred
to as speech acts.
Meaning in this sense involves the
speaker’s intention to convey a certain
meaning which may not be evident in the
For example in sentence “There is a fly in
my soup” speaker’s intention may be to
complain. So the meaning of the
utterance contain the meaning of the
A hearer may interpret it not
just as a statement but as a
Request to take the soup
away. That is, the meaning
will include certain intended
effect on the hearer.
The consideration of meaning as a part of
the utterance or speech act was initiated
by the philosopher J.L. Austin and
developed by J. Searle and H.P. Grice.
Keeping in view the distinction between
what is said and what is intended Austin
makes a distinction between Sense and
Sense is the propositional content or
logical meaning of a sentence. Austin
calls it the “Locutionary” meaning.
Force is the act performed in uttering a
sentence. It is the performative meaning,
defined by Austin as “Illocutionary”
‘Please shut the door’
Sentence form: Imperative
Sense: Shutting the door (someone)
Certain felicity conditions are required
for the above mentioned utterance to
have the “force of request”
In the given example, sense and force are
similar to each other. However, in some cases
there may be a difference, Consider the
“Can you shut the door?”
Sentence form: Interrogative
Sense: Question about the ability of the hearer
to shut the door which is evident from the use
of word “Can”
It is clear that sense is not the total meaning of
Conventional and individual or
“There’s a cold breeze coming through the door” a
statement in sense and form but speaker may intend it
to be a request.
Such discrepancy between sense and force gives rise to
distinction between conventional and individual and
“Can you shut the door?” is the kind of utterance which
has been conventionalized to a great extent i.e it can
occur in many situations. So the hearer is less likely to
misinterpret as a real question about his ability to shut
Whereas “There is a cold breeze coming
through the door” more indirect manner
of making the request, more dependent
on the relation between speaker and
So these are the utterances which can
occur only in specific situations e.g
informal, friendly etc.
Grice’s Cooperative Principle
All communication takes place in a situation where
people are co-operative.
When people communicate they assume that other
person will be co-operative and they themselves wish to
Under this principle following maxims are followed:
Maxim of Quantity: Give the right amount of
information, neither less nor more than what is
Maxim of Quality: Be true, do not say what you know
is false or for which you do not have adequate
Maxim of Relation: Be relevant.
Maxim of Manner: Avoid obscurity and ambiguity; be
brief and orderly.
Whenever any or all of these maxims are violated “
implicature ” is generated. For example in the
A: Where is my box of chocolates?
B: The children were in your room this morning.
Here maxim of relation is flouted which implies that B
does not know the answer and also implies a suggestion
on B’s part that the children may have taken the