Cooperative Principle | Semiotics | Philosophical Science

The cooperative principles (the four maxims) Flouting the maxims - Conversational implicatures Tasks


Grice’ Grice’s principle is formulated as follows: ‘Make your contribution such as is required, at the stage at which it occurs, by the accepted purpose or direction of the talk exchange in which you are engaged ’ . According to this principle we interpret language on the assumption that its sender is obeying (observing) four maxims: 1. Maxim of quantity: Make your contribution as informative as is required for the current purpose of the exchange. Do not make your contribution more informative than is required. 2. Maxim of quality: Do not say what you believe to be false; Do not say that for which you lack evidence. 3. Maxim of Relation: Be relevant 4. Maxim of Manner: Avoid obscurity of expression; Avoid ambiguity; Be brief; Be orderly.


Because these principles are assumed in normal interaction, speakers rarely mention them. However, there are certain expressions used to mark that speakers may be in danger of not fully adhering to the principles. These expressions are called ‘hedges’ hedges’. The following examples are taken from Yule (1996:38-39): E.g.: Quality: As far as I know, know, they’ they’re married Quantity: As you probably know, know, I am afraid of dogs. Relation: Not to change the subject, subject, but is this related to the budget? Manner: b. I ’ m not sure if this makes sense, sense, but the car had no lights.


The situations which chiefly interested Grice were those in which a speaker blatantly , deliberately, fails to observe a maxim, not with any intention of deceiving or misleading, but because the speaker wants to prompt the hearer to look for a meaning which is different from the expressed meaning. These are intended violations of the maxims; the sender intends the receiver to perceive them as such. If the sender does not intend violations to be perceived as such, or if the receiver does not realise that they are deliberate, then communication degenerates into lying, or simply breaks down.


(source. aren’t you.g. they can be taken by a trained gorilla. (taken from Thomas. QUESTION: What implicature is generated? FLOUTING THE MAXIM OF RELATION E. we’ll all miss Bill. CONVERSATIONAL IMPLICATURES E. In order for A to understand B’s reply.g. The bishop asked me what I thought. B: Ah. his wife. The ambulanceman says: ‘Great.g. Thomas. FLOUTING THE MAXIM OF QUANTITY QUESTION: What implicature is generated? E. A: I hope you brought the bread and the cheese. unless otherwise indicated. 1995:55) Late on Christmas Eve 1993 an ambulance is sent to pick up a man who has collapsed in Newcastle city centre. She’s keener than I am. I brought the bread. trying hard to curry favour with his bishop. In this case B has conveyed more than he said via a conversational implicature.g. The man is drunk and vomits all over the ambulanceman who goes to help him. A has to assume that B is co-operating. won’t we? Well. 1995:70) Geoffrey is a vicar. 1995:71) FLOUTING THE MAXIM OF MANNER . (taken form Thomas. darling?’. and has given B the right amount of information. If he had brought the cheese he would have said so. that’s really great! That’s made my Christmas!’ QUESTION: What implicature is generated? FLOUTING THE MAXIM OF QUALITY Eg. which he calls the Co-operative Principle : E. The speaker is Susan. But he didn’t mention the cheese. He must intend that A infer that what is not mentioned was not brought. Geoffrey chips in ‘Susan’s all in favour. A: B: (Mey:69) We’ll all miss Bill and Agatha. More sprouts anybody? I said. ‘Oh yes”. the participants are adhering to some shared rules of conversation.The basic assumption in conversation is that. who couldn’t care less about the church or religion: ‘We were discussing the ordination of women. I wanted to say. Should women take the services? So long as it doesn’t have to be me.

This interaction occurred during a radio interview with an un-named official from United States Embassy in Port-au-Prince Haiti: Interviewer: Did the United States Government play any part in Duvalier’s departure? Did they. Clinton took his microphone off. told the journalist he’ he’d had his two questions and went off. Suspending the (universality of) maxims There are occasions/situations/cultures when it appears that there is no expectation that all the maxims will be observed. This meal is delicious (said by a guest who finds the food disgusting) d. i. a scandal in which Bill and Hillary were involved. Compare an interrogation with a confessional. got out of his seat. Infringing: A speaker who. Such an example is Bill Clinton’ Clinton’s response to a journalist who was asking him about the Whitewater affair. When the journalist asked the question. actively encourage him to leave? Official: I would not try to steer you away from that conclusion. [At a dinner party]: Is there anywhere I can powder my nose? c. for example. Parent: What was that Maths homework you said you had? (Source: Cook. I think I’ll go for a W-A-L-K (spelling the word letter by letter in front of a dog) b. OTHER WAYS OF NOT OBSERVING THE MAXIMS Which maxims are fluted in the following ex? a. with no intention of generating an implicature and with no intention of deceiving.e refusing to answer. fails to observe a maxim. TASK Explain the following in terms of the cooperative principle: metaphors (‘Queen Victoria was made of iron’) hyperbole (‘I’ve got millions of beers in my cellar’) irony and sarcasm (‘I love it when you sing out of key all the time’) Opting out. Child: I’m going to watch Match of the Day now. 1989) [A is working at a computer in one of the department’ department’s lab when she experiences a problem] A: Can you help me? B: Graeme’ Graeme’s office hour is in five minutes TASKS TASKS .

Margaret. [Victor has been buried up to his neck in the back garden by an irate builder. what the hell do you think I’ I’m doing? (One Foot in the Grave. A was a fellow passenger who wanted to talk to her: A: What do you do? B: I’m a teacher. 1995:65): The speaker is Rupert Allason (author.P. A: Where do you teach? B: Outer Mongolia A: Sorry I asked. ( Thomas. TASKS 3. I grabbed my bag and a coat. He is discussing the identity of the so-called ‘Fifth Man’ Man’: It was either Graham Mitchell or Roger Hollis and I don’ don’t think it was Roger Hollis. BBC 12/11/96) [This is part of the queen’s speech at the anniversary of her 40th year on the throne. and expert on the British intelligence services).marital difficulties of her children. 2. sensitive about his lack of progress in Italian. TASKS . M. the Windsor Palace had gone up in flames] Queen: 1992 is not a year which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure.[Jonathan. (Thomas. It had been a bad year for the queen . I repeated myself ‘Out’. has just returned from an Italian evening class] Elena: What did you do? Jonathan: This and that. His wife. ( Thomas. comes out] M: What are you doing? V: I’m wallpapering the spare bedroom. I told mother I was going out…She asked me where I was going. TASKS 1. 1995:68) B was on a long journey and wanted to read her book. 1995:70): I finished working on my face.

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