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to develop knowledge and understanding

of pragmatics and the role of context in

language use and learning.

By the end of the session, you will:

be able to define pragmatics

discuss how context influences linguistic choice, and

how meaning is created in interaction

describe the relationship between form and


Pragmatics: the study of meaning resulting

from the combination of language and
situation (context)
Pragmatics is the study of how language is used and
interpreted by its users in real world situations. Thornbury
(2006: 174)

Pragmatics studies the factors that govern our choice of

language in social interaction and the effects of our
choice on others.
David Crystal

Semantics: the study of meaning

The characteristic of a competent language

user [is] not the ability to speak and write

according to the rules of the academy and the
social etiquette of one social group, but the
adaptability to select those forms of accuracy
and those forms of appropriateness that are
called for in a given social context of use.
Kramsch (1988, p. 27)

Pragmatic competence
Being able to understand, construct, and
convey meanings which are
a) accurate
b) appropriate for the social/cultural situations
in which communication occurs

Husband and wife are in the kitchen. The

husband asks his wife whether shed like to
eat dinner in the dining room or the
kitchen. She replies: Its cold in here.
Lets eat in the dining room.
Husband and wife are in the living room.
The woman goes to the radiator, touches it
and looks at her husband and says:
Its cold in here.
Can you put the heating on?

Your friend asks for a lift and you say: Ive

got a flat tyre.
Im sorry, I cant give you a lift.
OR Im sorry, I cant help you.
OR Can you help me change the wheel?

You address a colleague with a car: Ive got

a flat tyre.
Can you give me a lift home?
OR Have you got a jack?

Your hands are full and you turn to one of

your students: Can you open the door?
My hands are full.

Its the middle of the night. Two burglars

are standing at the back door of a house.
One turns to the other and says:
Can you open the door?
What sort of lock is it?
OR You said you could do it.

What do the dialogues on the previous slide

show about the relationship between the
linguistic form and and its communicative

What helps us identify the function of an


A language function/speech act is its

communicative purpose e.g.
Thank you for the present
Thank you for not smoking

There is no one-to-one match between form

and function

One form can have many functions:
Thank you for..
One function can have many forms (exponents)
e.g. advice
If I were you, I would
You should..
Why dont you..

A. Whats this?


B. Oh, sorry.


A. Why dont you put it in

your bag?


B. I forgot


Asking for information
Giving advice
Greeting people

How many
exponents can you
list which express
this function?

Function: Requests
1. Do you think that you could possibly open the door?
2. Would it be possible for you to open the door?
3. I was wondering if you could open the door.
3. Would you mind opening the door?
5. Could you open the door, please?
6. Could you open the door?
7. Can you open the door?
8. The door, please.
9. Open the door.
10. Open it!

What grammatical and lexical devices make an

expression more polite?
possibly, possible, trouble, wondering, please, etc.;
the longer the sentences, the more the message is
wrapped up to avoid offending the other person.
tentativeness by using modal verbs (can, could,
would), distancing by using the past tense.
How is politeness expressed in other languages?

Learners have to be aware of the fact that the

realisation and interpretation of speech
acts/functions in English may often be very different
from what they experience in their first language.

Teaching learners conventional expressions of

various functions and pronunciation patterns
associated with particular expressions enables
learners to learn lexical chunks that can be used in a
wide range of real-life situations.

A: What a beautiful dress!

B: Thank you. Im glad you like it.
B: Really? This old rag? I got it at the
Salvation Army for $2.00!
B: Youre the third person today whos
complimented me on it. I must have done
something right!
CARLA, 2015

Look at 2-3 of the coursebooks provided

(choose different levels). To what extent do
the books include a focus on language
Which functions are included?
How do the functions and exponents included
vary from level to level?

Choose one language function.

Make a list of exponents for this function.

How could you teach this function?

What context would you use to present the

What kind of practice activities could you use?

CARLA. (2015). Why should speech acts be taught?.

Retrieved from

Kramsch, C. (1988). The cultural discourse of foreign

language textbooks. In A. Singerman (Ed.), Towards
a new integration of language and culture (pp. 6368). Middlebury, VT: Northeast Conference.