You are on page 1of 7

1

Pragmatics 4
The difference between what somebody says and what he implies or
Outline: A. Recap: Indirect SA suggests.
B. H.P. Grice (1975) "Logic and Conversation" what somebody says = the conventional/explicit meaning
Implicatures of the words uttered, derivable from the sense of the
The cooperative principle & conversational words and the way syntax combines them (referring to an
maxims entity and predicating something of it).
C. Hedges
D. Non-observance of the maxims what is implied = depends on the Speaker's intentions,
the evaluation of the context, etc.
A. Introduction
(2) A: How is John doing?
Indirectness in language - speakers say one thing and mean that thing B: Well he likes his new colleagues and he hasn't been to prison yet.
but also something else
what A says:............................................................................
Indirect SA - Speech acts in which one SA is performed through another what is implied: .................................................................

(1) A: I am very thirsty. [looking expectantly at the hearer] (3) A: What is your hamburger like?
Direct SA: ..... B: A hamburger is a hamburger.
Indirect SA: ....
what B says:............................................................................
The theory of Indirect Speech Acts developed by Searle tells us how the what is implied: .................................................................
Speaker can formulate SA indirectly (by what mechanisms)
The implicit meaning in (2) and (3) are called by Grice implicatures
Requests:
- stating / questioning whether the felicity conditions obtain Definition of implicature: Noveck (2001): The implicature is an 'inference
- asking whether the Hearer wants the Speaker to perform an action that consists in attributing to a speaker an implicit meaning that goes
- suggesting it is reasonable for the H to perform an act beyond the explicit meaning of an utterance.'

B. H.P. Grice (1975) "Logic and Conversation" => implicatures are a special type of inferences.
Grice's theory of conversation explains the way in which the Hearer is able Inference = deduction based on evidence
to get to the implicit meaning suggested by the Speaker.
(3') a. John is very pale and groans. His co-workers infer that he is
Notions introduced by Grice: Implicatures, the cooperative principle of feeling sick.
conversation & conversational maxims b. Mary's husband is never late for dinner. He is late today so Mary can
infer that something urgent occurred at work.
B. Implicatures

1
2

C. The cooperative principle (5) The cooperative principle of conversation

Implicatures are inferences through which Hs get to the meaning implied Make your conversational contribution such as is required, at the stage at
by Ss rather than the literal meaning. which it occurs, by the accepted purpose or direction of the talk exchange in
which you are engaged.
In order to produce implicatures, a principle of cooperation between the
speaker and the hearer must be in operation. The principle can be reformulated as 4 sub-principles or conversational
maxims:
Our conversations are not made up of disconnected remarks (that would be
irrational), but they seem to follow certain common goals. I. Maxims of Quantity:
Each participant recognizes some common purpose of the conversation. 1. Make your contribution as informative as is required for the current
This purpose may be fixed from the start or may develop during the purposes of the exchange.
exchange. 2. Do not make your contribution more informative than is required.

(4) Situation: woman sitting on a park bench, dog lying in front of the II. Maxims of Quality: Try to make your contribution one that is true.
bench, man comes along and sits down on the bench 1. Do not say what you believe to be false.
Man: Does your dog bite? 2. Do not say that for which you lack adequate evidence.
Woman: No.
(The man reaches down to pet the dog. The dog bites the man's III. Maxim of Relation: Be relevant.
hand)
Man: Ouch! You said your dog doesn't bite. IV. Maxims of Manner: Be perspicuous.
Woman: He doesn't. But that's not my dog. 1. Avoid obscurity of expression.
2. Avoid ambiguity.
Problem: the man assumed that more was communicated that what was 3. Be brief (avoid unnecessary prolixity).
said. For the man, the woman's answer provides less information than 4. Be orderly.
necessary.
These maxims are assumptions we have when we engage in conversations.
Speakers expect a certain amount of information to be given by their We assume people obey these maxims. We assume that:
interlocutors in conversation. => speakers are supposed to be cooperative - people are going to provide an appropriate amount of information
in conversation - they are telling the truth
- they are being relevant
This idea can be stated as a cooperative principle of conversation: - they are being clear
(formulated by Paul Grice 1975 Logic and conversation)
Observing the maxims S says exactly what s/he means, neither more nor
less, there is no distinction btw. what is said and what is implied (no
inferential work for H)

2
3

(5') A: Where are the car keys?


B: Theyre on the table in the hall. b) Hedges related to the maxim of quality

The purpose of the talk exchange = maximally effective exchange of (7) As far as I know, they're married.
information.
c) Hedges related to the maxim of relation
talking = a special variety of purposive, rational behaviour, similar to
transactional exchanges in some way. (8) I don't know if this is important, but some of the files are missing.

Q: Is Grice being prescriptive? Is he saying that the principle of cooperation d) Hedges related to the maxim of manner
and the maxims should always be complied with?
(9) This may be a bit confused, but I remember being in a car.
'...although Grices maxims are formulated as if they were prescriptive laws,
their raison dtre is to spell out the principles that the human mind Q: What about the hedges in (10)?
naturally follows rather than some social or moral laws that people can
choose to obey. Although it is possible to consciously disobey the maxims (10) a. I'm not sure this is right, but I heard it was a secret
or even overtly opt out of them, the standard presumption in every ceremony in Greece.
conversation is that they do apply. Unless the addressee has clear evidence b. I won't bore you with the details, but it was a great
of such opting out, he/she assumes that the speaker obeys the maxims experience.
simply by virtue of being a rational agent. It also has to be noticed that even c. I'm not sure this makes sense, but the car had no lights.
a conscious breach of the maxims does not signal that they are not active: in d. I may be mistaken, but I thought I saw a wedding ring on
order to violate the maxim of quantity, for example, the speaker must hold her finger.
an assumption that this maxim should indeed be conformed to.' (Jaszczolt e. This may sound like a dumb question, but whose hand
2006). writing is this?
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- ---
Q: Are any maxims more important in conversation than others? Observing the CP and the maxims is reasonable (rational) behavior,
because it is beneficial to both addresser and addressee.
D. Hedges
When the maxims are disregarded, this may lead to the additional inferences
Certain linguistic expressions invoke the maxims, and prove that they are called implicatures by Grice (to distinguish them from implications in
operative in conversation = hedges formal logic).

Can you identify the hedges in the examples below? N.B. There are other maxims as well - e.g. BE POLITE! - they may also
generate implicatures.
a) Hedges related to the maxim of quantity

(6) To cut a long story short, I ran away.

3
4

E. Non-observance of the maxims 4. Flouting a maxim

There are circumstances where the cooperative principle is not observed Flouting a maxim - instances when a S blatantly fails to observe a maxim,
e.g. institutionalized conversations: teacher - student, lawyer - witness = not with any intention of deceiving or misleading, but because the S wishes
responses are already known => the maxim of .......... is violated. to prompt the H to look for a meaning which is different from, or in addition
to, the expressed meaning (Thomas 1995: 65).
Violations also occur in day-to-day conversation, not only in
institutionalized conversation. A flout occurs when a S does not observe a maxim, with the deliberate
intention of generating a conversational implicature and triggering an
More often than not, people fail to observe the maxims Several ways of inferential process on the part of the H. In such cases, one or several
failing to observe a maxim, according to Grice: maxims are exploited

1. Violating H has to think: How can this flout of the maxim X be reconciled with the
2. Opting out assumption that the S is obeying the Conversational Principle?
3. Coping with a clash
4. Flouting => generates implicatures Reasoning: B has violated Maxim X
B has no reason to opt out of the CP
1. Violating the maxim = "quietly and unostentatiously" => "liable to => his violation is only apparent, the S intends to imply
mislead' something else.

(10) Husband: Is there another man? Steps: A has said that p


Wife: No there isn't another man [there was in fact a woman]. There is no reason to suppose that A is not observing the
-maxim of quantity is broken CP
2. Opting out = the speaker makes it clear that he does not want to He must think that q
cooperate or observe the maxim. He has done nothing to stop me from thinking that q
--------------------
(11) A: Is his wife cheating on him? He has implicated that q
B: I cannot say more/ my lips are sealed.
Implicatures are worked out based on:
3. Clashes - the speaker has to disobey one of the maxims in order to satisfy a) conventional meaning of the words uttered
another maxim b) the CP and the maxims
c) context of utterance
(12) A: Is there a train station nearby? d) background knowledge
B: There is one in the city... e) a-d are known to all participants

Q: Why is there a clash between maxims in (12)?

4
5

4.1. Flouts exploiting the Quality Maxim: S says smth blatantly untrue in iv) This proposition must be somehow related to her U
order to make the hearer draw an implicature v) The most obviously related proposition is that, like grease spots,
her ex is extremely disgusting.
Quality I
Irony Understatement
(13) On Christmas, an ambulance picks up a drunkard who collapsed on the
sidewalk. Soon the drunkard vomits all over the paramedic. (15') a. Our friend was a little intoxicated when he broke all the
Paramedic: Great, thats really great! Thats made my Christmas! furniture.
Implicature:............................................................................................. Implicature:.............................................................................................

Inferences made by Hearer of (13) acc. to the Gricean framework: b. The war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan's
i) The paramedic expressed pleasure at having smb vomit over him advantage. [the Japanese Emperor informing the Japanese people that Japan
ii) There is no example in recorded history of people being delighted would surrender at the end of the second world war]
at having smb vomit over them.
iii) I have no reason to believe that the paramedic is trying to deceive Implicature:.............................................................................................
us
iv) Unless the paramedics utterance is entirely pointless, he must be Hyperbole
trying to convey some other proposition.
v) The most obviously related proposition is the exact opposite of the (15'') The bag weighed a ton!
one he has expressed. Implicature:.............................................................................................
vi) The paramedic is extremely annoyed at having the drunkard vomit
over him. Quality II
(14) Phil to his wife Vivian: You look great, did you lose some weight? (15''') A: Some people simply cant help hitting the shops every other day
Vivian: Yes, and it seems to me that you have found it. B: My sisters probably buying something right now!
Implicature:............................................................................................. [A has no evidence for this single event, the hearer has to assume that the
speaker is getting at some related proposition]
Metaphors
(15) Woman about ex: In all my greasy past, hes the biggest grease spot. Implicature:.............................................................................................
Implicature:.............................................................................................
4.2. Flouts exploiting the Quantity Maxims:
Inferences made by Hearer of (14) acc. to the Gricean framework:
i) It is patently false that a man is a grease spot. Quantity I a) a S gives less information that required.
ii) The wife does not appear to be trying to make us believe that her
ex is a greasy spot. (16) Patient: Is he a good man?
iii) Unless her U is entirely pointless, she must be trying to convey Wilson: He's a good doctor. (House MD - pilot episode)
some other proposition Implicature:.............................................................................................

5
6

(22) a. I sought to tell my love,


tautologies: Love that never told can be (adapted from W. Blake)
(17) a. Women are women!
Implicature:............................................................................................. 2 interpretations are possible and the poet wants to convey both

b. War is war! b. A British general captured the town of Sind and reported
Implicature:............................................................................................. back in coded language: 'Peccavi'
I have sinned.
Quantity II b) a S gives more information that required I have Sind. (ambiguity)

(18) A: Would you like some whiskey? Obscurity - e.g. when speaking in the presence of a child or a third party
B: Whiskey and wine are my favourites. and we don't want him/her to understand what we mean, but we want the
Implicature:............................................................................................. Hearer to draw an implicature

4.3. Flouts exploiting the Relation Maxim: the response is obviously (23) Letter from a Romanian living in the Soviet Union to one of his
irrelevant to the topic (abrupt change of topic, overt failure to address relatives abroad: 'Things are really going well for us here. We haven't seen
interlocutors goal in asking a Q) Mr Carne for a while and Mr Branza has retired.'
Implicature:.............................................................................................
(19) Father to daughter at family dinner: Any news about the SAT
results? (24) Parents discussing in the presence of a young child who is not
Daughter : Ice-cream anyone? allowed to drink Coca-Cola. (deliberate obscurity)
Implicature:.............................................................................................
A: What are we going to buy for drinks tomorrow?
(20) Suspicious wife: Why would you smell of Chanel 5? B: You know, the brownish lethal liquid.
Husband: Im going to turn in. Ive been swamped at the office Implicature:.............................................................................................
these days.
Implicature:............................................................................................. Failure to be brief
(25) Music reviewer - instead of saying 'The band played X'
'The band produced a series of sounds that corresponded closely with the
4.4. Flouts exploiting the Manner Maxim = ambiguity, obscurity, absence score of X' (failure to be brief -> the word 'playing' does not apply, the
of clarity and brevity - deliberate, that the speaker intends the hearer to performance was deficient)
recognize Implicature:.............................................................................................

Ambiguity - more than one interpretation is possible - desired effect To sum up - so far: ways of non-observing the maxims:
-
e.g. in poetry -
-

6
7

-
5. Other forms of non-observance of the maxims

5.1. Infringing a maxim: occurs when a S fails to observe the maxim,


although s/he has no intention of generating an implicature and no intention
of deceiving.

Generally infringements stem from imperfect linguistic performance (young


child, foreigner), impaired L performance (nervousness, drunkenness,
excitement, disability)

(26) Kramer: You let out one emotion, and all the rest will follow. Just like
Andora's box.
Jerry: That was the mother on "Bewitched." I think you mean
"Pandora."
Kramer: Yeah, well, she had one too.

5.2. Suspending a maxim: Under certain circumstances/as part of certain


events there is no expectation on the part of any participant that one or
several maxims should be observed (and non-fulfillment does not generate
any implicatures).

e.g. funeral orations and obituaries - Maxim of .........


poetry - Maxim of .........
telegrams, text messages - Maxim of .........
courts of law - witnesses not expected to volunteer incriminating
information - ..Maxim of .........