The Cooperative Principle A basic underlying assumption we make when we speak to one another is that we are trying to cooperate

with one another to construct meaningful conversations. This assumption is known as the Cooperative Principle. As stated in H. P. Grice¶s ³Logic and Conversation´ (1975): Make your conversational 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. i In other words, we as speakers try to contribute meaningful, productive utterances to further the conversation. It then follows that, as listeners, we assume that our conversational partners are doing the same. You can think of reasons why someone might be uncooperative in conversation (maybe they¶re being interrogated for information they don¶t want to give up; maybe they hate the person they¶re talking to; maybe they¶re just crazy) but in the vast majority of conversations, it¶s safe to assume that both participants are trying to be cooperative. This assumption (that the cooperative principle holds, and the people we¶re speaking to are trying to cooperate) explains two things: (i) why speech errors are often ignored (or even go unnoticed) in conversation. As long as the meaning the speaker is trying to get across is clear, the listener usually gives them the benefit of the doubt and focuses on the meaning. (ii) why we can find meaning in statements which, on the surface, seem ridiculous, untrue or unrelated (i.e. metaphors, sarcasm, overstatement, understatement, etc.) Rather than assuming that our conversational partner is lying, crazy, or speaking at random, we assume they¶re trying to get across some meaning, and we can figure out what that meaning is. In social science generally and linguistics specifically, the cooperative principle describes how people interact with one another. As phrased by Paul Grice, who introduced it, it states, "Make your contribution such as it is required, at the stage at which it occurs, by the accepted purpose or direction of the talk exchange in which you are engaged." Though phrased as a prescriptive command, the principle is intended as a description of how people normally behave in conversation. Put more simply, people who obey the cooperative principle in their language use will make sure that what they say in a conversation furthers the purpose of that conversation. Obviously, the requirements of different types of conversations will be different. The cooperative principle can be divided into four maxims, called the Gricean maxims, describing specific rational principles observed by people who obey the cooperative principle; these principles enable effective communication. The cooperative principle goes both ways: speakers (generally) observe the cooperative principle, and listeners (generally) assume that speakers are observing it. This allows for the possibility of implicatures, which are meanings that are not explicitly conveyed in what is said, but that can nonetheless be inferred. For example, if Alice points out that Bill is not present, and Carol replies that Bill has a cold, then there is an implicature that the cold is the reason, or at least a possible reason, for Bill's absence; this is because Carol's comment is not cooperative ² does not contribute to the conversation ² unless her point is that Bill's cold is or might be the reason for his absence.

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