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Paul Grice, a British-educated philosopher of

language who spent the final two decades of his

career in the U.S., noted that all conversations
follow a basic set of rules which people use to
express themselves when speaking.


ã amagine what would happen to language if there were
no rules to follow during conversations. at would be
perfectly acceptable to follow ´Hi, how are you doing?µ
with ´birds fly in the skyµ, or to simply lie with every
statement you make. But then conversations would be
impossible to have.

ã And while everyone follows Grice·s rules, it doesn·t

necessarily mean that people are aware of what the
rules are or how they work. an fact, Grice·s maxims
often work outside of our immediate awareness.

ã The question now is, what exactly are these rules?

Yooperative Principle
ã One of the most basic assumptions we
must make for successful communication
to take place is that both people in a
conversation are cooperating ² this is
called the Yooperative Principle.

ã Grice further identified 4 groups of

maxims which people implicitly obey
when communicating.



G. Do not say what your believe to be false.

2. Do not say that for which you lack adequate
ã j

G. Make your contribution as informative as required.

2. Do not make your contribution more informative
than is required.
ã Y

G. Be relevant.
ã ^

G. Avoid obscurity of expression.

2. Avoid ambiguity.
3. Be brief.
4. Be orderly.
Maxim of Quality.
ã According to the first rule, people are
expected to say what they know to be

ã When talking with each other we expect

the others to tell us the truth.

ã Example:
af your friend asks, ´«have you seen my
dog?µ an honest answer is expected.
Maxim of Quantity
ã According to this rule, when talking, we are
expected to provide ÿ   
to get our point across.

ã We usually assume that people are telling us

everything we need to know. af they don·t
say something, then we assume they simply
don·t know that information.

ã To be ´as informative as required¶µ, an

utterance must (most of the time...) at least
be informative  .
ã We can get a grip on this minimal requirement
using inference.The key idea is that an utterance
must contain something new to be informative.
The content of the utterance must not be
implied by the preceding information.

ã Example:
´Mary has a husband.µ
´af Mary is married then she has a husband. She is

ã Minimal and lesser information is enclosed in the

former sentence.
Maxim of Relation
ã According to this rule, you are expected to
stay on the topic.

ã an other words, make sure that what you

say is relevant for what is talked about.

ã Example: af asked:
ã (       ÿ    
you certainly won·t be on topic if you
answer by saying:
ã (      
Maxim of Manner.
ã The last rule states that your comments
should be direct, clear, and to the point.

ã This maxim relates to the form of speech

you use.You shouldn·t use words you know
your listeners won·t understand or say
things which you know could be taken
multiple ways.

ã You should also not state something in a

long, drawn-out way if you could say it in a
much simpler manner.
ã Example:
ã ´Miss Singer produced a series of sounds
corresponding closely to the score of The
Star-Spangled Bannerµ
ã vs.
ã ´Miss Singer sang The Star-Spangled
ã A presupposition (or ps) is an implicit
assumption about the world or background
belief relating to an utterance whose truth is
taken for granted in discourse.

ã Examples of presuppositions include:

Presupposition: that you have done it already,
at least once.

ã (   
Presupposition: that Jane once wrote fiction.
ã Example:
The utterance:
´John, are you going to the café?µ

· John is going to eat or buy something in the café.
· The speaker wants to know whether John can go
to the café with him.
· The speaker wants John to buy something for

ã What does the word ´himµ in the above

presuppositions presupposed?
ã The utterance:

ã Has the following presuppositions:

· There is someone uniquely identifiable to
speaker and addressee as 
· John stopped doing linguistics before he left
· John was doing linguistics before he left
· John left Yambridge.
· John had been at Yambridge.
ã Yrucially, negation of an expression does not
change its presuppositions:

ã Gst Example:
both presuppose that the subject has done it
already one or more times.

ã 2nd Example:
both presuppose that the subject has a wife