Friday, April 3, 2015


I.                  INTRODUCTION

Pragmatics is often described as the study of language use (Sperber and Wilson, 2005: 468). It is one of the branches of Semiotics, a science of signs (Nőth, 1995: 3). In this instance, Pragmatics deals with the study of the relation of signs to interpreters. Whereas the other two branches of Semiotics include Syntactics or Syntax, the study of formal relations of signs to one another, and Semantics, the study of the relation of signs to the objects to which the signs are applicable (Levinson, 1995: 1). Within this threefold branch, only Pragmatics can be investigated. It is due to the fact that only Pragmatics may discover people’s intended meanings, their assumptions, their purposes or goals, and the sorts of actions when they are performing when they speak (Yule, 1996: 3).
Pragmatics plays an important role in studying language as a tool of human interaction, i.e. the interaction between the speaker and the hearer . To understand human interaction, we have to understand ‘interactional’ meanings expressed in speech and we must have appropriate analytical devices to clarify such meanings (Wierzbicka, 1991: 1,5.).
Pragmatics as a field of linguistic inquiry was initiated in the 1930s by the philosopher Charles Morries, Carnap, and Pierce. They cited that syntax addressed the formal relations of signs to one of another, semantics the relation of signs to what they denote, and pragmatics the relation of signs to their users and interpreters.
The present paper mainly addresses the basic notions or fundamentals of Pragmatics. In particular, it extends the discussions of the following problems:
·         What is defined as Pragmatics?
·         What are the basic principles of Pragmatics?
·         What is the scope of Pragmatics?


There are many definitions of Pragmatics proposed by many experts. Mey (1994: 3) has suggested that Pragmatics is a science that has something to do with language and its users. Pragmatics as a field of linguistic inquiry was initiated in the 1930s by the philosopher Charles Morries, Carnap, and Pierce. They cited that Syntax addressed the formal relations of signs to one of another, Semantics the relation of signs to what they denote, and Pragmatics the relation of signs to their users and interpreters (Morris in Horn and Ward, 2007: xi).
Whereas Yule (1996: 3) has cited that Pragmatics deals with the study of meaning as communicated by a speaker or a writer and interpreted by a listener or reader. This implies that Pragmatics is the study of speaker meaning since it deals more with what the speaker means by uttering than what the words or phrases in the utterance mean. It also implies that Pragmatics is the study of contextual meaning as it covers the interpretation of what people means in a particular context and how the context influences what is said. In addition, it has an implication that Pragmatics is the study of how more gets communicated than is said due to the fact that it investigates how listeners may draw inferences about what is said or what the speaker intends to say. Last but not least, Pragmatics is the study of the expression of relative distance, meaning that how close or distant the listener is, the speaker determines how much needs to be said.
To sum up, Pragmatics is the study of those context-dependent aspects of meaning regardless of the construction of content or logical form. To draw the meaning, we should take into consideration how speakers come up to express what they want to say regarding who they are talking to, where, when, and under what circumstances.


Historically, there is nothing strange in the use of ‘principle’ as a concept in linguistics as in many other branches of science. The word ‘principle’ usually connotes ‘understanding’ on all levels of linguistic sophistication, from the sharing of elementary knowledge to high-level, metatheoretical speculation (Mey, 1994: 53). As Pragmatics plays an important role in studying a language as tool of human interaction, i.e. the interaction between the speaker and the hearer, it shows that the essence of language is human activity- activity on the part of one individual to make himself understood by another, and activity on the part of that other to understand what was in the mind of the first. Successful communication takes place when speakers share knowledge, beliefs, and assumptions and when they adhere to similar rules of cooperative interactions. This, accordingly, reveals the basic principles of Pragmatics that include: (a) the cooperative principles and (b) the politeness strategies. The following illustrates how both principles are connected.
If two parties use an instrument for an ‘activity’, then such an activity can only be successful if both parties adhere to general rules or principles and thereby utilize certain strategies. This can be illustrated with the following non-linguistic example. If two people want to hang a painting (activity), the use a hammer, nails and a ladder (instruments), and they have to coordinate their actions. There will have to be some cooperation; while one is standing on the ladder, the other can hand the tools to the first, etc. Rules concerning politeness will also have to be followed; while one is on the ladder, the other should not try to push the first off. One general principle of collective activity is ‘cooperation’ and an often-used strategy to achieve this is ‘politeness’. This is also true in the case of verbal communication (Renkema, 1993).

A.   The Cooperative Principles
The cooperative principle says ‘Make your conversational contribution such as is required, at the stage at which it occurs, by the accepted purpose or direction of the speech exchange in which you are engaged. Grice distinguished four categories within these general principles. He formulated these in basic rules or maxims. In two categories he also introduced supermaxims:
(1)   Maxims of quantity
a.       Make your contribution as informative as is required (for the current purposes of the exchange
b.      Do not make your contribution more informative than is required.
(2)   Maxims of quality
Supermaxims: Try to make your contribution one that is true.
Maxims: a. Do not say what you believe to be false
b. Do not say that for which you lack adequate evidence
(3)   Maxims of Relevance
Be relevant.
(4)   Maxims of manner
Supermaxims : Be perspicuous (easily understood)
a.       Avoid obscurity of expression
b.      Avoid ambiguity
c.       Be brief (avoid unnecessary prolixity)
d.      Be orderly (Renkema, 1993)

B.   The Politeness Strategies
Much of what we say and a great of what we communicate is usually determined by our relationships. A linguistic interaction        is necessarily a social interaction. In order to make sense what is said in an interaction, we have to look at various factors that relate to social distance and closeness. Some of these factors are established prior to an interaction and hence are largely external factors, for examples:
Ø  Social distance and status (age and power)
Speakers who see themselves as lower status in English speaking context tend to mark social distance between themselves and higher status speakers by using address forms that include a title and a last name, but not the first name
Ø  Degrees of friendliness or formality (Yule, 1996).
Irving Gofmann, a social psychologist, suggests that every participant in the social process has the need to be appreciated by others and the need to be free and not interfered with. They expect that people generally behave concerning their public self-image or face wants (Renkema, 1993)
As a technical term, face means the public self-image of a person. It refers to that emotional and social sense of self that everyone has and expects everyone else to recognize. Politeness, in an interaction, can then be defined as the means employed to show awareness of another person’ face.
In this sense, politeness can be accomplished in situations of social distance or closeness. Showing awareness for another person’s face when that other seems socially distant is often described in terms or respect or deference. Showing the equivalent awareness when the other is socially close is often described in terms of friendliness or solidarity. (Yule, 1996)
If a speaker says something that represent a threat to another individual’s expectation regarding self-image, for example, refusing a request or reproaching someone, it is described as a face threatening act. In this case something is needed which will reduce the violation of face to a minimum and therefore preserve stability as much as possible. This can be achieved by using ‘face work techniques’. This refers to a face-saving act when someone can say something to lessen the possible threat. (Renkema, 1993)
When we attempt to save another’s face, we should pay attention to their negative face wants or positive face wants. A person negative face is the need to be independent, to have freedom of action, and not to be imposed by others. The word ‘negative’ here does not mean ‘bad’, it is just the opposite pole from ‘positive’. A person’ s positive face is the need to be accepted , even liked, by others, to be treated as the member of the same group, and to know that his or her wants are shared by others. In simple terms, negative face is the need to be independent and positive face is the need to be connected.
So, a face saving act which is oriented to the person’s negative face is called negative politeness or respect politeness. This tends to show respect or deference, emphasize the importance of the other’s time and concerns, and even include an apology for the imposition or interruption. A face saving act that is concerned with the person’s positive face is called positive politeness or solidarity politeness. This tends to show solidarity, emphasize that both speakers want the same thing, and that they have the same goal. For example, the  following utterances:
(1a) Close the door.
(1b) There’s a draft.
(1c) Would you close the door?
(1d) Would you be so kind as to close the door?
According to the maxims of the cooperative principle, (1a) is sufficient. Language is, however, often more indirectly, as is done in (1b). They also sometimes use politeness forms such as in (1c) and (1d).

A.   Implicature
Implicature is a component of speaker meaning that constitutes an aspect of what is meant in a speaker’ utterance without being part of what is said (Horn and Ward, 2007: 3). The implicature is situated within conversation, with the inferences being made by people who happen to hear the utterances and attempt to maintain the assumption of cooperative interaction. Because the implicature is a part of what is communicated and not said, speakers can always deny that they intended to communicate such meanings (Yule, 1996: 44). For example,
Carol:  Are coming to the party tonight?
Linda:  I’ve got an exam tomorrow.

On the face of this short dialogue, Linda’s statement is not an answer to Carol’s question. Linda does not say Yes or No. Yet Carol will immediately interpret the statement as meaning ‘No’ or ‘Probably Not’. Given Linda’s original answer contains relevant information, Carol can work out that ‘exam tomorrow’ conventionally involves ‘study tonight’, and ‘study tonight’ precludes ‘party tonight’. Thus, Linda’s answer is not simply a statement about tomorrow’s activities, it contains an implicature (an additional conveyed meaning) concerning tonight’s activities.
B.   Presupposition

When we use a referring expression like, this, he or Shakespeare, we usually assume that our listeners can recognize which referent is intended. Some of these assumptions may be mistaken but mostly they are appropriate. What a speaker or writer assumes is true or known by the listeners or readers may be described as ‘presupposition’ (Yule, 2006: 117). Presuppositions are viewed as complex dispositions which are manifested in linguistic behavior. One has presuppositions in virtue of the statements he makes, the questions he asks, the commands he issues. Presuppositions are propositions implicitly supposed before the relevant linguistic business is transacted (Horn and Ward, 2007: 33). For example, if someone tells us, “Your brother is waiting outside,” there is an obvious presupposition that we have a brother.

C.   Speech Acts

Speech Acts are acts done in the process of speaking. This, however are not completely covered under one or more of the major divisions of grammar- phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics- or under some general theory of action. The speech act theory focuses on the question of what people are doing when they use language. In speech act theory, language is seen as a form of acting (Renkema, 1993). Speech is described as a form of action and words as instruments with which actions can be performed. ‘I promise that I will give you the money tomorrow’, for instance, an act is being formed in the form of an utterance. Something is not only being said, more importantly, something is being done. By saying ‘I promise …’, a promise is made.
According to the English philosopher, John Austin (1976), all expressions of language must be reviewed as acts. He distinguished three kinds of action within each utterance:
(a)    The locution (The locutionary act): the physical act of producing an utterance.
It is what the speaker is saying.
(b)   The illocution (the illocutionary act): the act which is committed by producing an utterance.
It is what is in the speaker’s mind or what is intended to say. By uttering a promise, a promise is made; by uttering a threat, a threat is made.
(c)    The perlocution (the perlocutionary act): the production of an effect through locution and illocution.
It is what reaction comes up.
This reveals in the following example. In the statement ‘There is a draft in here’, the locution is the production of the utterance. Depending on the situation, the illocution could be a request, an order, a complaint, etc. The perlocution could be that a door or window is closed or that the addressee replies that he is not a servant.

D.   Reference

Reference can be defined as things that are overtly mentioned in the utterance of a sentence (the “aboutness”). We may define ‘reference’ as an act by which a speaker or a writer uses language to enable listener (or reader) to identify something (Yule, 2006: 115) The types of words and phrases that display reference include demonstratives and indexical words and phrases (e.g. this table, that cat, I, this), proper names (Lady Diana Spencer, London), and singular definite terms (the woman sitting, by the table, the author of “Harry Potter”) (Horn and Ward, 2007: 75-76).

E.   Deixis

There are some very common words in our language that cannot be interpreted at all if we do not know the context, especially the physical context of the speaker. Deixis is the study of deictic or indexical expressions in language, like you, now, today. The word today, for example, has a constant meaning, but systematically varying reference. It can be regarded as a special kind of grammatical property instantiated the familiar categories of person, tense, place, etc. Deixis introduces subjective, attentional, intentional, and context-dependent properties into natural languages. It is one of the core areas of Pragmatics (ibid.: 97, 100).
They are technically known as known as deictic expressions, from the Greek word ‘deixis’ which means ‘pointing’ via language. Deictic expressions are also sometimes called indexicals. We use deixis to point things (it, this, these books), sometimes called person deixis, to point a location (here, there, near that), sometimes called spatial deixis, and to point a time (now, then, last year), sometimes called temporal deixis (Yule, 1996: 9)

F.    Definiteness and Indefiniteness (Anaphora)

The prototypes of definiteness an indefiniteness in English are the definite article the and the indefinite article a/an, and singular noun phrases determined by them (Horn and Ward, 2007: 122). We usually make a distinction between introducing new referents (a man) and referring back to them (the man). In this type o referential relationship, the second (or subsequent) referring expression is an example of ‘anaphora’ (‘referring back’), while the first mention is called ‘antecedent’ (Yule, 1996: 22-23).

V.               CONCLUSION

Based on the previous discussion, we can draw a conclusion that besides there is the conceptual meanings and the relationships between words, there are other aspects of meaning that depend more on context and the communicative intentions of speakers. Communication clearly depends on not only recognizing the meaning of words in an utterance, but recognizing what speakers mean by their utterances. The study of what speakers mean is called Pragmatics.
In many ways, Pragmatics is the study of ‘invisible’ meaning, or how we recognize what is meant even when it is not actually said or written. In order that to happen, speakers or writers must be able to rely on a wide variety of shared assumptions and expectations when they try to communicate. The investigation of those assumptions and expectations provides us with how more is always being communicated than is said. Pragmatics is needed if we want a fuller, deeper, and generally more reasonable account of human language behavior. As it is still dynamically growing and developing, Pragmatics will carry on capturing the richness of the developments between people using language.

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