Pragmatics in Conversation
the study of contextual factors in communication. (situational and social factors)
Conversations have one overarching principle, called the cooperative principle. Assumption of cooperation underlies almost all communication. Few exceptions: arguments, hostile witness
Number of conversational maxims (ways to achieve cooperation):
1. maxims of quantity
a. make your contribution as informative as is required
b. don’t make your contribution more informative than is required.
2. maxims of quality
try to make your contribution one that is true.
a. don’t say what you believe to be false.
b. don’t say that for which you lack adequate evidence
3. maxim of relation
it has to be relative
4. maxim of manner
be perspicuous – avoid obscure expressions, ambiguity, be brief, be orderly
Violation of maxims
Ex. My aunt is an elephant.
Apparent violation of quality. But if speaker is following the cooperation principle then the listener will make an implicature (a context-specific inference). Aunt might be large, has a good memory, likes peanuts.
Forms of requests may vary….depending on the size of the request or who we’re asking (asking bro for a quarter or a stranger for a dollar)
One strategy: be indirect
“Can you pass the salt?”
class of utterances are called indirect speech acts
Requests for action stated obliquely : do you know what time it is?
Can you tell me when you close?
such utterances minimize the imposition on the hearer
Requirements for indirectness varies across languages
Another pragmatic principle:
The given-new contract proposed by Haviland and Clark (1974)
A speaker will tell a listener something already known (the given part) ……and add something the listener doesn’t know (the new part).
Reflected in word order.
We have to keep track of given-new info for each person we know.
Done by monitoring the common ground we share with others. (clark)
Shared knowledge and beliefs.
long assumed language was unique to people
research shows that many species possess elaborate communication systems
An example: the language of bees
Described by Karl von Frisch (Nobel Prize, 1973)
Dance indicates the direction, relative to the sun, of the nectar source
speed of dance: quality of the nectar source
impressive but not productive
Bee’s can’t talk about anything else (distance to nectar source, predators)
so not a true language
Can animals learn language?
The kellogs and a chimpanzee infant named Gua (1930’s)
raised along with their son donald
Gua provided with several years of intensive training
Acquired a three-word vocabulary (mama, papa, and cup)
Only really understood by the Kelloggs
shape of the vocal tract of apes makes them unable to produce many phonemes of human language. But apes can make fine hand movements.
Could they learn a manual human language, like American Sign Language (ASL)?
1966 Gardners of UN RENO began work with Washoe
taught via operant conditioning
Could reliably use about 250 signs
But was it productive use of language
washoe sees a swan at the zoo
makes a new sign, “water bird” to refer to it
but is it “Water +bird” or “Water, bird”?
Intentionally difficult to establish
Washoe didn’t seem to appreciate word order.
Washoe primarily used language to get things from others.
Koko (Penny Patterson) – Also taught ASL, Understands spoken language,
Koko will lie to protect herself