Pragmatics: rules of conversation

  Bach, Kent, "Conversational Impliciture." - Mind and Language -1994 - pp.124-162. Bach, Kent, "The myth of conventional implicature." Linguistics and Philosophy.

Pragmatics: rules of conversation

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chable (because they depend on the manner inwhich the utterance is phrased) these will also be addressed under flouting below:

(10) She produced a series of sounds that roughly corresponded to the score of I am alive.

(11) She sang I am alive.

d) Non-conventional (as different from cancelability or non-detachability):

(12) Johns a machine.

e) Calculable:

Conversational implicatures should be calculable from the meaning of what is said plus identifiable aspects of the context

There are three ways to generate conversational implicatures:

1. Observing the maxims

(13) A: Ive run out of petrol.

B: Theres a garage just round the corner.

If Bs answer is relevant and informative, but not too informative (i.e. with useless,misleading information), it must connect to As statement. 4

2. Violating a maxim

(14) A: Where does Gerard live?

B: Somewhere in the South of France.

B violates Quantity (less information than required). So how is this co-operative?

Answer:This way B adheres to Quality (dont say what you know to be false/lack evidence for).So the implicature is: B doesnt know exactly where Gerard lives.

3. Flouting maxims (exploitation)

Violating a maxim is enforced (usually by clashing maxims).

Flouting is deliberate:

(15) A: What if the USA blocks EU-accession of Cyprus?

B: Oh come on, Europe has all the power! (flouting Quality)

(16) John is John. (flouting Quantity)

(17) A: I do think Mrs Jenkins is an old windbag, dont you?

B: Huh, lovely weather for March, isnt it? (flouting Relevance)

(18) Johnny: Hey Sally, lets play marbles.

Mother: How is your homework getting along, Johnny? (flouting Relevance)

(19) She produced a series of sounds that roughly corresponded to the score of I am alive.(flouting Manner)

flouting is effectively an invitation to find a new meaning, beyond what is said one that makes the utterance co-operative after all

flouting is generally associated with particular rhetorical effects

Opting out

A speaker may opt out of the Co-operative Principle, i.e. being openly uncooperative:

(20) My lips are sealed; I can say no more.[12]

 

Part II. Applied Aspects of Conversational Analysis

 

2.1 Following the cooperative principle

 

Conversation makes sense to us because they follow certain principles. this is also true with written texts. Grice has outlined the principles in his Cooperative Principles (CP), that means to have conversation as cooperative venture. Cooperative venture is to get an effective, efficient conversation. So the CP is a mean to make conversation as is effective and efficient one. There are four maxims in the Cooperative Princples.

  1. Be relevant (Maxims of relevance)

Make your contribution relevant to the interaction.

Indicate any way that it is not

Examples:

  1. Pass the salt.

Implicate: Pass the salt now.

(b): A: How are you doing in school?

B: Not too well, actually. I'm failing two of my classes.

vs. B: What fine weather we're having lately!

2. Be informative (Maxim of quantity)

Make your contribution as informative as is required for the current purposes of the exchange.

Do not make your contribution more informative than is required.

Examples: (a) A: Where is the post office?

B: Down the road, about 50 metres past the second left.

vs. B: Not far.

(b) A: How did Harry face in court the other day?

B: Oh, he got fine.

Bs contribution is what required from As utterance. However, still B will be condemned asa being a wrong informer, if then, for example, Harry gets life sentence.

3. Be truthful (Maxim of quality).

Or say things believed to be true and dont say ones believed to be false.

Examples: (a) John has two PhDs.

Implicates: that I know that John has, and have adequate evidence that he has.

A: Should I buy my son this new sports car?

B: I don't know if that's such a good idea. He's totaled two cars since he got his license last year.

vs. B: No, he seems like he'd be a bad driver.

4. Be clear (Maxim of manner)

Avoid unnecessary prolixity

Avoid ambiguity.

Be brief.

Be orderly.

Examples: A: Where was Alfred yesterday?

B: He went to the store and bought some whiskey.

B is being perspicuous to A. He gives clear response to A.

A: What did you think of that movie?

B: I liked the creative storyline. The ending was really a surprise!

vs. B: It was interestingly done, sir.

Paul Grice admitted that the CP and Maxims of conversation could be applied not only in talk exchange, but also in sphere of transaction.[] He discovered that many people act according to these principles because they were taught to act in such a way and they did not lost this habit.

He tried to find a basis for such behavior and found out that standard type of conversational practice not merely as something that all or most do in fact follow but as something that it is reasonable for us to follow, that we should not abandon.[8]

Talk exchanges have certain features that jointly distinguish cooperative transactions:

1. The participants have some common immediate aim, even though their ultimate aims may be independent and even in conflict. In characteristic talk exchange, there is a common aim even if , as in an over-the-wall chat, it is a second order one, namely ,that each partly should, for the time being, identify himself with the transitory conversational interests of the other.

2. The contributions of the participants should be dovetailed, mutually dependent.

3. There is some sort of understanding (which may be explicit but which is often tacit) that, other things being equal, the transaction should continue in appropriate style unless both parties are agreeable that it should terminate. [7]

In spite of that no one ever follows to all the maxims far all time, we might even do not need to, because as we can see, we may rely on implicature, to get the point of our addressers idea.

 

2.2 Flouting the cooperative principle

 

In the previous part, it was admitted that CP and maxims of conversation help the speaker and the hearer to understand each other.

Without cooperation, human interaction would be far more difficult and counterproductive. Therefore, the Cooperative Principle and the Gricean Maxims are not specific to conversation but to interaction as a whole. For example, it would not make sense to reply to a question about the weather with an answer about groceries because it would violate the Maxim of Relation. Likewise, responding to a request for some milk with an entire gallon instead of a glass would violate the Maxim of Quantity.

However, it is possible to flout a maxim intentionally or unconsciously and thereby convey a different meaning than what is literally spoken. Many times in conversation, this flouting is manipulated by a speaker to produce a negative pragmatic effect, as with sarcasm or irony. The Gricean Maxims are therefore often purposefully flouted by comedians and writers, who may hide the complete truth and manipulate their words for the effect of the story and the sake of the readers experience.

Speakers who deliberately flout the maxims usually intend for their listener to understand their underlying implication. Therefore, cooperation is still taking place, but no longer on the literal level. Conversationalists can assume that when speakers intentionally flout a maxim, they still do so with the aim of expressing some thought. Thus, the Gricean Maxims serve a purpose both when they are followed and when they are flouted.

There are several ways/reasons a speaker might break one of the rules:

  1. Violating the Cooperative Principle. One instance in which a speaker might break the maxim of quality is if they are really trying to deceive the listener; but this would also be a violation of the cooperative principle.
  2. Signaling a violation (minor violation). A person might essentially come out and tell you they are violating a maxim and why.

Examples.

“I dont know if this is relevant, but...” (relation)

“Im not sure how to say this, but...” (manner)

“I cant tell you; Im sworn to secrecy.” (quantity)

“This is just the word on the street; I cant vouch for this information.” (quality)

  1. Maxim clash. A speaker might violate one maxim in order to preserve another.

Example.

Carson is driving John to Merediths house.

CARSON: Where does Meredith live?

JOHN: Nevada.

Maxim violated: Quantity.

Why: There is clash between quantity and quality. Carson is looking for a street address, but John gives a weaker, less informative statement (hence the quantity violation). If John really doesnt know anything more specific, however, he cannot give a more informative statement without violating quality.[18]

  1. “Flouting” a maxim (major violation) to create a conversational implicature. By clearly and obviously violating a maxim, you can imply something beyond what you say.

Speakers should give enough information as necessary in order to understand the current conversation, but not provide more information than expected. This is known as the maxim of quantity, giving just the right amount of details so that the conversation flows smoothly.

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