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Pragmatics basically involves the study of the use of language through a particular context. There is whole difference between what needs to be communicated and what a person actually says. The difference lies mainly in the context of where the conversation is taking place - whether the speaker is taking to a child or to an adult audience and also whether the speaker is giving background information as a tour guide regarding some historical place or whether he is in the classroom as a teacher; the identity of the speaker; the speaker's sole intention - the meaning the speaker expects to put forward by what he says; and the pre-existing knowledge of the listener and speaker.
Pragmatics is an important and crucial part of language and communication just like semantics. However the pragmatic meaning, unlike in semantics depends on the context, where the conversation is happening amongst other factors which will be mentioned further on. Pragmatic meaning takes into account a person's knowledge of the physical and social world.
Pragmatic's context involves the particular location, time and circumstance in which the utterance is being expressed by the speaker to the listener. While semantic is context independent, in pragmatics a linguistic unit is sensitive to context - context dependent.
Pragmatics involves the application of the semantic knowledge stored within a context of a speech act, taking place between two persons carrying out opposite roles, one as a speaker and one a listener. It was J. L. Austin who in 1962 came up with the idea of the speech act as being a type of "linguistic communication in a process between a speaker and a hearer" and that "the act of doing or performing the speech act accomplished more than the words alone or together could mean". (Lucas, 1980)
Austin divided the act in three stages: theÂ locutionary act - the performance of an utterance of words: the actual utterance and its apparent meaning together with the content; theÂ illocutionary act - the pragmatic 'illocutionary force' of the utterance, the speaker's intention based on context, the performance aspect of the act, such as commanding( known as performatives); and theÂ perlocutionary act - being the actual effect of the uterrance on the listener, such as persuading, convincing, scaring, enlightening, inspiring, or otherwise getting someone to do or realize something, whether intended or not.Â
The speech act is the basic unit of pragmatics when compared with a morpheme in semantics. Basically, every utterance is a speech act and is performed by the speaker, which in itself involves an action through utterances of words and sentences whose main aim of the speaker is for the listener to understand the intention in it. Moreover the lexemes making up the utterance can make it either a formal or informal; direct or indirect one.
Importance of Pragmatics
Pragmatics is defined as the set of rules governing conversation and the social use of language.Â This can include using polite words instead of demanding an action, learning how to express feelings.Â It also aids in deciphering the true feelings behind what others are saying. Now most people do not think about the social rules of a society when they communicate with other people.Â Pragmatics just come naturally to most people, we understand when to make eye contact and when not too.Â We know to say please and thank you when we ask something.Â But people with Autism do not instinctively know to do these things.Â A person with autism may lack eye contact, or change a topic of a conversation quickly without the other person following.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Pragmatic problems are the main communication problems that people with autism face.Â In fact most of the diagnostic markers for diagnosing autism deal with pragmatics.Â These markers that were found in Autistic Spectrum Disorders by Rita Jordan are as follows:
"(a) marked impairment in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body postures, and gestures to regulate social interaction
(b) Failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level
(c) A lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests, or achievements with other people.
(d) Lack of social or emotional reciprocity (ASD appendix 2)"
Pragmatic deficits, as herein conceived, are thus distinguished from common communication problems, such as stuttering and vocal disorders. Although pragmatic disorders - and capabilities - often accompany problems in other domains and may be obscured
by language disorders (41), e.g., a client who lacks the language skills to decode an utterance may appear unable to recover implicature from it.
A great body of literature is devoted to the study of pragmatic deficits in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism-related disorders, specific language impairment, Downs Syndrome, and aphasia, among many other.
Pragmatic disorders may be developmental (appear as the individual develops) or acquired (appear as the result of injury, etc.).
It is the case that "pragmatic behavior involves communication about mental states" among speakers and hearers, but it is not the case that every such communication is pragmatic in nature (236). Thus, we are reminded, a clinical evaluation must be based on a clear delimitation between what is language (i.e., decoding of syntax and vocabulary) and what is pragmatic in nature.
Failing to apprehend the nature of context in evaluating the responses of subjects during clinical diagnosis is also shown to cause investigators to misconstrue their pragmatics capabilities. In many studies the notion of context is taken as a given, a unit entity, a known or predictable formulation that can be named a prior for each test item during instrument design, i.e., researchers point to a sequence of utterances and declare what "the context" for the utterance in question is, or set up a test question based on a presupposed idea of "the context." Thisapproach fails to recognize, the author points out, that the factors that can contribute to context
are individual and virtually limitless (224 - 29).
Among criteria suggested which "provide a rational basis for future enquiry in pragmatics" is the "principle of charity," the principle whereby an interlocutor determines whatever statement or premise makes the "whole set of premises relevant to the conclusion"
(246). This capacity, it is argued, "is the basis of all pragmatic interpretation â€¦ to understand the illocutionary force of an utterance, we must be able to locate ourselves imaginatively inside our
interlocutor's mind and grasp the particular communicative intentions that lie behind his or her use" of the utterance (247). This principle has the promise to restore the "imaginative skill" on the part of investigators that will permit them to accurately perceive the pragmatics deficits and adaptations of those they observe in diagnosis and treatment (246, f).
The author is quite correct that the study of pragmatics requires an extensive base of knowledge, about language, linguistic pragmatics, pragmatics theory, discourse and conversation, cognitive theory, neurolinguistics and anatomy, and the philosophy of language, and that knowledge from a wide compass is essential to be able to evaluate and situate what one observes and what studies report.
In a deï¬nition of pragmatics advanced by Stalnaker (1998, p. 58), the ï¬eld is characterised so broadly that it is not clear what it is intended to exclude. Although pragmatics is deï¬ned as 'the study of linguistic acts and the contexts in which they are performed', when elaborated the notion of context includes cognitive, linguistic, temporal, semantic and communicative factors:
'[The] various properties of the context in which the act is performed [include] the intentions of the speaker, the knowledge, beliefs, expectations or interests of the speaker and his audience, other speech acts that have been performed in the same context, the time of utterance, the eï¬€Â ects of the utterance, the truth value of thepropositionÂ expressed,Â theÂ semanticÂ relationsÂ betweenÂ theÂ propositionÂ expressed and some others involved in some way.'
Pragmatic language assessment
Assessment is a necessary ï¬rst step in the management of any communication disorder.Clinicians have long recognised that formal tools, such as those used to assess structuralaspects of language (i.e. syntax, semantics), are particularly poorly suited to an assessmentof pragmatic language skills. Although such tools exist for the assessment of pragmatics, most clinical and research eï¬€ort has been directed towards the development of infor-mal methods of assessment. These methods include a diverse array of techniques, rangingfrom conversation analysis and narrative assessment to the use of communication check-lists and pragmatics proï¬les. Each assessment tool, it is argued, can be used to identify pragmaticÂ impairments.
For a behaviour to be genuinely pragmatic in nature, it is not the mere fact that anindividual's intent has been communicated that is important. Rather, it is that that intentis being revealed, often indirectly,through the language usedÂ (equally, from the viewpointof the listener, that the speaker's intent is capable of being recovered through a process ofÂ reasoningÂ thatoriginates in language).
The following are two cases of different etiologies, one of a severe aphasic person and the other of a language-deprived adult, such as to outline the importance of pragmatics as a vital part of social interaction and communication and the pragmatic competence in the virtual absence of verbal language.
Case 1: Severe Aphasia
Patient X who had a normal life, worked as a Navy Officer for many years, and had good education and English as his native language at one point in time suffered from cerebral artery infarction which left him with dysarthria, apraxia of speech and severe Broca's aphasia. X's speech was very poor, but had single word and simple sentence understanding. His writing was too limited too his full name and samples, and reading severely impaired. Also, his speech acts is reduced greatly resulting in the partner having to carry the conversation.
However X's non verbal aspects are perfectly normal - using gestures, facial expressions, and intonational variations in his utterances to respond, assert, disagree and comment. To maintain a conversation he uses these facial expressions, intonations and by nodding and using gestures. Altough it is difficult for X to initiate and change a particular topic he has excellent pragmatic abilities and by using turn taking, stylistic variations and non verbal skills he remains part of the conversation.
Case 2: Language - Deprived
Patient Y was born with a severe sensori-neural hearing loss but was misdiagnosed as mentally retarded during her childhood. Her mother knew her to be deaf, so she raised her at home with her sisters. She learned to cook and several other things and even helped her mother to raise her young sisters. Y was then denied school education and even entry to a school for the deaf until she was an adult, when a social worker realized her situation and referred her to a speech therapist and neurologist.
Y then began an intensive program of oral and signed language instruction as well as education in math and other subjects. She has developed quite normal pragmatic abilities: a variety of speech acts; responding and commenting; and initiating questions. Y also nods and gestures appropriately, awaits her turn and also adjusts her speech by using normal intensity, vocal quality and rate. She makes use of physical contact, body posture, facial expressions and eye gaze in a