In The Area Of Pragmatics English Language Essay

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The study of the factors that govern our choice of language the sounds, constructions, words in social interaction, and the effects of our choice upon others. The subject includes the analysis of what it means to be appropriate and co-operative in our speaking behaviour, and thus it begins to explain what is involved when we use language to convey politeness, intimacy, playfulness, rudeness, awkwardness, and a range of other social attitudes. (p. 48).

From this definition one can conclude that pragmatics is an important part of language as without it language would just be an infinite string of words. In this essay various aspects of pragmatics shall be analysed. If all or one of these aspects are impaired or there is a failure in any one of them it is as harmful as having a speech or language impairment as there would be limited social use to language. The various aspects which shall be discussed are speech acts, deixis, politeness theory, Grice's maxims, communicative intent, non-verbal communication, discourse analysis and presupposition and implicature.

Speech Acts

The speech act according to Austin (as cited by Rae and Leinonen, 1992.) is making use of language in order to make descriptions of the world one lives in, to start and end conversations and to express our emotions. Speech acts can either be statements or performatives where performatives do not just simply give a description of an occurrence. Austin went on to define 3 acts which form the speech act as a whole. These are:

The Locutionary Act: production of words

The Illocutionary Act: the function of the utterance and can be also called performative act as it takes into account apologising, informing etc.

The Perlocutionary Act: the effect the utterance has on the listener.

If there is failure or impairment in the speech act this would have severe consequences as severe as having a speech or language impairment. This is due to the fact that if the person cannot state things in the right way or carry out one or any of the three acts which make up the speech act, then the person would not produce an utterance in the way that he wants to or which is required in the particular conversation which is definitely frustrating for everyone participating in the conversation. Thus failure in this particular area of pragmatics is as detrimental as having a not being able to generate the adequate speech or language.

Discourse and Discourse Analysis

Rae and Leinonen (1992) out lined various kinds of discourse which portray language use in many different contexts such as informal discourse, formal discourse, legal discourse amongst others. They then continued to define discourse analysis as being the study of language use and of the form and traits which make up discourse as viewed from a general and specific discourse types.

Discourse is made up of seven criteria and these were identified by Beaugrande, 1981 and these are cohesion, coherence, intentionality, acceptability, informativeness, situationality and intertextuality. Cohesion is required for accurate interpretation of an utterance and consists of the grammatical elements of an utterance. Coherence is making sure that there are the correct links between utterances so that utterances are meaningful. Intentionality obviously takes into account communicative intent. Acceptability is making sure that utterances are plausible to the listeners. Informativeness is based on Grice's Co-Operative Principle which was discussed above. Situationality helps the listener understand the unspoken parts of the utterance and finally Intertextuality is when reference is made to a concept outside the listener's schemata. (Agius K, 2012)

Discourse and discourse analysis are two other important parts of pragmatics which one must have a full and unimpaired knowledge of. Impairment can be in fact very damaging as it can cause for sentences to be unlinked, an error in the grammatical aspect of language, there might be lack of intention in communication, lack of plausibility and informativeness, the speaker would not be able to read between the lines of utterances and would be unable to link other knowledge of the world which are not part of the conversation. Through the analysis of these various aspects which make up pragmatics one can see that any kind of malfunction in any one of these areas is as terrible as having any other kind of speech and language disorder as having a conversation with a person who has any kind of pragmatic impairment would be incredibly tedious and demanding.


Deictic terms are words and/ or phrases are expressions which rely fully on the context of the utterance. It is therefore crucial that the speaker and the listener have the same back ground knowledge and a shared context. Deictic expressions can be either proximal which means closest to the speaker (this, here, now) or distal; that is far away from the speaker (that, there, then). Deictic expressions can be of various types: person deixis, time deixis and place deixis. Person deixis include first and second person pronouns and they are always context dependant. Person deixis also takes into account demonstrative articles and these are dependent on the roles adopted both by the speaker and the listener. Deictic expressions involving time are dependent on when the utterance was said and tenses show this type of deixis. Place deixis relies on the context and on where the particular utterance took place. (Agius K, 2012)

It is crucial that a person has fully developed knowledge of deictic terms and that this knowledge is not impaired in any way. If any kind impairment arises in this area of pragmatics there can be massive mis-understandings in conversations as people, time or place would not be referred to correctly and this is especially confusing for the listener. If there is a kind of impairment where deictic terms are over used or used in-correctly for instance saying this/that without using gestures. Thus one can conclude that inadequate usage of deictic expressions is as damaging and as harmful as having a speech and language difficulty.

Intention in Communication and Grice's Co-Operative Principle

In order to fully understand intention in communication, one must answer the question why do we communicate? One of the most fundamental answers to this question is the fact that people communicate in order to express and fulfil their needs. But even this isn't the most basic answer as to why one communicates. In a person's daily life others around him/her would simply expect the person to communicate and rightly so. Whether one communicates to express one's needs or simply because that's what is expected, through any type of communication the speaker intends to express a particular meaning. Communication is affirmed when the speaker's meaning is understood by the listener. In communication it is also the case that speakers want to convey their intended meaning over the listeners'. (Rae and Leinonen, 1992)

Grice' co-operative principle (as cited by Rae and Leinonen, 1992) is the basis for communication and is made up of four maxims:

The Maxim of Quantity: speakers give the adequate amount of information required

The Maxim of Quality: speakers try their best to give correct information

The Maxim of Relation: what speakers say must be relevant to the particular conversation

The Maxim of Manner: speakers don't stay beating about the bush when they are trying to convey a message.

Failure in the area of communicative intent can also be considered as being an impairment as the speaker would be frustrated as s/he would not be able to communicate his/her needs effectively this is also discouraging for the listeners and other communicative partners the speaker might not be able to communicate what is expected of him/ her. If there is confusion in Grice's maxims this is also damaging as too little might be said for example. Although these things might seem to be mild when compared to other language disorders, however they could be and probably are very frustrating when trying to have a conversation with someone who has a pragmatic impairment.

Nonverbal Communication

I believe that it is important to look at this kind of communication when talking about pragmatics and even more importantly when considering pragmatic impairment.

Politeness Theory

A certain amount of politeness is required in every conversation but this varies according to who the speakers and the listeners are. The two types of politeness theories which shall be discussed are the one proposed by Brown and Levinson in 1987 and Goffman's "Face Theory" which was proposed in 1967. Brown and Levinson identified four strategies for politeness. The first is Bald on Record where the utterances said may disconcert the listener and the conversational partners usually have a close rapport to each other since the utterance is said in such an informal manner. The second strategy is Off Record- Indirect strategy. In this kind of strategy indirect speech is used and so there is less chance of imposition on the listener. Next are Positive Politeness Strategies: here the speaker sort of euphemises what s/he wants to say so as to avoid hurting the listener's feelings perhaps. Finally in Negative Politeness strategies the speaker restrains him/herself and uses a lot of indirectness. In order to fully understand Goffman's Face Theory one needs to be aware of the meaning of face which is the kind of image we want others to see us with. Face- threatening acts could taint that image and this is where politeness comes due to politeness face-threatening acts are avoided. (Agius K, 2012)

To further broaden our definition of face Roberts (1992) asserted that positive face is that one's own wants are desired by other people while negative face is the need not to be inflicted upon and free from any diversions.

This area of pragmatics is another essential one as a certain degree of politeness is required in any conversation even with a close friend. It is important that everyone has an unimpaired knowledge of the politeness theory as if it fails there would be certain awkwardness perhaps during a conversation or the listener might feel that his face is being threatened which is certainly not pleasant. Therefore a pragmatic impairment of this kind is certainly as awful as having a speech or language impairment.