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Non Observance Of Grices Maxims

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Language
Wordcount: 2597 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Grice pointed out that not all people observe the maxims, when the speaker fails to observe the maxims, this means that there is a distinction between what the speaker says and what he means, in other words, an implicature arises as a result of non-observance of the maxims, and the implicature here plays a great role to get the intended meaning of the speaker’s utterance.

Grice distinguished five types by which the speaker fails to observe a maxim; they are flouting, violating, Infringing, opting out, and suspending.

1. Flouting a Maxim

The speaker blatantly fails to observe a maxim in which he has no intention of deceiving or misleading. The speaker wishes to raise the hearer’s attention to the implicit meaning which is different from, or in addition to, the expressed meaning. According to Grice this additional meaning is called “Conversational implicature” and the way by which such implicature is generated is called “flouting a Maxim” (Grice, 1975:71).If the addressor and the addressee have shared the same background knowledge, the knowledge of interpretation is not the roles of linguistic forms but the knowledge of the world, then the implicature will accomplish (Couthared, 1987:8).

1.1 Flouting the maxim of quantity

When the speaker blatantly gives more or less information that the situation requires, the speaker usually flouts this maxim because s/he uses insufficient words in conversation. In other words, the speaker gives incomplete words when s/he is speaking (Leech, 1983:140).

For example: Women are women

This utterance from the level of what is said is non informative, but it is informative at the level of what is implicated, and the hearer’s intention to such utterance depends on the ability to explain the speaker’s selection of this particular speech. The functions of flouting the quantity maxim are: Irony, Metaphor, Meiosis, Hyperbole, etc. (Grice, 1975:52- 53).

1.2 Flouting the maxim of quality

In order not to get some punishments from addressee, addressor intends to say something untrue or lies and denies something. The speaker misrepresents his information in order to make the hearer understand the intended meaning of an utterance (Levinson, 1983:110).

Example: Someone says to X’s wife, She is deceiving him this evening.

From the context of the sentence, or from the tone or voice, it seems to be that the speaker has no adequate reason for supposing this to be the case, or possibly that she is the sort of person who would not stop short of such conduct (Grice, 1975:53-54).

1.3 Flouting the Maxim of relation

The participant flouts this maxim in such a way makes the conversation unmatched, the participants’ topics are spoken in different ways; in this case the participant will change the topic by means of irrelevance topic of the partner of the conversation (Levinson, 1983:111).

Example: A: Mrs. X is an old bag

B: The weather has been quite delightful this summer, hasn’t it?

B has blatantly refused to make what he says relevant to A’s preceding remark. He implicated that A’s remark should not to be discussed; more specifically perhaps, A has committed a social gate (Grice, 1975:54).

1.4 Flouting the maxim of manner

When the speaker says ambiguous language or uses another language which makes the utterance incomprehensible by addressee, this is the case of flouting the maxim of manner. Moreover, if the addressor uses slang or his voice is not loud enough s/he will flouts this maxim (Levinson, 1983:104).

An example was given by Thomas (1995:71):

Interviewer: Did the United States Government play any part in Duvalier’s Departure? Did they, for example, actively encourage him to leave?

Official: I would not try to steer you away from that conclusion.

In the above example the official response is extremely long and convoluted and it is obviously no accident, nor through any inability to speak clearly, therefore, he has failed to observe the maxim of manner. The official has replied ‘Yes’.

2. Violating the maxims

According to Grice (1975:49) the speaker violates a maxim when s/he will be liable to mislead the hearer to have such implicature. The speaker deliberately tries to make his utterance overt or to be noticed. This makes the hearer infers an implicature(Murray,2007).In the real life situations, many people tend to tell untruth and break the maxims of Grice’s cooperative principle when they communicate, they even do multiple violations for lying purposes(Gice,1975:45).

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People in real life tend to tell lies for different reasons: hide the truth, save face, feel jealous, satisfying the hearer, cheer the hearer, building one’s belief, avoid hurting the hearer, and convincing the hearer. They believe that a lying is the natural tool to survive and to avoid them from anything that may put them in an inappropriate condition (Tupan & Natalia, 2008:64-66).

The talk of the non-observance of the four maxims is the same whether these maxims located in flouting, violating, and other non-observance, but the difference is in the kind of non-observance, therefore, in the following, the examples will be adequate to illustrate how speaker violates a maxim.

2.1 Violating the maxim of quantity

The following example is a conversation between two friends John and Mike:

John: Where have you been? I searched everywhere for you during the past three months!

Mike: I wasn’t around. So, what’s the big deal?

John poses a question, which he needs to be answered by Mike. What Mike says in return does not lack the truth, however is still insufficient. This can be due to the fact that Mike prefers to refrain from providing John with the answer. John’s sentence implies that Mike has not been around otherwise, he did not have to search everywhere. John does not say as much as it is necessary to make his contribution cooperative. Therefore, John violated quantity maxim (Khosravizadeh & Sadehvandi, 2011:123).

2.2 Violating the maxim of quality

The following example is a conversation between mother and her son:

Mother: Did you study all day long?

Son who has been playing all day long: I’ve been studying till know!

In this conversation, the boy is not truthful and he violates the maxim of quality. He lied to avoid unpleasant consequences such as, punishment or to be forced to study for the rest of the day (Ibid: 122-123).

2.3 Violating the maxim of relation

The following is an example of conversation between a teacher and one of his students;

Teacher: Why didn’t you do your homework?

Student: May I go and get some water? I’m so thirsty.

In this example the student’s answer is by no means irrelevant to the teacher’s question. One reason for this answer can be the fact that the student is trying to evade the interrogation posed by the teacher (Ibid: 123).

2.4 Violating the maxim of manner

The following is an example of conversation between two friends Sara and Anna:

Sara: Did you enjoy the party last night?

Anna: There was plenty of oriental food on the table, lots of flowers all over the place, people hanging around chatting with each other…

Sara asked a very simple question, however what she receives from Anna is a protracted description of what was going on in the party. Two interpretations can be made from Anna’s description: 1.Anna had such a good time and2. She does not know how to complain about it. Anna is ambiguous; therefore, she violated the maxim of manner (Ibid: 123).

3. Infringing the maxims

When the speaker has an imperfect knowledge or performance of language, the speaker here infringes the maxims like a young child or a learner of foreign language who has imperfect command of the language. Furthermore; nervousness, darkness, excitement may make impairment of the speaker’s performance, in these cases s/he does the infringement (Thomas, 1995:74).Sometimes speaker infringes the maxims because he is incapable to speak clearly, he does not know the culture or he has not enough knowledge of language.

For example: Someone learning English as a second language speaks to a native speaker.

English speaker: Would you like ham or salad on your sandwich?

Non-English speaker: “Yes”

The implicature has not been generated by interlocutor; s/he has not understood the utterance. The answer might be interpreted as non-operative; this is a case of different social knowledge which implied a different implicature (Dornerus, 2006:7).

The difference between violating and infringing located in the fact of speaker’s intention; in violating the speaker is liable to mislead the hearer, whereas in infringing the speaker unintentionally fails to observe a maxim. Violating is a kind of misleading the hearer to get implicatures, the speaker here intends to mislead in order to save face or avoid hurting the audiences. Infringement occurs when a speaker fails to observe the maxim because he has no perfect knowledge to communicate.

4. Opting out the maxims

When the speaker opts out from the maxim, s/he seems unwilling to cooperate in the way the maxim requires (Grice, 1975:71). Moreover, Thomas (1995:74) said that the “example of opting out occurs frequently in public life, when the speaker cannot, perhaps for legal or ethical reason, reply in the way normally expected. The speaker usually wishes to avoid generating a false implicature or appearing uncooperative”. Thomas also stated that giving the requested information might hurt a third party or put them in danger.

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For example: If a doctor or a nurse, who has complete confidentiality regarding his/her patients, is asked by the police or the press to reveal something about the patient that s/he is treating, he /she will reply:

A: I am sorry but can’t tell you anything.

The doctor or nurse opted out maxim when s/he prevented from answering; the doctor seems to be unwilling to cooperate, due to the procedures of the hospital or for the sake of secret information or something else. (Dornerus, 2006:7).

5. Suspending the Maxims

If there is no expectation on the part of any participant that the maxims will be fulfilled (hence the non-fulfillment does not generate any implicatures), the speakers do not observe the maxims. It may be culturally-specific to a particular event. The suspending of the maxim of quality can be found in funeral orations and obituaries, when the description of the deceased needs to be praiseworthy and exclude any potentially unfavorable aspects of their life or personality. Poetry suspends the manner maxim since it does not aim for conciseness, clarity and lack of ambiguity. In the case of telegrams, telexes and some international phone calls quantity maxim will be suspended because such means are functional owing to their very brevity .It is difficult to find any persuasive examples in which the maxim of relation is suspended (Thomas, 1995:76-78).

2. Methodology

2.1 Research questions

Grice in 1975 developed the idea of cooperative principle; he has claimed that the speakers should observe the maxims to achieve the aim of communication. The study aims to analyze English proverbs from the perspective of cooperative principle. This study intends to answer the following three questions:

1. Are the English proverbs constructed by observance or non-observance of Grice’s maxims?

2. Which maxim failed to be observed more than others, and why?

3. Which kind of non-observance is used to construct English proverbs more than others, and why?

2.2 Data collection

There are various sources of English proverbs and there are thousands of English proverbs around the world, these sources can not be absorbed in this thesis, therefore, The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs will be the only approved source for this study. This dictionary edited by John Simpson and Jennifer Speake in 1998. This invaluable work of reference provides over 1000 of the best known English proverbs from around the world and commonly used in 20th century Britain. Proverbs in this dictionary arranged alphabetically by the first significant word, each one includes illustrative quotations, beginning with the earliest known use. The choice of proverbs in English language to be a data in this study is based on several reasons: firstly, English is a native language for people in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia. Secondly, English became the second language in many countries around the world. Thirdly, English language is taught as a foreign language in the universities, primary and secondary schools in most countries in Asia, Africa. English become a language of communication in broadcast, diplomacy working, and journalism. The dirty proverbs (if found) will be excluded from the study.

2.3 Research procedures

This thesis is an investigation of English proverbs based on the theory of the Cooperative Principle; the non-observance of Grice’s maxims will be a framework to analyze the collected data. Qualitative and quantitative approaches will be adopted in this study. Qualitative study will be done to explore the observance and non-observance of Grice’s maxims. Quantitative study will be used to measure the frequency of observance and non-observance laid in the English proverbs and to promote the results.

3. Results and Discussion

The following are one hundred of English proverbs chosen to illustrate the procedures followed in this study. The data will classify into groups according to the significant words shared by each group. Both qualitative and quantitative study will adopt:

3.1 The result of quantitative study

The quantitative study reveals that the most of groups of English proverbs do not observe the Grice’s maxims (non-observance), the study shows that 87% of proverbs are flouted, except 13% observed Grice’s maxims. They are as follows:

The maxim of quality is flouted (40) times, and gains 40%

The maxim of manner is flouted (32) times, and gains 32%

The maxim of quantity is flouted (15%) time, and gains 15%

The result showed no flouting in the maxim of relation.

The result shows that flouting is the only kind of non-observance that used to construct English proverbs it gains 87% from the total of proverbs, the results reveals that the maxim of quality gains a high percentage of flouting it gains 40% this percentage shows that the non-observance of these maxims is contributes in creating the function of proverbs. The maxim of manner gains the second percentage 32%, the lowest percentage of flouting is gains 15% which break the maxim of quantity. The observance of Grice’s maxim gains the lowest percentage 13% which states that a few numbers of English proverbs can achieve the function of proverbs. The following table shows the details of frequencies and percentages of English proverbs for each group:


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