Language in Use
 Introduction
 Context
 Deixis, reference, anaphora
 Speech Acts
 Cooperative principle in conversations
 Politeness
To know what is pragmatics and its main
To have a general idea about context and the
notions of deixis, reference and anaphora;
To understand the Speech Act theory, the
Cooperative Principles in Conversation and
Politeness Principles in Conversation.
Definition of Pragmatics
 The study of language in use.
 The study of meaning in context.
 The study of speakers’ meaning,
utterance meaning,
& contextual meaning.
 Pragmatics is the study of how speakers of a
language use sentences to effect successful
communication. It studies the following topics:
deixis (指示功能), speech acts, indirect language,
conversation, politeness, cross-cultural
communication, and presupposition. (Dai & He,
2002: 84)
 Pragmatics is the study of speaker meaning,
contextual meaning, how more gets
communicated than is said, the expression
of relative distance. (Yule, 2000, p. 3)
What’s the differences between
Semantics and Pragmatics?
The origin
Context considered
Context unconsidered
Traditional semantics
Think over: Meaning’s meaning
 He meant to write.
 A green light means go.
 Health means everything.
 What’s the meaning of life?
 What does it mean to you?
 What does ‘ghost’ mean?
 Intended
 Indicate
 has importance
 Point
 Convey
 refer to in the world
 Semanticists take meaning to be an
inherent property of language, pragmatics
regard meaning as something that is
realized in the course of communication.
Pragmatics is concerned with the interpretation of
linguistic meaning in context. It is the study of how
speakers of a language use sentences to effect successful
A: I have a fourteen-year-old son.
B: Well, that’s all right
A: I also have a dog.
B: Oh, I’m sorry.
Pragmatics is different from
traditional semantics in that
it studies meaning not in
isolation but in context.
Sentence meaning vs.
Utterance meaning
Today is Sunday.
It can be
1. an answer for “what day is it today?”
2. statement
3. complaint
4. reminder
5. criticism (reproach)
 Linguistic knowledge
Knowledge of the language they use
Knowledge of what has been said before
 Extra-linguistic knowledge
Knowledge about the world in general
Knowledge about the specific situation
Knowledge about each other
Context & language use
 Context determines the hearer’s interpretation of
what is said to him.
 Context governs the speaker’s use of language.
 Q: Any examples?
Sentence meaning vs.
utterance meaning
 Sentence: abstract units of the language system.
 Utterance: units of language in use.
 Utterance: if we think of a sentence as what people
actually utter in the course of communication, it
becomes an utterance.
Sentence meaning
 What does X mean?
 Sentence: a grammatical concept, abstract,
self-contained unit in isolation from context
 Sentence meaning: abstract, intrinsic
property, decontexualized
Utterance meaning
 What do you mean by X?
 Utterance: sth. a speaker utters in a certain
situation with a certain purpose
 Utterance meaning: concrete, context-dependent
 Speakers’ meaning
Speaker’s meaning
(A father is trying to get his 3-year-old
daughter to stop lifting up her dress to
display her new underwear to the assemble.)
 Father:
We don’t DO that.
 Daughter: I KNOW, Daddy.
You don’t WEAR dresses.
1. A: Are you going to the seminar?
B: It’s on linguistics.
2. A: Would you like some coffee?
B: Coffee would keep me awake.
3. A: 我带的钱不够,今天买不了。
B: 那就下次再买吧。
Deixis, reference, anaphora
 Person deixis: me, you, him, them
 Place deixis: here, there, yonder
 Time deixis: now, then, tonight, last week
Deixis, reference, anaphora
 Reference is defined as an act by which a
speaker/writer uses language to enable a
listener/reader to identify something.
 An inference is any additional information
used by the listener to connect what is said to
what must be meant.
Deixis, reference, anaphora
 When we establish a referent (Can I borrow your book?)
and subsequently refer to the same object (Yeah, it’s on
the table), we have a particular kind of referential
relationship between book and it. The second (and any
subsequent) referring expression is an example of
anaphora and the first mention is called the antecedent.
Thus, book is the antecedent and it is the anaphoric
Speech act theory
Speech act theory: a philosophical
explanation of the nature of linguistic
communication. It aims to answer this
question: “What do we do when using
Speech Act Theory
 John Austin (1911-1960)
 How to Do Things with Words
 speech acts: actions performed
via utterances
Speech Acts
 Speech act theory originated with
the British philosopher
Austin in the late 50’s.
 According to this theory, we are
performing various kinds of acts
when we are speaking.
Constatives vs. performatives
 Austin made the primary distinction between two
types of utterances: constative and performative.
 Constatives: utterances which roughly serves to
state a fact, report that something is the case, or
describe what something is.
 The constative utterance is verifiable and it is
either true or false.
I teach English.
I go to the park
every day.
 Utterances which are used to perform acts, do not
describe or report anything at all; the uttering of
the sentence is the doing of an action.
 The performative utterance is used to perform an
action, so it has no truth value.
Features of performatives
 The first person singular
 Speech act verbs / performative verbs
 The present tense
 Indicative mood
 Active voice
“I do.”
as uttered in the course of a
marriage ceremony.
I name this ship Elizabeth.
---as uttered when smashing the
bottle against the stern.
“ I give and bequeath my
watch to my brother.”
--- as occurring in a will.
“ I bet you sixpence it
will rain tomorrow.”
--- as uttered when
making a bet.
Austin’s model of speech acts
A locutionary act is the act of uttering
words,phrases,clauses. It is the act of
conveying literal meaning by means of
syntax,lexicon and phonology.
An illocutionary act is the act of expressing
the speaker's intention;it is the act
performed in saying something.
An illocutionary act
In saying X, I was doing Y.
In saying “I will come tomorrow”, I was
making a promise.
 Illocutionary force
A perlocutionary act is the act performed
by or resulting from saying something;it
is the consequence of,or the change
brought about by the utterance:it is the
act performed by saying something.
A perlocutionary act
 By saying X and doing Y, I did Z.
 By saying “I will come tomorrow” and making
a promise, I reassure my friends.
Searle’s classification of speech acts
Searle also made his contribution to the study of
illocutionary speech acts. He specified five types of
illocutionary speech acts:
1) Representative
2) Directive
3) Commissive
4) Expressive
5) Declaration
1. representatives:
 stating or describing, saying what the speaker
believes to be true.
 assert, state, swear, guess, deny, inform, notify, etc
I guess that he has come.
I think that the film is moving.
I am certain that he has come.
Directives are attempts by the speaker to get
the hearer to do something.
Request, advise, order, urge, tell, etc
Open the door!
Don’t you think it’s
a bit stuffy here?
Commissives are those illocutionary acts
whose point is to commit the speaker to some
future course of action. When speaking, the
speaker puts himself under obligation.
I promise to
love you!
Commit, promise, threaten, pledge, etc
The illocutionary point of expressives to to
express the psychological state specified in the
propositional content such as apologizing,
thanking, congratulating,welcoming etc.
It’s very
nice of you!
Apologize, thank, congratulate, greet, etc.
The point of this declaration is to bringing
about immediate changes by saying sth.
I declare
the meeting
I appoint you
chairman of
Declare, appoint, nominate, name, etc.
I fire you!
Searle’s indirect speech act
Did you eat the food?
Eat the food (please)
You eat the food
Can you pass me the salt?
You left the door open.
Searle’s indirect speech act theory
 When a form such as Did he…?, Are they…? is used
to ask a question, it is described as a direct speech act.
 But the utterance Can you pass the salt? is different.
In this example, you would not usually understand the
utterance as a question about your ability to do
something. In fact, you would not treat it as a question
at all. You would treat it as a request and perform the
action requested. Yet, this request has been presented
in the syntactic form usually associated with a
question. Such an example is described as an indirect
speech act.
Principles of Conversation
The co-operative principle
Conversational Implicature
 People do not usually say things directly but tend to
imply them.
 Herbert Paul Grice (1913-1988)
 William James lectures at Harvard in 1967
 Logic and Conversation in 1975
 Grice’s theory Logic and Conversation is
an attempt at explaining how a hearer gets from
what is said to what is meant, from the level of
expressed meaning to the level of implied
The Cooperative Principle (CP)
In making conversation, Grice holds that there is a
general principle which all participants are expected
to observe.
 Make your conversational contribution such as
required at the stage at which it occurs by the
accepted purpose or direction of the talk exchange in
which you are engaged.
The maxim of quantity
1. Make your contribution as informative as
required (for the current purpose of the
2. Do not make your contribution more
informative than is required.
The maxim of quality
1. Do not say what you believe to be false.
2. Do not say that for which you lack
adequate evidence.
The maxim of relation
Be relevant.
The maxim of manner
1. Avoid obscurity of expression.
2. Avoid ambiguity.
3. Be brief.
4. Be orderly.
 CP is meant to describe what actually happens
in conversation.
 People tend to be cooperative and obey CP in
 When we violate these maxims, in some
situations, conversational implicature will
Violation of the maxims (Quantity)
 Make your contribution as informative as is
A: 昨天上街买了些什么?
B: 就买了些东西。
> I don’t want to tell you what I bought.
Dear Sir,
Mr. X’s command of English is excellent, and his
attendance at tutorials has been regular.
> Mr. X is not suitable for the job.
 Do not make your contribution more informative
than is required.
How did Jimmy do his history exam?
Mother: Oh, not at all well. Teachers asked
him things that happened before the
poor boy was born.
> Her son should not be blamed.
Violation of the maxims (Quality)
 Do not say what you believe to be false.
 You are the cream in my coffee.
 X runs as fast as a deer.
 He is made of iron.
 Do not say that for which you lack adequate evidence.
A: Beirut is in Peru, isn’t it?
B: And Rome is in Romania, I suppose.
> It’s ridiculous.
Violation of the maxims (Relation)
 Be relevant.
A: Prof. Wang is an old bag.
B: Nice weather for the time of year.
> I don’t want to talk about Prof. Wang.
Violation of the maxims (Manner)
 Avoid obscurity of expression
A: Let’s get the kids something.
B: Ok, but I veto C-H-O-C-O-L-A-T-E.
> Don’t give them chocolate.
 Avoid ambiguity
A: Name and title, please?
B: John Smith, Associate Editor and professor.
 Be brief
A: Did you get my assignment?
B: I received two pages clipped together and covered
with rows of black squiggles.
> not satisfied.
 A: When is Susan’s farewell party?
B: Sometime next month.
— (flouting the maxim of quantity)
A: Would you like to join us for the picnic on Sunday?
B: I’m afraid I have got a class on Sunday.
— (flouting the maxim of quality)
 A: How did the math exam go today, Jonnie?
B: We had a basketball match with the other class and we
beat them.
— (flouting the maxim of relation)
 A: Shall we get something for the kids?
B: Yes. But I veto I-C-E-C-R-E-A-M.
— (flouting the maxim of manner)
What about the following ones?
A: Do you know where Mr. X lives?
B: Somewhere in the southern suburbs of
the city.
(said when it is known to both A and B that
B has Mr. X’s address.)
Would you like to come to
our party tonight?
I’m afraid I’m not
feeling so well today.
Characteristics of implicature
 Cancellability/ defeasibility: If the linguistic or
situational contexts changes, the implicature will
also change.
A: Do you want some coffee?
B: Coffee would keep me awake.
 I do not like coffee.
B: Coffee would keep me awake. I want to stay up.
Non-detachability: implicature is attached to the
semantic content of what is said, not to the
linguistic form; implicatures do not vanish if the
words of an utterance are changed for synonyms.
A: Shall we go to the cinema tonight?
B: There’ll be an exam tomorrow.
I’ll take an exam tomorrow.
Isn’t there an exam tomorrow?
 Non-conventionality: implicature is different from its
conventional meaning of words. It is context-dependent. It
varies with context.
A3: 足球场安装了一个新门柱。
 Calculability: hearers work out implicature based on
conventional meaning, CP and its maxims, context, etc.