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Neo Griceans. RECAP Pragmatics So far in class we’ve been concerned with literal meaning. But people mean more things when they use words than just what.

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Presentation on theme: "Neo Griceans. RECAP Pragmatics So far in class we’ve been concerned with literal meaning. But people mean more things when they use words than just what."— Presentation transcript:

1 Neo Griceans


3 Pragmatics So far in class we’ve been concerned with literal meaning. But people mean more things when they use words than just what those words literally mean.

4 “Implicate” Grice introduces a new word ‘implicate’ to describe a certain phenomenon.

5 “Implicate” S1: “How is X doing in his new job at the bank?” S2: “He’s doing well, he likes his colleagues, and he hasn’t been to prison yet.” S2 implicates that S1 is troublesome and liable to steal from the bank he works for (or something like that).

6 Second Example [I write on your application to graduate school]: “She has very good handwriting.” This is a phenomenon often called “damning by faint praise.” I implicate that you’re not a good philosopher, because although I praise you in the letter, I don’t praise you high enough, or on your relevant abilities.

7 Implicature Implicature is something that a speaker does, not something that a sentence does. What a speaker implicates is different from what s/he says. Implicatures are also not what the hearer learns, beyond the literal meaning, from what the speaker says.

8 H.P. Grice Grice’s investigation is going to be to find out how speakers implicate what they do. That’s what we’re going to do too.

9 Literal Meaning The literal meaning of a sentence is along the lines of its normal, dictionary-definition meaning. “I said she had good handwriting. I didn’t literally say that she was a bad philosopher.”

10 What Is Said Grice says that what a speaker says is closely related to what the literal meaning of the sentences the speaker utters.

11 What Is Said However, what a speaker says is not equivalent to the literal meaning of her utterance. We also must take into account the contributions of: (a) Resolutions of anaphora (b) The context of the utterance (c) Resolutions of ambiguity

12 The Cooperative Principle In conversation, we don’t merely make random or disconnected remarks. Conversations have purposes: we engage in them for reasons. The purpose of a conversation can be introduced by a question or set of questions; it can also evolve as the conversation progresses.

13 The Cooperative Principle At each point in the conversation, certain “moves” (assertions, questions, etc.) will be “unsuitable”—that is, at odds with the purpose of the conversation.

14 The Cooperative Principle “Make your conversational contribution such as is required, at the stage at which it occurs, by the accepted purpose or direction of the talk exchange in which you are engaged.”

15 Categories of Maxims The Cooperative Principle, according to Grice, gives rise to four categories of maxims (rules), that must be obeyed if conversation is to proceed cooperatively: the categories Quantity Quality Relation Manner

16 Category of Quantity Maxims Maxim 1: “Make your contribution as informative as is required (for the current purposes of the exchange).” Maxim 2: “Do not make your contribution more than is required.”

17 Category of Quality Maxims Supermaxim (includes the others): “Try to make your contribution one that is true.” Maxim 1: “Do not say what you believe to be false.” Maxim 2: “Do not say that for which you lack adequate evidence.”

18 Category of Relation Maxims Maxim: “Be relevant.” Difficulties with elaborating on the maxim: What are the different kinds of relevance? How does what is relevant evolve with the conversation? Why are some complete changes of topic acceptable? Etc.

19 Category of Manner Maxims Supermaxim: “Be perspicuous.” Maxim 1: “Avoid ambiguity.” Maxim 2: “Avoid obscurity of expression.” Maxim 3: “Be brief.” Maxim 4: “Be orderly.”

20 Important Note! The maxims are not moral recommendations. Grice is not telling you that you have to be truthful, or that you ought not to be obscure. The maxims are a description of how we assume other people are behaving in cooperative speech. Why that assumption is warranted is a question Grice will try to answer.

21 Why Be Cooperative? Grice suggests that being cooperative (in the way he outlines) may be a precondition for the individuals engaged in conversation to achieve the goals of the conversation (e.g. “giving and receiving information, influencing and being influenced by others”).


23 Ways to Fail to Fulfill a Maxim #1 Someone can simply violate a maxim. She can say something underinformative, something she believes to be false, something irrelevant, or something ambiguous.

24 Opting Out “I’m sorry, I can’t give you that information” (opting out of Quantity) “Here’s what I think, but I admit I’ve got no evidence for it.” (opting out of Quantity) “On a completely unrelated matter…” (opting out of Relation) When one filibusters, one has typically opted out of Manner.

25 Maxim Clash Suppose you are asked “How many children does John have?” You know that he has more than one, but not exactly how many he has. You could say: (ii) “More than one” (fulfilling Quality, but not Quantity) (iii) “Exactly three” (fulfilling Quantity, but not Quality)

26 Flouting To flout a maxim is to blatantly fail to fulfill it. (a) Lying is typically a case of violating Quality (it’s not obvious one is lying) (b) Overstatement is typically a case of flouting Quality (it is obvious that what one is saying is false) Flouting, Grice will argue, gives rise to conversational implicatures. This he calls ‘exploiting’ maxims.


28 The Standard Case Speaker S, in saying that p, implicates that q, if and only if: 1.It is common knowledge, among all parties in the conversation, that S is following the Cooperative Principle. 2.It is common knowledge, among all parties in the conversation, that unless q were true, S would not be following the Cooperative Principle.

29 The Standard Case Hearer H reasons: “S said that p; unless q were true, S would be uncooperative in saying that p; but S is cooperative; therefore he is implicating that q.”

30 Standard Example, Relevance S1: “I’m out of gas” S2: “There’s a gas station around the corner.” All S2 literally said was that there was a gas station around the corner. This is consistent with the gas station being closed.

31 Relevance But, if S2 believes the gas station to be closed, his utterance would violate the cooperative principle (it would be irrelevant, in the context, because the purpose of the conversation is to resolve S1’s gas worries).

32 Relevance S1 assumes that S2 is being cooperative (why else has he stopped to help?) and thus concludes that S2 must believe, and intend to get S1 to believe, that the gas station around the corner is open.

33 Cancelability An implicature is said to be cancelable if you can deny the implicature right after saying something that seems to implicate it.

34 Cancelability [Suppose again you’re applying to be a professor of philosophy and I write on your recommendation:] “She has good handwriting—and in addition, she’s a great philosopher.”

35 Detachability An implicature is detachable if you can rephrase what you just said in such a way that the new sentence has the same literal meaning, but doesn’t have the implicature.

36 Detachability For instance, in the handwriting case, the implicature is NOT detachable: “She has good handwriting” “Her handwriting is good” “I’m impressed by her handwriting” etc.

37 Conversational Implicatures Conversational implicatures are all cancelable, but not detachable.

38 Standard Example, Relevance S1: “I’m out of gas” S2: “There’s a gas station around the corner– but I’m afraid it’s not open.”

39 Standard Example, Quantity S1: “How many children does Sally have?” S2: “Two.” What S2 literally said, in context, was that Sally had two children. This is consistent with Sally having exactly five children, because if you have five children then you have two. (Compare: “Do you have two dollars?” does not mean: “Do you have neither more nor less than two dollars?”)

40 Quantity But, if S2 believed Sally to have more than two children, his utterance would violate the cooperative principle (it would not give all of the information requested, thus violating the first maxim of quantity).

41 Quantity S1 assumes that S2 is being cooperative (why else has he bothered to answer?) and thus concludes that S2 must believe, and intend to get S1 to believe, that Sally has no more than two children.

42 Scales Numbers: 1 < 2 < 3… Quantifiers: some < many < most < all Frequency: sometimes < often < usually < always Likelihood: possible < likely < certain Obligatoriness: permitted < expected < required Logical Operators: or < and Temperature: lukewarm < warm < hot Goodness: OK < good < excellent

43 High Compatible with Low S1: “Do you have 2 dollars?” S2: “Yes, I have 100 dollars.” S1: “Did many of the students pass the exam?” S2: “Yes, all of the students passed.” S1: “Did you have an OK summer?” S2: “Yes, I had an excellent summer.”

44 Low Implicates Not-High “John has 2 kids” → “John doesn’t have 3 kids or more” “Some students failed the exam” → “Not all the students failed the exam” “The mail usually comes on time” → “The mail doesn’t always come on time” “It’s possible that 7/11 has champagne” → “It’s not likely that you can get champagne at 7/11” “You’re permitted to leave” → “You’re not required to leave, you can stay” “You can have tea or cake” → “You can’t have tea and cake”

45 Scalar Implicatures These implicatures all follow from the Quantity maxims. Since speakers are required to say as much as they can (that’s true and relevant), not saying the high-up thing (choosing something low) implicates that the high-up thing is false.

46 Standard Case: Relevance S1: Is John coming to the party? S2: Well, Mary isn’t coming.

47 Standard Case: Relevance “If Mary coming to the party is not evidence for whether John will come, then what S2 is irrelevant, and thus non-cooperative; but S2 is being cooperative; therefore, John’s coming to the party is connected with Mary’s coming to the party.”

48 Standard Case: Manner “Choose the fair one.”

49 “Fair” Is Ambiguous Sleeping Beauty Wicked WitchThe Beast AppearanceBeautifulUgly CharacterJustUnjustJust

50 Standard Case: Manner If the speaker is using “fair” in the sense of “just” then she is being ambiguous. Since we know she’s cooperating, she must mean “fair” in the sense of “beautiful” because there is only one beautiful person here.


52 Flouting Maxims In the standard cases, speakers don’t fail to fulfill the maxims. Implicatures are generated because the assumption that speakers are cooperative requires other things to be true, besides what the speaker says.

53 Flouting Maxims In cases of flouting maxims, speakers do fail to fulfill them, and implicatures are generated in a different way.

54 Flouting Quantity Suppose you’re selecting candidates for a philosophy job. For candidate X, you have received the following letter of recommendation: “Dear Sir, Mr. X’s command of English is excellent, and his attendance in classes has been regular. Yours truly, Professor so-and-so.”

55 Quantity You reason first that the letter writer is flouting the first maxim of quantity. He has taken the time to write the letter, so he cannot be opting out of the conversation; additionally, he must have more information, because the person for whom he is writing the letter is his student.

56 Quantity Thus, the writer must be attempting to convey more information than he has literally said. But why would he not come out and say it? Perhaps because what he has to say about the student is negative.

57 Flouting The form of a flouting inference is something like this: “The speaker is openly failing to fulfill such-and- such maxim, though I have strong reason to think the speaker wants the purpose of the conversation to succeed. The only good reason to be uncooperative, given that, would be if q. So the speaker must want me to believe q.”

58 Flouting Quality One typically flouts the maxims of quality when one engages in irony, metaphor, understatement, and hyperbole.

59 Metaphor

60 Flouting Quality For example: The speaker said “CY is a wolf”; but he can’t really believe that CY is a wolf, because wolves can’t be elected to chief executive; he must really mean that CY is a.

61 Flouting Relation A case of flouting the maxim of relation: [Location: a prim and proper tea party] S1: “Ms. X is an old bag” S2: “My, it’s such lovely weather we’ve been having of late!”

62 Relation S2’s utterance is clearly not relevant to the topic of conversation introduced by S1. The most plausible explanation is that S2 believes that it is improper to be discussing Ms. X in the way that S1 wants to. So S2 has implicated, by exploiting relation, that this is an improper topic of conversation.

63 Flouting Manner A case of flouting: be brief!: A reviewer for a stage performance says “Ms. X produced a series of sounds resembling the lyrics to ‘Home Sweet Home.’”

64 Flouting Manner The reviewer could have said something much briefer, namely: “Ms. X sang ‘Home Sweet Home.’” There must be some explanation for his lack of brevity; most likely, he believes that Ms. X did not do a good job of singing the song; thus, this is what he implicates.


66 Particularized vs. Generalized Implicatures An implicature is particularized if it only arises in a special context. For example: S1: Is Sue pretty? S2: She has a wonderful personality. S1: Oh, so she’s not pretty.

67 Particularized vs. Generalized Implicatures Here, B implicates that Sue is not pretty, because he’s not observing Quantity and Relation: he was required to give information about Sue’s attractiveness, but he instead gave information about her personality.

68 Particularized Implicature S1: I’m looking for someone to go on a date with. S2: Take Sue, she has a wonderful personality.

69 Particularized Implicature Here, S2 doesn’t implicate that Sue is not pretty, because his utterance doesn’t violate/ flout or otherwise exploit any of the maxims. It’s true, relevant, orderly, and a sufficient reason to go out on a date with someone (that is, it satisfies Quantity).

70 Generalized Implicature An implicature is generalized if only in special circumstances does it not occur. S1: I’m looking for a woman to go on a date with. S2: Take Sue, she’s pretty. S1: Oh, so she’s not beautiful.

71 Generalized Implicature Since S2 is contributing information on Sue’s attractiveness, he should state the greatest degree of attractiveness that she has. Since he didn’t say ‘beautiful’ which is a greater degree than merely ‘pretty’, she must be pretty but not beautiful.

72 Generalized Implicature In special circumstances, however, this implicature is not present: A: No one here is pretty. B: Sue is pretty!

73 Generalized Implicature Here, the point of B’s utterance is to give evidence against A’s claim. Thus, he satisfies the quantity requirement by saying that Sue is pretty, and this is compatible with him also thinking that she’s more than just pretty, she’s beautiful.

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