Tuesday 28 May 2024


In linguistics and related fields, pragmatics is the study of how context contributes to meaning. The field of study evaluates how human language is utilized in social interactions, as well as the relationship between the interpreter and the interpreted. Linguists who specialize in pragmatics are called pragmaticians.

In linguistics and related fields, pragmatics is the study of how context contributes to meaning. The field of study evaluates how human language is utilized in social interactions, as well as the relationship between the interpreter and the interpreted.[1] Linguists who specialize in pragmatics are called pragmaticians. The field has been represented since 1986 by the International Pragmatics Association (IPrA).

Pragmatics encompasses phenomena including implicaturespeech actsrelevance and conversation,[2] as well as nonverbal communication. Theories of pragmatics go hand-in-hand with theories of semantics, which studies aspects of meaning, and syntax which examines sentence structures, principles, and relationships. The ability to understand another speaker's intended meaning is called pragmatic competence.[3][4][5] In 1938, Charles Morris first distinguished pragmatics as an independent subfield within semiotics, alongside syntax and semantics.[6] Pragmatics emerged as its own subfield in the 1950s after the pioneering work of J.L. Austin and Paul Grice.[7][8]


Origin of the field

Pragmatics was a reaction to structuralist linguistics as outlined by Ferdinand de Saussure. In many cases, it expanded upon his idea that language has an analyzable structure, composed of parts that can be defined in relation to others. Pragmatics first engaged only in synchronic study, as opposed to examining the historical development of language. However, it rejected the notion that all meaning comes from signs existing purely in the abstract space of langue. Meanwhile, historical pragmatics has also come into being. The field did not gain linguists' attention until the 1970s, when two different schools emerged: the Anglo-American pragmatic thought and the European continental pragmatic thought (also called the perspective view).[9]

Areas of interest

* The study of the speaker's meaning focusing not on the phonetic or grammatical form of an utterance but on what the speaker's intentions and beliefs are.

·      The study of the meaning in context and the influence that a given context can have on the message. It requires knowledge of the speaker's identities, and the place and time of the utterance.

·       The study of implicatures: the things that are communicated even though they are not explicitly expressed.[10]

·    The study of relative distance, both social and physical, between speakers in order to understand what determines the choice of what is said and what is not said.[11]

·      The study of what is not meant, as opposed to the intended meaning: what is unsaid and unintended, or unintentional.[12]

·   Information structure, the study of how utterances are marked in order to efficiently manage the common ground of referred entities between speaker and hearer.[13]

·         Formal Pragmatics, the study of those aspects of meaning and use for which context of use is an important factor by using the methods and goals of formal semantics.

·      The study of the role of pragmatics in the development of children with autism spectrum disorders or developmental language disorder (DLD).[14]


Ambiguity refers to when it is difficult to infer meaning without knowing the context, the identity of the speaker or the speaker's intent. For example, the sentence "You have a green light" is ambiguous, as without knowing the context, one could reasonably interpret it as meaning:

·         the space that belongs to you has green ambient lighting;

·         you are driving through a green traffic signal;

·         you no longer have to wait to continue driving;

·         you are permitted to proceed in a non-driving context;

·         your body is cast in a greenish glow;

·         you possess a light source which radiates green; or

·         you possess a light with a green surface.

Another example of an ambiguous sentence is, "I went to the bank." This is an example of lexical ambiguity, as the word bank can either be in reference to a place where money is kept, or the edge of a river. To understand what the speaker is truly saying, it is a matter of context, which is why it is pragmatically ambiguous as well.[15]

Similarly, the sentence "Sherlock saw the man with binoculars" could mean that Sherlock observed the man by using binoculars, or it could mean that Sherlock observed a man who was holding binoculars (syntactic ambiguity).[16] The meaning of the sentence depends on an understanding of the context and the speaker's intent. As defined in linguistics, a sentence is an abstract entity: a string of words divorced from non-linguistic context, as opposed to an utterance, which is a concrete example of a speech act in a specific context. The more closely conscious subjects stick to common words, idioms, phrasings, and topics, the more easily others can surmise their meaning; the further they stray from common expressions and topics, the wider the variations in interpretations. That suggests that sentences do not have intrinsic meaning, that there is no meaning associated with a sentence or word, and that either can represent an idea only symbolically. The cat sat on the mat is a sentence in English. If someone were to say to someone else, "The cat sat on the mat", the act is itself an utterance. That implies that a sentence, term, expression or word cannot symbolically represent a single true meaning; such meaning is underspecified (which cat sat on which mat?) and potentially ambiguous. By contrast, the meaning of an utterance can be inferred through knowledge of both its linguistic and non-linguistic contexts (which may or may not be sufficient to resolve ambiguity). In mathematics, with Berry's paradox, there arises a similar systematic ambiguity with the word "definable".,in%20pragmatics%20are%20called%20pragmaticians

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