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Introduction To The Pragmatics Discourse Analysis English Language Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Language
Wordcount: 1943 words Published: 11th May 2017

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As cited in Blakemore, Schiffrin pointed that Harris was the first linguist who proposed the term “discourse” as the following stage of “morphemes”, “clauses” and “sentences”. In other words, it can be inferred that Discourse Analysis deals with kinds of text above sentences. The study of Discourse Analysis has been widely developed lately; Linguists analyze discourse in several different ways using several interesting approaches, such as: Interactional Sociolinguistics, Ethnography of Communication, Pragmatics, and etc. One of the most challenging approaches to analyze a discourse is in the Pragmatics point of view.

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Pragmatics, a study of language explaining language use in context, according to Moore (2001), seeks to elaborate aspects of meaning which cannot be explained by semantics. In line with that, in modern linguistics, Crystal (2008) stated that Pragmatics has been studied in applied linguistics from the point of view of the users, especially of the selections they make, the boundaries among the use of language in social interaction, and the consequences of their use of language on the other members of communication.

Concerning with speaker meaning and how utterances are interpreted by listeners, Pragmatics draws much attention of many linguists. This new discipline in language science, Pragmatics lies its roots in the work of Herbert Paul Grice on conversational implicature and the cooperative principle (Moore, 2001).

Languages have developed continually in the along with the user based on the need of communication. People involved in a conversation want to be able to communicate their messages properly. In the process of communication, people do not create isolated sentences, but try to obey the rules of a general set of norms in which their sentences are organized to make up their entire messages. Grice (1975) defined “The Cooperative Principle and the maxims of cooperation” as the principles that people abide by for successful communication.

Highly interested to “cooperative principle”, the writer is going to use the theory to analyze a text entitled “Dr. Flannel” as the case of the final assignment of the discourse analysis class. Furthermore, in this paper, the writer is trying to find out whether or not the principle is used properly in the text.

Paul Grice (1989) proposed that speakers and hearers share a cooperative principle in ordinary conversation. Utterances are shaped by the speaker to be understood by hearers. Grice considers cooperation as involving four maxims: quantity, quality, relation, and manner. In the other words, Grice’s cooperative principle is a set of norms expected in conversation.

Followings are four sub-cooperative principles expected in conversation which are proposed by Grice as the maxims of conversations:

Quality: speaker tells the truth or something provable by adequate evidence

Quantity: speaker tells something as informative as required

Relation: speaker’s response is relevant to topic of discussion

Manner: speaker tells something in a direct and straightforward way, avoids ambiguity or obscurity

According to Yule (1996), when we communicate each other, we exchange information. Furthermore, when a conversation is taking place, the persons involved are depending on some common guiding principles in order to have a successful communication. In line with that, Levinson (1987) stated that the cooperative principles’ four basic maxims of conversation denote what the participants have to do in order to converse in rational, efficient, and cooperative way. In the other words, it can be said that to put across a message successfully, those who involved in the communication should share the same common grounds on what is being talked about.

Considering the maxims, it is suggested that there is an accepted way of speaking which we all receive as the standard behavior. When we generate, or perceive an utterance, we believe that it will generally be based on fact, have the precise amount of information, be relevant, and imply understandable terms. However, when an utterance does not appear to conform to this model, then we do not consider that it does not have meaning; an appropriate meaning is there to be inferred.


In this part, the writer is going to analyze a text entitled “Dr. Flannel” based on the theory of cooperative principles proposed by Grice (1989). The text to be analyzed is a kind of daily conversation between three people named Bill, Mavis, and Alex.

Analyzing the text, it is found that, instead of following all of the four maxims proposed by Grice (1989), some violations are presented. Obeying the quality maxim, we should tell only when it is true, and we also need to have the adequate evidence about it. To make it clearer, consider this example taken from the text: “Dad must have worn them because I’m almost sure Mum used to always wash them in the same temperature water like”. In the sentence, the speaker is aware of the quality maxim so that he only tells something that is true or that he has the evidence for it (Mum used to always wash them…). The evidence in this sentence is strong enough for the speaker to make his claim about the topic.

Violations toward the maxim of quality are discussed as the first case in this paper. Some parts of the discourse are not fully adhering the maxim of quality. “I can’t remember whether Dad wore them but I think == he did”. In the sentence, the speaker is not sure that his statement is true. Another example of the violation is also taken from the text. “I think if you wash them in cold water. If you wash them in warm water you’re supposed to rinse them in warm water or something or other so’s they”. Maxim of quality is flouted in this utterance. In the example, we can observe that the speaker did not have enough evidence to confirm his statement. However, it seems that the speaker was aware about the maxim that he should tell something that is true. Therefore, because of the lack of evidence, the speaker put what it is called hedges in the utterances. As we can observe, the speakers used “I think” as the signal that he was aware about the maxim.

Another interesting violation of quality maxim to observe is in another Bill’s utterance, “Do ya wanta have a look at the hairs on me chest?” It is found that this is a totally lie of Bill in fact that he does not have any hair on his chest. However, it is pragmatically explainable that in the purpose of the utterance is to make a joke.

On the other hand, we can see that Bill was somehow not adhering the maxim of quantity. The maxim tells us to say something as required, and not more than that. The example can be seen from the first line, the opening speech “I had to laugh. I walked into David Jones´s and they’re always nice … people in there, you know”. In this example, the speaker actually does not need to add the phrase in italic (people in there, you know). The meaning of the sentence is already clear without the additional phrase. Reading further, the writer also found another sentence flouting the maxim. In one of the dialog, Mavis said “And I mean even in those days you didn’t have washing machines and everything”.

Maxim of relation is the third maxim to be flouted in the text. It can be observed that in one part of the text the maxim is violated. Bill said “I had to laugh. I walked into David Jones´s and they’re always nice … people in there, you know”. The utterance opposed the maxim telling us that what we said should be relevance. As we can observe in the text, Bill said “I had to laugh”. From the utterance, it is hoped that the speaker will tell a joke or something funny right after that. On the other hand, what is said by the speaker is not funny at all (I walked into David Jones´s and they’re always nice…).

The other example of the violation toward relation maxim was presented when Bill told Mavis about his experience, “I said ah “Good Morning ladies” and one of the girls said “Thank you. You’re a thorough gentleman.” The conversation between him and the counter girls seems irrelevant. Naturally, when someone greets the other using “good morning”, then the hearer will answer with “good morning” too. In the text, the hearer answered with thank and appraisal because he called them ladies (a respectful addressing for women).

Last but not least, it is also found in the text that maxim of manner was also violated. Instead of being orderly and briefly, it is observable that some utterances are too much prolixity in them.

I had to laugh. I walked into David Jones´s and they’re always nice … people in there, you know.

And there was two girls behind a counter and I didn’t know which … where to go, to go to ahh …

She said. You know the two of them, they said “You’ve made our day

Oh well ah. Oh ah the men. I remember Dad and all the miners wore them.

Intake air – the air coming trough is colder … ss

From those two examples above, it can be seen that the words in italics are not necessarily in the text.

She said “DR FLANNEL!” She said “What’s that?”

I said “Oh yeah. I said “I’m not gonna == show you where it ends!”

I said “Well”, I said “You’re not == gonnna feel it, I can”

Those three examples above violates the maxim of manner, it is wordy with too much prolixity. In order to follow the maxim of manner, the three utterances above can be shortened. For example, the first example may become (She said “DR FLANNEL! What’s that?”). The second can be (I said “Oh yeah. I’m not gonna == show you where it ends!”). Furthermore, the last example can be shortened (I said “Well”, I said “You’re not == gonna feel it, I can”).

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Analyzing the text, it can be inferred that cooperative principles are not always obeyed in the real communication. However, we can observe that although the utterances are not following the maxims, the meaning is still understandable. The violation of a maxim does not mean that the utterance is meaningless. Furthermore, it is also found that some overlapping occur in the maxims’ violation. An utterance may violate more than a maxim.


Blakemore, D (2002). Relevance and Linguistic Meaning: The semantics and pragmatics of discourse markers. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Crystal, D. (2008). A Dictionary of Linguistics and Phonetics. 6th Edition. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Grice, H. P. (1975). Logic and conversation. In P. Cole & J. Morgan (Ed.), Speech Acts (p. 41-58). New York: Academic Pres.

Grice, H. P. (1989). Studies in the Way of Words. Harvard University Press.

Levinson, S. C. (1987). Pragmatics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Moore, A. (2001). Pragmatics and speech acts. http://www.universalteacher.org.uk/lang/pragmatics.htm

Yule, G. (1996). Pragmatics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


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