Thursday, February 12, 2009

Grice's Conversational Maxims

In the study of pragmatics it is well known that the success of any communication is dependant upon the cooperation of both the speaker and the listener. Paul Grice was a linguist and philosopher who made many contributions in this area of pragmatics. He suggested that there is, what he called, a cooperative principle that dictates how people behave and interact with each other during a conversation. Included as part of this cooperative principle are what are known as Grice's Conversation Maxims.

Maxim of Quantity:
-Make your contribution to the conversation as informative as necessary.
-Do not make your contribution to the conversation more informative than necessary.

Maxim of Quality:
-Do not say what you believe to be false.
-Do not say that for which you lack adequate evidence.

Maxim of Relevance:
-Be relevant (i.e., say things related to the current topic of the conversation).

Maxim of Manner:
-Avoid obscurity of expression.
-Avoid ambiguity.
-Be brief (avoid unnecessary wordiness).
-Be orderly.

If only every speaker would remember to cooperate. I know quite a few people that don't seem to follow these maxims, especially the Maxims of Quantity and Relevance.

P.S. In pragmatics writer and reader are equivalent to speaker and listener.

2 comments:

J. L. Speranza said...

What a good precis and insight on the maxims, etc.

You are invited to the
Griceclub.blogspot
anytime

JLSperanza@aol.com

Laura Payne said...

J.L. - Thank you for your compliment and your invite. I checked out your blog and will visit again frequently.

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