Semantics by fjzhangxiaoquan


									   Chapter Eight

Language in Use
◇ Definition of Pragmatics
◇ Speech Act Theory
◇ The Theory of Conversational
◇ Post-Gricean Developments

1. Definition of Pragmatics

• The study of language in use.
• The study of meaning in context.
• The study of speakers’ meaning,
                utterance meaning,
            & contextual 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
  – Father:   We don’t DO that.
  – Daughter: I KNOW, Daddy.
               You don’t WEAR dresses.

• Utterance Meaning vs.
  Sentence Meaning
• Utterance vs. Sentence
  – Sentence: abstract units of the
    language system.
  – Utterance: units of language in

• Sentence meaning: What does X mean?
• Utterance meaning: What do you mean
  by X?
  – Dog!
  – My bag is heavy.
  – “Janet! Donkeys!” (David Copperfield)

• Contextual Meaning: meaning in
  – The meaning of the sentence depends
    on who the speaker is , who the hearer
    is, when and where it is used.
  – It was a hot Christmas day so we went
    down to the beach in the afternoon and
    had a good time swimming and surfing.

• Semantic meaning: the more constant,
 inherent side of meaning
• Pragmatic meaning: the more
 indeterminate, the more closely related
 to context

1. A: Are you going to the
   B: It’s on linguistics.
2. A: Would you like some
   B: Coffee would keep me
3. A: 我带的钱不够,今天买不了。
 B: 那就下次再买吧。
2. Speech Act Theory

• John Austin (1911-1960)
• How to Do Things with
  Words (1962)
• speech acts: actions
  performed via utterances

• 2.1 Constatives vs. performatives
• Constatives: utterances which roughly
  serves to state a fact, report that
  something is the case, or describe what
  something is, eg:
  – I go to the park every Sunday.
  – I teach English.

• Performatives: 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; they
 cannot be said to be true or false.

• I do.
• I name this ship Queen
• I bet you sixpence it will rain
• I give and bequeath my watch to
  my brother.
• I promise to finish it in time.
• I apologize.
• I declare the meeting open.
• I warn you that the bull will     13
• Felicity conditions:
A. (i) There must be a relevant
  conventional procedure.
  (ii) the relevant participants and
  circumstances must be appropriate.
B. The procedure must be executed
  correctly and completely.
C. Very often, the relevant people must
  have the requisite thoughts, feelings
  and intentions, and must follow it up
  with actions as specified.

• Problems with felicity conditions
  – No strict procedure for promising.
  – I promise.
  – I give my word for it.
  – I bequeath my watch to my brother. (T or F?)

• Features of performatives
• First person singular
• Speech act verbs / performative verbs:
  – The present tense
  – Indicative mood
  – Active voice

• I promise to be there.
  – I’ll be there.
• I admit I was wrong.
  – I was foolish.
• I warn you, this gun is loaded.
  – This gun is loaded.
• I thank you.
  – I’m very grateful.
• I apologize.
  – I’m sorry.
• I order you to sit down.
  – You must sit down.              17
• Conclusion:

• The distinction between constatives &
 performatives cannot be maintained.

• All sentences can be used to do things.

2.2. Illocutionary Act Theory
• John Searle (1932- )
• Speech acts can be
  analyzed on 3 levels:
• A locutionary act: the act of
  saying something in the full
  sense of “say”.

• An illocutionary act: an act performed in
  saying something. To say sth is to do sth.
  – In saying X, I was doing Y.
  – In saying “I will come tomorrow”, I was
    making a promise.
• Illocutionary force

• A perlocutionary act: the act preformed
  by or as a result of saying, the effects on
  the hearer.
  – By saying X and doing Y, I did Z.
  – By saying “I will come tomorrow” and
    making a promise, I reassure my friends.
  – Shoot her!

3. 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
• 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 meaning.

• The Cooperative Principle (CP)

• Make your 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.

• Maxim of Quality
  – Do not say what you believe to be false.
  – Do not say something if you lack adequate
• Maxim of Quantity
  – Make your contribution as informative as
    required (for the current purposes of the
  – Do not make your contribution more
    informative than required.

• Maxim of Relation: Be relative.

• Maxim of Manner: Be perspicuous.
  – Avoid obscurity of expression.
  – Avoid ambiguity.
  – Be brief.
  – Be orderly.

• CP is meant to describe what actually
  happens in conversation.
• People tend to be cooperative and
  obey CP in communication.

• However, CP is often violated.
  – Since CP is regulative, CP can be violated.

• Violation of CP and its maxims leads to
 conversational implicature.

      Violation of the maxims

1. Make your contribution as
   informative as is required.
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

> Mr. X is not suitable for the job.

2. Do not make your contribution more
   informative than is required.
Aunt: How did Jimmy do his history
Mother: Oh, not at all well. Teachers asked
        him things that happened before
        poor boy was born.
> Her son should not be blamed.           31
A: Your kid broke the window.
B: Boys are boys.
War is war.

     Violation of the maxims
1. Do not say what you
  believe to be false.
• You are the cream in
  my coffee.
• X runs as fast as a
• He is made of iron.
2. 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
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
1. 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.

2. Avoid ambiguity
A: Name and title, please?
B: John Smith, Associate Editor and

3. Be brief
A: Did you get my assignment?
B: I received two pages clipped together
 and covered with rows of black
> not satisfied.

   Characteristics of implicature

• Calculability: hearers work out

  implicature based on literal meaning, CP

  and its maxims, context, etc.

• Cancellability / defeasibility: If the
  linguistic or situational contexts
  changes, the implicature will also
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 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.

A2:老王住院了?                  B:上午还在换草皮。
A3: 足球场安装了一个新门柱。

4. Post-Gricean Developments
 • Relevance Theory:
   – Dan Sperber (Jean Nicod Institute)
   – Deirdre Wilson (UCL)
 • The Q- and R-principles:
   – Laurence Horn (Yale)
 • The Q-, I- and M-principles:
   – Stephen Levinson (Max Planck)

 4.1 Relevance Theory
• 1986, 1995
• All Gricean maxims, inc. the CP itself,
  should be reduced to a single principle of
  – ‘Every act of ostensive communication
    communicates the presumption of its own
    optimal relevance.’

• Ostensive communication:
  – They agree with Grice that communication
    is not simply a matter of encoding and
    decoding, it also involves inference.
  – But they maintain that inference has only to
    do with the hearer. From the speaker's side,
    communication should be seen as an act of
    making clear one's intention to express
    something. This act they call ostensive act.
    In other words, a complete characterization
    of communication is that it is ostensive-
• Presumption of optimal relevance:
  – Initial version: An assumption is relevant
    in a context if and only if it has some
    contextual effect in that context.
• But what exactly is context?
  – All the background info
  – Sometimes some info must be excluded—
    chosen  relevance
  – Generally the assumption people are
    processing is relevant

• Revised version: An assumption is
  relevant to an individual at a given time
  if and only if it is relevant in one or
  more of the contexts available to that
  individual at that time.
  – Relevance is not just a property of
    assumptions in the mind, but also a
    property of phenomena (stimuli, e.g.
    utterances) in the environment which lead
    to the construction of assumptions.

• A communicator cannot directly present an
  audience with an assumption. All a speaker,
  or a writer, can do is to present a stimulus
  in the form of a sound, or a written mark.
• The presentation of this stimulus changes
  the cognitive environment of the audience,
  making certain facts manifest, or more
• As a result, the audience can mentally
  represent these facts as strong or stronger
  assumptions, and even use them to derive
  further assumptions.
• Final version: A phenomenon is
  relevant to an individual if and only if
  one or more of the assumptions it
  makes manifest is relevant to him.
• Thus, by presumption of optimal
  relevance is meant:
  – The set of assumptions {I } which the
    communicator intends to make manifest to
    the addressee is relevant enough to make
    it worth the addressee's while to process
    the ostensive stimulus.
  – The ostensive stimulus is the most
    relevant one the communicator could have
    used to communicate {I }.
• Every utterance comes with a
  presumption of the best balance of effort
  against effect.
  – On the one hand, the effects achievable will
    never be less than is needed to make it worth
  – On the other hand, the effort required will
    never be more than is needed to achieve
    these effects. In comparison to the effects
    achieved, the effort needed is always the

• This amounts to saying “of all the
  interpretations of the stimulus which
  confirm the presumption, it is the first
  interpretation to occur to the addressee
  that is the one the communicator
  intended to convey.

• George has a big cat.
• George has a tiger, a
  lion, a jaguar, etc.
• George has a tiger.
• George has a tiger or a
  lion, I'm not sure which.
• George has a felid.

• Second ed. (1995): two relevance-based
• Communicative Principle of Relevance:
  – Every act of ostensive communication
    communicates the presumption of its own
    optimal relevance.
• Cognitive Principle of Relevance:
  – Human cognition tends to be geared to the
    maximisation of relevance.

• The presumption of optimal relevance
  is revised as follows:
  – The ostensive stimulus is relevant enough
    for it to be worth the addressee’s effort to
    process it.
  – The ostensive stimulus is the most
    relevant one compatible with the
    communicator’s abilities and preferences.

4.2 The Q- and R-principles
• Laurence Horn (1984):
  – Toward a New Taxonomy for Pragmatic
    Interface: Q-Based and R-Based
• Laurence Horn (1988):
  – Pragmatic Theory.

• The Q-principle:
  – The first of Grice's maxim of Quantity --
    Make your contribution as informative as
    required (for the current purposes of the
• The R-principle:
  – The Maxim of Relation
• But the new principles are more
  extensive than the Gricean maxims.

• The Q-principle (Hearer-based):
    (cf. Quantity1)
  – SAY AS MUCH AS YOU CAN (given R)

• The R-principle (Speaker-based):
    NECESSARY (cf. Relation, Quantity2,
• The hearer-based Q-principle
  is a sufficiency condition in
  the sense that information
  provided is the most the
  speaker is able to.
• For example, (a) below
  implicates (b):
  – (a) Some of my friends are
    linguists. 
  – (b) Not all of my friends are
• The R-principle encourages the hearer
  to infer that more is meant. Typical
  examples are speech acts like:
  – Can you pass the salt?

• The Q-principle is concerned with the
  – The speaker who follows this principle
    supplies the sufficient information.
• The R-principle is concerned with the
  – The speaker who employs this principle
    uses the minimal form, so that the hearer
    is entitled to infer that the speaker means
    more than he says.

• Example: negation usually means ‘less
  – He didn't eat three carrots. 
  – He ate less than three carrots.
• Metalinguistic negation:
  – He didn't eat THREE carrots.
  – He ate FOUR of them.
  – You didn't eat SOME of the cookies—
    you ate ALL of them.
  – It isn't POSSIBLE she'll win—it's
    CERTAIN she will.
• I didn't break a finger yesterday.
• I broke a finger, but it wasn't one of
  mine. (Q-based)
• I broke a finger yesterday.
• I broke a finger of mine yesterday.

• John had a drink.
• The secretary smiled.
• John had an alcoholic drink.
• The female secretary smiled.
• John didn't have a drink—that was a
  Shirley Temple.
• *My secretary didn't smile—I have a
  male secretary.

• Horn argues that this exception is more
  apparent than real.
  – Both speakers' intuition and
    lexicographers' practice suggest that the
    implicature associated with drink, i.e.
    “alcoholic drink”, has become part of the
    conventional meaning, while that of
    secretary, i.e. “female secretary” has not.
  – In other words, the interpretation of drink
    in the sense of “alcoholic drink” is no
    longer an implicature.

• Synonym avoidance:
  – There are many terms formed with the
    adjective pale and colour words, such as,
    pale green, pale blue, pale yellow, but pale
    red sounds odd.
  – This oddity may be attributed to the
    existence of the word pink.
  – Unless one wants to designate a colour
    which is paler than red, but not yet as pale
    as pink, the term pale red would not be
  – Because of the existence of pink the use
    of pale red is limited in a way that pale
    blue and pale green are not.                65
• Black Bart killed the sheriff.
• Black Bart caused the sheriff to die.

• Lee stopped the car.
• Lee got the car to stop.

• Horn observes that the Q-based and R-
  based principles often directly collide.
  – “A speaker obeying only Q would tend to
    say everything she knows on the off-
    chance that it might prove informative,
    while a speaker obeying only R would
    probably, to be on the safe side, not open
    her mouth. In fact, many of the maxim
    clashes Grice and others have discussed
    do involve Quantity1 vs. Relation”.

• But “it is perhaps in the resolution of
  the conflict between them that they
  play their major role”.
• He suggests this resolution comes
  from a division of pragmatic labour as
  – The use of a marked (relatively complex
    and/or prolix) expression when a
    corresponding unmarked (simpler, less
    “effortful”) alternate expression is
    available tends to be interpreted as
    conveying a marked message (one which
    the unmarked alternative would not or
    could not have conveyed).               68
4.3 The Q-, I- and M-principles
• Stephen Levinson (1987):
  – Pragmatics and the Grammar of
    Anaphor: A Partial Pragmatic
    Reduction of Binding and Control
• Stephen Levinson (1989):
  – Review of Relevance by Sperber
    and Wilson

• The Q-, I- and M-principles are Grice's
  two maxims of Quantity and a maxim of
  Manner reinterpreted neo-classically.
  – The maxims of Quality, as is the case in
    Horn's theory, are kept intact.
  – Levinson does not agree with the
    treatment in both Sperber & Wilson's and
    Horn's accounts to subsume the second
    maxim of Quantity under a principle of
    relevance, or relation.

• In his view, the maxims of Quantity
  have to do with the quantity of
  information, while
  – relevance is a measure of timely
    helpfulness with respect to interactional
    goals, and
  – is largely about the satisfaction of others'
    goals in interaction, and the satisfaction of
    topical and sequencing constraints in
    discourse, as in the expectation that an
    answer will follow a question.

• It is not, at least not primarily, about
  – So he renames the second maxim of
    Quantity the Principle of Informativeness,
    or I-Principle;
  – and the first maxim of Quantity the
    Principle of Quantity, or Q-Principle.

• The M-principle:
• Levinson mixes the presentation of his
  own ideas with the criticism of Horn's
• He accuses Horn of failing to draw a
  distinction between two kinds of
  – a semantic minimization and
  – an expression minimization.

• The semantic, or content, minimization
  is equivalent to semantic generality:
  – the more general terms are more minimal
    in meaning, having more restricted
    connotation (in contrast to the more
    extended denotation); and
  – the less general, the more specific, are
    less minimal, more maximal.
• For example, ship is more general than
  ferry, flower than rose, animal than
  – The choice of the former instead of the    74
    latter is a process toward minimization.
• The expression, or form, minimization is
  some measure of surface length and
  – It is concerned with the phonetic and
    morphological make-up of a term.
  – The normally stressed terms are more
    minimal than their abnormally stressed
  – The shorter terms are more minimal than
    longer ones, provided they are
    synonymous, such as frequent and not
    infrequent, to stop a car and to cause a car
    to stop.                                    75
• Only the semantic minimization has to
  do with the I-principle.
• The expression minimization, in
  contrast, is the domain of the principle
  of manner, as it concerns the form of a
  linguistic unit, the way to express
  something rather than what is
  expressed, or how much is expressed.

• Recently, Levinson calls his principles
• Levinson (2000): Presumptive Meaning.
  – Heuristic 1. What isn’t said, isn’t.
  – Heuristic 2. What is simply described is
    stereotypically exemplified.
  – Heuristic 3. What’s said in an abnormal
    way, isn’t normal; or Marked message
    indicates marked situation.

• Heuristic 1: Q-Heuristic
• “more or less transparently related to
  Grice’s first Maxim of Quantity”
• Responsible for two types of
  implicatures: scalar implicatures and
  clausal implicatures
  – Some of the boys came. (scalar) 
  – Not all the boys came.
  – If eating eggs is bad for you, you should
    give up omelets. (clausal) 
  – Eating eggs may be bad for you, or
    it may not be bad for you.                  78
• Scalar implicatures are the implicatures
  which involve the Q-principle in Horn’s
  – Words like all and some form a scalar
    contrast set <all, some>, in which all is the
    more informative, or stronger, term, and
    some the less informative, or weaker, term.

• Clausal implicatures involve the use of
  different clauses.
  – Since eating eggs is bad for you, you
    should give up omelets. 
  – Eating eggs may be bad for you, or it may
    not be bad for you.

• Two clausal alternates:
  – If eating eggs is bad for you, you should
    give up omelets.
  – Since eating eggs is bad for you, you
    should give up omelets.
• which may be expressed as
  – <(since p, q), (if p, q)>
• The clause using since is the more
  informative, or stronger, alternate, and
  the one using if the less informative, or
  weaker, alternate.

• Heuristic 2: I-Heurisitc
• “may be related directly to Grice’s second
  Maxim of Quantity, ... The underlying idea
  is, of course, that one need not say what
  can be taken for granted”.
  (a) John turned the key and the engine started.
  (b) John turned the key, and then the engine
      John turned the key, therefore the engine
      John turned the key in order to start the 82
(a) If you mow the lawn, I'll give you $5.
(b) If and only if you mow the lawn, I'll
    give you $5.

(a) John unpacked the picnic. The beer
    was warm. 
(b) The beer was part of the picnic.

(a) John said “Hello” to the secretary and
    then he smiled. 
(b) John said “Hello” to the female      83
    secretary and then John smiled.
(a) Harry and Sue bought
    a piano.
(b) They bought it
    together, not one

(a) John came in and he sat down.
(b) John1 came in and he1 sat down.

• Heuristic 3: M-Heuristic
  – can be related directly to Grice’s maxim of
    Manner (‘Be perspicuous’), specifically to
    his first submaxim ‘avoid obscurity of
    expression’ and his fourth ‘avoid

• The underlying idea here is that there
  is an implicit opposition or parasitic
  relationship between our second and
  third heuristics:
  – what is said simply, briefly, in an
    unmarked way picks up the stereotypical
  – if in contrast a marked expression is used,
    it is suggested that the stereotypical
    interpretation should be avoided.

• Thus, (a) below should be interpreted in
  the stereotypical way by the I-Heuristic,
  say the probability is n, then (b) should
  be interpreted in the marked way by the
  M-Heuristic, i.e., the probability is less
  than n.
  – (a) It’s possible that the plane will be late.
  – (b) It’s not impossible that the plane will be

• In the same way, the use of a longer
  alternative to a simple causative verb
  suggests some deviation from the
  normal situation.
  – Bill stopped the car. 
  – Bill did it in the stereotypical manner with
    the foot pedal.

  – Bill caused the car to stop. 
  – Bill did it indirectly, not in the normal way,
    e.g., by the use of the emergency brake.
• If the speaker uses a marked
  expression the man instead of an
  unmarked expression he, then John
  and the man will not be coreferential.
  – John came in and the man laughed.

• There is still a long way to go before we
  find a solution to all the problems we
  have in the study of language in use,
  and there are new attempts to improve
  on all these principles.

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