The appropriate use of language in context
• Presenters: Christina Auth & Jerry Smith
• Tina
Pragmatics can be more specifically defined as
conventions that govern language within social
interactions (Fujiki & Brinton).
It involves three major communication skills:
1. Using language for different purposes.
2. Changing language according to the needs of a
listener or situation.
3. Following rules for conversations and
Using language for different purposes:
■greeting (e.g., hello, goodbye)
■informing (e.g., I'm going to get a cookie)
■demanding (e.g., Give me a cookie)
■promising (e.g., I'm going to get you a cookie)
■requesting (e.g., I would like a cookie, please)
Changing language according to the
needs of a listener or situation:
■talking differently to a baby than to
an adult
■giving background information to an
unfamiliar listener
■speaking differently in a classroom
than on a playground
Following rules for conversations and
■taking turns in conversation
■introducing topics of conversation
■staying on topic
■rephrasing when misunderstood
■how to use verbal and nonverbal signals
■how close to stand to someone when
■how to use facial expressions and eye
Aspect of pragmatics: Deixis
Phenomenon wherein understanding the
meaning of certain words or phrases in an
utterance requires contextual information.
Origin of word: deixis is Greek meaning “display,
demonstration, or reference”.
Types of deixis/ categories of contextual
1. Person deixis
2. Place deixis
3. Time deixis
Person deixis- persons involved in an utterance
-those directly involved (speaker and listener)
-those not directly involved but who overhear the
-those mentioned in the utterance
*Pronouns used to indicate the distinctions.
Examples of person deictic terms (pronouns) in
Activity: To whom do they refer? (Speaker,
listener, person/s overhearing, person/s
I am going to the movies.
Would you like to have dinner?
They tried to hurt me, but he came to the rescue.
Place deixis- spacial locations relevant to the
location of the speaker of an utterance unless
otherwise specified.
Common examples including:
Adverbs such as “here” and “there”
Demonstrative articles such as “this”, “that”,
“these”, and “those”
I enjoy living in this city.
Here is where we will place the statue.
She was sitting over there.
Time deixis- various times involved in and referred
to in an utterance
Relative to when the utterance is made.
Includes adverbs such as “now” and “later” as well
as verb tenses.
It is raining now.
Tomorrow it will be sunny.
Herbert Paul Grice- one of the founders of the modern
study of pragmatics.
Grice was born in Birmingham, England March 13, 1913
and died in Berkeley, California August 28, 1988.
Publishes under the name H. Paul Grice.
British-educated philosopher of language who was a
professor at Oxford until 1967 and then moved to the
United States and was a professor at the University of
California at Berkeley.
Grice explained nonliteral speech as the outcome of a
“cooperative principle”, a description of how people
normally behave in conversation.
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”
(Grice, p. 26)
To converse in accordance with the “cooperative principle”,
one must follow 4 Maxims (Gricean Maxims) and their
Maxim of Quality: Truth
•Do not say what you believe to be false.
•Do not say that for which you lack adequate
Maxim of Quantity: Information
•Make your contribution as informative as is
required (for the current purposes of the exchange).
•Do not make your contribution more informative
than is required.
Maxim of Relation: Relevance
•Be relevant.
•Avoid obscurity of expression.
•Avoid ambiguity.
•Be brief.
•Be orderly.
Activity: Read the examples of discourse on index
cards at your table and discuss which of Grice’s
maxims are violated and how and share.
1. Example from Exercise #18 A
2. Example from Exercise #18B
3. Example from Sponge Bob cartoon
4. Example from Mary Poppins movie
Grice’s notion of “implicatures” as he decided that
“implication” was not the right word for what is
implied in an utterance.
Implicatures are inferences or deductions that are
made in accordance with the conversational
maxims. The listener takes into account both the
linguistic meaning of the utterance (literal meaning)
as well as the particular circumstances in which the
utterance is made (context).
Implicatures can easily be proved incorrect since
they are based on assumptions that may turn out
to be incorrect
Example: “Sam’s car has been broken down . He’s
been riding his bike to work all week.”
This statement is based on the assumption that
Sam will always drive his car if it is available but
what if he had just started a new exercise program
and rides his bike to work as part of it.
Implicature vs. Presupposition
Presuppositions are situations that must exist for
utterances to be correct according to Grice’s
Example from Alice in Wonderland:
“Take some more tea,” the March Hare said
to Alice, very earnestly.
“I’ve had nothing yet,” Alice replied in an
offended tone, “ so I can’t take more.”
Example of a Performance
I hereby apologize to you.
• Determine whether the following sentences are
performative sentences by inserting “I hereby”
and seeing whether they sound right.
• I hereby know you.
• I testify that she met the agent.
• I know that she met the agent.
• I suppose the Yankees will win.
Pragmatic Problems
An individual with pragmatic problems may:
■say inappropriate or unrelated things during
■tell stories in a disorganized way
■have little variety in language use
It is not unusual for children to have pragmatic
problems in only a few situations.
When pragmatic problems may indicate a
pragmatic disorder:
-Problems in social language use occur often and
seem inappropriate considering the child's age.
-Pragmatic disorders often coexist with other
language problems such as vocabulary
development or grammar.
-Pragmatic problems can lower social acceptance
as peers may avoid having conversations with an
individual with a pragmatic disorder.
Pragmatic Language Impairment (PLI)
Subgroup of Specific Language Impairment (SLI)
PLI involves conversational difficulties (no clear definition)
Characteristics of children with PLI:
-have difficulty reorganizing social cues
-have problems understanding and engaging in “small talk”
-give conversational responses that are socially inappropriate
-tend to have tangential speech
PLI has been used to refer to behaviors found in disparate conditions including:
-Down’s Syndrome
-hearing impairment
-learning disabilities, etc.
Possible Misinterpretation of Culturally Different
Discourse Skills of Hispanic Students
Brice, A. et al (2007) contend that teachers may
misunderstand the pragmatic behaviors of culturally
and linguistically diverse Hispanic students and
inappropriately mistaken these behaviors as indicative
of a language learning disability and refer these
students for special education evaluations.
Two kinds of language expertise English
Language Learners (ELLs) need to acquire:
Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills (BICS)
-oral language used in daily social encounters such as on the playground, in
the hallways, etc.
-ELLs take 1 to 3 years to reach the social language level of their peers.
Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP)
-language of academic discipline; vocabulary and usage distinct by subject
-ELLs take 5 to 7 years to acquire.
-Cummins’s Common Underlying Proficiency (CUP) theory:
“Concepts are most readily developed in the first language and, once
developed, are accessible through the second language.” (Freeman
&Freeman, 1994, p. 176)
Sociocultural Theory of Vygotsky
Basis of Second Language Teaching
Lev Vygotsky was born into a non-religious Jewish family the Russian Empire in 1897
and began studying law at the University of Moscow and then studied and graduated
from the Shanyavskii People’s University in 1917. His work included introducing the
notion of zone of proximal development, an innovative metaphor capable of describing
the potential of human cognitive development, and covered diverse topics such as the
relation between learning and human development, concept formation, interrelation
between language and thought development, play as a psychological phenomenon,
learning disabilities, and abnormal human development.
Sociocultural theory emphasizes meaningful social
interaction as the greatest motivating force in human
development including language learning.
Vygotsky advocates meaning-based instruction
including a Focus on Pragmatics for Second Language
Learners (SLLs)
Acquisition of pragmatic competence can be difficult for SLLs
because this area of linguistic competence may differ
significantly from what they know in their first language (L1).
Aspects of speech like intonation and idioms may need to be
explicitly explained to SLLs.
SLLs may need explicit instruction to determine meaning fully
from context since there may be a wide variety of meanings in
one grammatical structure.
What Vygotsky’s Theory Means for Classroom and Lesson
Children develop second language proficiency by interacting with other
people in the target language gradually internalizing forms of social
Teacher should act as facilitators assisting SLLs in accessing their language
learning environment including developmentally appropriate activities and
challenging problem-solving situations.
SLLs need opportunities for oral interaction with adults so strategies such as
reading group discussions across content areas and dialogue journals can be
used to enhance both oral and written teacher-student interaction.
Teachers should not primarily directly transmit knowledge to students.
Another viewpoint on teaching pragmatics to SLLs:
Social language skills to teach:
greeting people
giving and receiving complements
making polite requests
Ways to teach social skills:
Interactive book reading
Role playing
Teacher modeling
Peer modeling
Pragmatics is concerned with the interpretation of
linguistic meaning in context.
Two kinds of context are relevant.
Linguistic context-discourse that precedes the
phrase or sentences to be interpreted.
Discourse-linguistic unit that comprises more
than one sentence including exchanges
between speakers.
Situational context-the nonlinguistic environment
in which a sentence or discourse happens.
Contextual knowledge includes who is speaking,
who is listening, what objects are being
discussed, and general facts about the world.
Insert Web Page – Social Board
Works Cited
Brice, A., Miller, K., & Brice, R. G. (2007). A Study of English as a Second Language in General Education Classrooms. Multiple
Voices For Ethnically Diverse Exceptional Learners, 10(1-2), 82-93.
Eun, B., & Lim, H. (2009). A Sociocultural View of Language Learning: The Importance of Meaning-Based Instruction. TESL Canada
Journal, 27(1), 12-26.
Freeman, D. E. & Freeman, Y. S. (1994). Between worlds: Access to Second Language Acquisition. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Fujiki, M. & Brinton, B. (2009). Pragmatics and Social Communication in Child language Disorders. In Schwartz, R. G. (Ed.)
Handbook of Child Language Disorders (pp. 406-423) New York, NY: Psychology Press.
Gerenser, J. (2009). Language Disorders in Children with Autism. In Schwartz, R. G. (Ed.) Handbook of Child Language Disorders
(pp. 67-89) New York, NY: Psychology Press.
Grice, P. (1989). Studies in the Way of Words. Cambridge, MA: Howard University Press.
Haynes, J. (2007). Getting Started with English Language Learners How Educators Can Meet the Challenge. Alexandria, VA:
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
McIntyre, E., Kyle, D. W., Chen, C., Kraemer, J., & Parr, J. (2009). 6 Principles for Teaching English Language Learners in All
Classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Perkins, M. (2007). Pragmatic Impairment. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Reisinger, L.M., Cornish, K.M., & Fombonne, E. (2011). Diagnostic Differentiation of Autism Spectrum Disorders and Pragmatic

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