The Concept of Pragmatism in the Study of Language
The study of language uses the concept of pragmatism to explain how people express themselves. It considers expression at the level of utterances, which can range from a single word to a lengthy discourse. The key idea behind pragmatics is the transfer of culture through education. When a student fails to express their intentions when speaking, they may be less able to respond to the speaker’s meanings. In contrast, pragmatists understand that the school environment is a coordinating environment between home life and the world, where students can experience reflection of the consequences of their actions.
As part of the study of language, pragmatics aims to answer questions regarding the relation between the meaning of a word and its context in speech and written form. For example, the context of speech is not only linguistic, but also extra-linguistic. When an individual is speaking, he or she must have knowledge of other people’s identities, as well as the time and place of utterance. When people are speaking, the content of their communication is highly significant, which can only be accomplished by incorporating this knowledge into the message.
A common misconception regarding the use of language is that there is no such thing as a universal language. While language is used to communicate messages, there are several variations of meaning. This is why language is so complex and diverse. Moreover, a single word may have several different meanings depending on its context. So, it is important to understand the context of any language in order to make it useful. If a word is not used properly, it will have no meaning at all.
There are two primary philosophical approaches to pragmatics. Two of them are the contextualist and the literalist. The literalists believe that semantics is an autonomous concept while the contextualists believe that it is crucial for communication. The latter tends to adopt a Relevance Theory, but both focus on pragmatics’ importance in everyday life. The latter is the more common position. When pragmatics is used in this way, it is viewed as a psychologically-oriented study of communication.
Although the concepts of semantics and pragmatics are closely related, they are not the same. Pragmatics focuses on how people use language in utterances, whereas semantics is concerned with the meaning of sentences. The semantics claims are not part of pragmatics, but instead are included in metasemantics. If one has to choose between them, it is best to choose the latter. This is a good place to start.
Another difference between semantic and pragmatic approaches is how to deal with ambiguity. Ambiguity is the presence of more than one meaning in an expression. For example, if a speaker says, “It’s true that eating cookies can make you fat,” her mother will interpret the sentence differently, because she has different expectations from her daughter. As a result, her meaning will depend on the social context. In the first example, the semantics are dominant, while the pragmatics are secondary.