What is Pragmatics?
Pragmatics is the study of the meaning and purpose of language. It involves analysis of language and its uses, the origins of signs, and the implied meanings. It has been developed by philosophers, linguists, and sociologists. The field originated in the United States around 1870 and has since seen a revival. Some of its earliest proponents were Charles Sanders Peirce and William James.
The first generation of pragmatists focused on the meaning of words, the origins of signs, and the nature of truth. The second generation took their ideas to the social sciences, politics, and education.
The most important part of pragmatics is its use of context to determine meaning. For example, if you greet someone, you may be told to say “Hello.” However, you probably have never received a detailed response. For instance, you might say, “How are you?” but you’d be hard pressed to tell whether the person is saying hello or wishing you a Happy Birthday.
As the name suggests, a pragmatic noun refers to a realistic approach to a problem. For example, a four-year-old child might want a unicorn for his birthday. But it is unlikely that the child would understand that the word “nice” means a parent looks nice.
Another important factor is linguistic complexity. The human brain tries to process the complexity of a language in an efficient manner. This can be achieved by making logical guesses about what a given utterance is likely to mean. In addition, a pragmatic response assumes the intention of the speaker. For example, you might assume that the person who says, “Hello,” has a good reason for introducing a greeting.
In other words, a pragmatic person is practical, concerned with facts, and focused on consequences. Their decisions are informed by their experiences in the world. Typically, a pragmatic person is a hard-working individual. They are usually sensible, optimistic, and compliment-oriented.
The biggest neo-pragmatic contribution is the introduction of the word “pragmatic competence.” It is a neologism introduced by Noam Chomsky to describe the process of integrating intentions into the use of language. It also provides a way to assess how a language is being used. For example, if you have a doctor who is telling you to eat more vegetables, you will have to think about what that means.
There are many other neo-pragmatists, including Hilary Putnam, Huw Price, and Robert Brandom. They have all contributed to the resurgence of pragmatism. The field is being revitalized in academia and in the real world. It is gaining popularity in the arts as well. For example, a group of African-American philosophers recently held a pragmatist-inspired symposium at Harvard University. They are focusing on a variety of topics, but many of them look to the pragmatist tradition to make sense of their world.
Although it was originally developed in the United States, the field has spread to many other countries, with vibrant research networks in the Scandinavian countries, South America, and central Europe.