What is Pragmatics?
Pragmatics is a specialized branch of linguistics that investigates the use of language in social settings. It also explores the relationship between language and its users. The science of pragmatics focuses on three primary subjects, namely, context, meaning, and reference.
Context is an all-pervasive term in pragmatics. A context is a combination of elements that are important in determining the meaning of a given word. These elements include linguistic forms, objects, and entities in the world. For instance, the sign on the escalator is ambiguous, but a person unfamiliar with the airport might interpret the sign as a command. Similarly, an anonymous letter in a mailbox is also ambiguous, but does not offer any clues about the circumstances of its transmission.
Semantics, on the other hand, is a branch of linguistics that deals with the meaning of words. In contrast to grammar, which deals with abstract, static, and abstractly structured entities, semantics studies the relationships between linguistic forms and entities in the world. This includes the meaning of phrases and sentences.
Some authors define pragmatics as the study of the relationships between a language’s signs and the people who use it. Other authors use the concept of context as the basis for their definition of pragmatics. However, a broader definition of the field would include semantics, ambiguity theory, and a variety of branches of speech act theory.
The meaning of a word or phrase is the first level of speaking meaning. On the other hand, the meaning of a sentence is the second level. Although the smallest of the three levels, the smallest of the semantics, is the smallest of the two, the smallest of the three is the smallest of all.
There are various ways in which the various branches of pragmatics attempt to make sense of the many different aspects of linguistic interpretation. A major framework in pragmatics is relevance theory, which asserts that every utterance contains enough relevant information. Another is the illocutionary act, which refers to a verbal act that is performed during the course of communication. Finally, there is the speaker’s plan, which supplements the conventional meaning of the word.
Although pragmatics is a specialized branch of lingustics, its applications are common across disciplines. Social scientists and psychologists have been applying the field to such areas as human relationships and group dynamics, as well as to the way individuals use their bodies. People who are able to effectively communicate and build relationships with others demonstrate their pragmatic skills.
A related but more complex branch of pragmatics is the study of conversational implicatures. Essentially, this is the science of how a person’s utterances influence other people. Moreover, it focuses on the relationship between the speaker’s intentions and the meaning of their words.
One of the most interesting features of pragmatics is the fact that the study of meaning in a conversation requires the presence of various contextual features. These contextual features include a speaker’s intention, the meaning of the words used by the speaker, and the syntactic clues that the listener can trace during the conversation.