What is Pragmatics?
Pragmatics is a field of study that explores language as an instrument of communication, what people mean when they use it and how we communicate and understand each other. It also considers the negotiation of meaning between speaker and listener.
What would happen to language if pragmatics did not exist?
Without this specialized study, we would not be able to understand what a person truly means when she is talking. Rather than focusing on the literal meaning of words, it examines their usage within context clues, such as social signs, body language, and tone of voice.
How does it work?
In conversation, speakers and listeners interpret the same words differently based on their sociocultural backgrounds. For example, the same word ‘by’ can mean a tree finds its own way to a particular place, or that someone discovered a painting in that spot. This is what is called conversational implicature, and it’s a core component of pragmatics.
Speech act theory: This is the most established part of pragmatics, focusing on how speakers and listeners interpret what they say to each other. It is a sub-discipline of linguistics, but it also draws heavily from social sciences, particularly anthropology.
It is also closely related to semantics, the study of how words and phrases are used. Semantics is often confused with pragmatics, but they are not necessarily the same thing.
The most famous pragmatists were Charles Peirce and William James, who formulated the ideas of pragmatism during a discussion group that met at Harvard in the 1870s. They later adapted their theories to other fields, such as philosophy of science and psychiatry.
Their approach to pragmatism was controversial and influenced many other philosophers, including neopragmatists who have questioned its validity, such as Brandom. However, their focus on linguistic meaning has a tendency to ignore the importance of experience in human life (e.g., Wilde), and they are criticized for doing so.
This approach has been challenged, and pragmatism’s influence in American philosophy departments has diminished as analytic philosophy has gained popularity. Nevertheless, some new pragmatists are still promoting it.
Pragmatics can be a useful skill for children, as it helps them adapt their communication techniques to different circumstances and follow social norms. It can also help them accurately convey their thoughts and feelings so they can solve problems and build relationships with others.
It can also help them learn how to be successful in the classroom, as it helps students to decide which language functions are appropriate for a given situation and how best to use those skills. Teachers can teach their students these skills by using a variety of instructional methods, such as games and discussions.
How do I learn more about pragmatics?
A good source of information about pragmatism is a pragmatist encyclopedia, such as Pragmatic Cybrary. There, you can find the latest developments in this field, as well as other scholarly works about the subject.
Why do people use ambiguous language?