What is Pragmatics?

Pragmatics is the study of the meaning and function of language in social context. It is rooted in philosophy, sociology, and anthropology. It focuses on how people communicate with each other using words and social signs (such as body language, tone of voice, and the way they turn their head).

Semantics — literal meaning

Pragmatics — contextual meaning
In a simple sense, language is a system for conveying information. It is used to convey messages, to express thoughts and feelings, and to communicate ideas between people. It is also used to make and receive money, to negotiate contracts, to make deals, and to communicate with animals and plants.

It is a tool for communicating with other human beings, as well as for interacting with computers and machines. It is an important part of the field of computational pragmatics, which aims to develop software that can communicate with human beings in as much of the same way as humans do.

Language is a complex, ambiguous form of communication that allows for a wide range of possible interpretations. It is a common misconception that words only have one meaning. This is not the case in reality. In fact, the meaning of language is constantly changing and evolving as it is being used.

Conversational implicature — co-operative theory

In conversation, both the speaker and the listener must cooperate with each other to make sure that each is understood. This requires both parties to follow a set of rules or guidelines called the Cooperative Principle. These include avoiding ambiguity, being concise, being truthful, and providing relevant information.

The Cooperative Principle is based on the idea that the speaker and the listener are trying to understand each other’s views and needs, even if they have different ones. This is why it is crucial for people to have pragmatic knowledge of how they are interpreting the signs their language uses, so they can be clear and avoid ambiguity.

Managing the flow of reference — relevance theory

In conversation, people tend to follow syntactic clues to determine who performed an action or what happened. This is called managing the flow of reference, and it is a fundamental aspect of pragmatics.

It is the underlying principle behind conversational implicature, which states that a speaker’s every utterance conveys enough relevant information for it to be worth the addressee’s effort to process it.

The importance of this idea is reflected in pragmatist epistemology, which seeks to understand the relationship between how we come to know something and what it means. Unlike the enlightenment philosophers of the past, who were not always able to bridge these two rifts between what could be known and what actually was, pragmatist epistemologists hope that we may in the future arrive at an understanding of our world in which we can make better decisions and take more informed actions.