What is Pragmatics?
Pragmatics is the study of how people use language. It looks beyond the literal meaning of an utterance and considers how meaning is constructed as well as focusing on implied meanings. It also examines how we communicate and understand one another, what the function of language is and why we speak. Without the understanding of Pragmatics, we would have a very difficult time interpreting what other people are trying to say.
A key concept in pragmatics is context. Specifically, the way in which context affects how we interpret an utterance. For example, if someone says, “I need some help,” it can mean different things in different situations. This is why it is important to understand the context of a sentence so that you can figure out what the speaker really means.
One of the main theories in Pragmatics is the Cooperative Principle, which was formulated by Paul Grice. The Cooperative Principle states that if you want to be understood, you should try your best to understand the other person’s perspective. This is important because it allows us to be more effective communicators and helps people understand what we’re saying.
The other key theory in Pragmatics is the Functionalist Theory of Communication. This theory is based on the idea that ideas are a kind of tool, helping us to organize and control our behaviour in the world. It’s similar to the way that we think of a knife or a spoon: They are tools that we can use in our daily lives, allowing us to do what we need to do.
Unlike idealism, pragmatism is more focused on outcomes than what you want to achieve. For example, if you are deciding whether to choose capitalism or socialism, you’ll want to know if either system will provide you with a better life in the long run. If it does, you’ll go with that. If it doesn’t, you’ll decide on something else.
Pragmatism became a popular philosophy in the United States around 1870. It presented a third alternative to analytic and continental philosophical traditions. Its first self-conscious proponents were Charles Sanders Peirce and William James, who helped to define pragmatism as we know it today.
Its greatest weakness lies in the area of ethics and morality, however. It becomes incredibly subjective when you start to apply it to moral issues, and many people immediately recognize that if you look at a problem in this way, pragmatism implodes.
For instance, if a person is talking about their new car and their favorite television show and you don’t share the same interests, you might perceive their conversation as a rude monopolization of your time. This is because you can’t rely on their words to tell you their intentions, only their actions (or the results of those actions).
The study of Pragmatics is very important in everyday life. Educators and speech pathologists, for example, use their knowledge of pragmatics when they teach students how to politely hedge a request or cleverly read between the lines.