What is Pragmatics?
Pragmatics is a broad term used to describe the study of the context-dependent meanings of language and the negotiation of these meanings between speakers. It also studies how a single word or phrase can have different meanings depending on who is speaking, the particular circumstances of the speech and the speaker’s intentions. It also looks at the underlying assumptions that a speaker might make when using a certain word or phrase.
One of the key issues that pragmatics deals with is how contextual factors influence conventional meanings and how these are worked out to create new, contextually specific linguistic interpretations. It is this concept of ‘new’ meaning that distinguishes pragmatics from other fields of linguistics such as semantics, which focuses on the logical or literal meaning of an utterance.
There are several ways that a teacher might approach teaching pragmatics in the classroom. One way is to use activities that provide examples of the different linguistic functions. For example, an activity such as “Luck of the Draw (Pragmatics)” allows students to practice appropriate greetings by role playing a situation with different people in different settings. The students can then discuss why some greetings are more appropriate for certain situations than others. This type of activity can also be applied to other linguistic functions such as apologizing, giving advice, making requests or closing a conversation.
Another way that a teacher might approach teaching pragmatics is to take a more theoretical or analytical approach. A number of philosophers have contributed to the development of pragmatics, including John Stuart Mill, Alexander Bain, and John Venn. These philosophers have emphasized the importance of understanding context and social interaction when interpreting a speaker’s meaning. They have also argued that the only meaningful form of knowledge is action, and they have been critical of moral or metaphysical doctrines that place change on a lower level than actions.
The most well-known theorist in this vein is probably William James, who argued that ideas were not merely representations of impressions or objects but were functional plans for changing the world. He compared ideas to tools, and argued that change is inevitable but can be directed for human benefit. James’ philosophy has been influential on such diverse areas as psychoanalysis, law, education and politics.
Although the field of pragmatics is relatively young, it is already a rich and diverse area of research and theory. It is a particularly important and rapidly growing field for those who are interested in how humans process and acquire language, and it intersects with a wide range of other linguistic and cognitive processes. In the future, pragmatics researchers will be investigating a variety of theoretical and empirical topics, as well as developing new methods and perspectives for exploring the complex ways that a single word or phrase can have many different meanings and interpretations. In the end, it is up to individual teachers to decide which approach works best for their classrooms and students.