Senin, 23 April 2012

Cooperative Principle


Pragmatics as a study of language explaining language use in context seeks to explain aspects of meaning which cannot be explained by semantics. It is concerned with speaker meaning and how utterances are interpreted by listeners. As a discipline within language science, Pragmatics lie its roots in the work of (Herbert) Paul Grice on conversational implicature and the cooperative principle, and on the work of Stephen Levinson, Penelope Brown and Geoff Leech on politeness.


When people communicate, they exchange information. When a conversation is taking place between two persons they are depending on some common guidelines in order to get the most out of the communication. For the messages to be successfully put across, those involved in the communication should share the same common grounds on what is being talked about. This principle of speakers’ sharing the same common grounds on what they are discussing constitutes what is termed “cooperative principle” (Grice, 1975 in Yule, 1996), by which speakers make “conversational contribution such as is required, at the stage at which it occurs, by the accepted purpose or the direction of the talk exchange…” (cited in Yule, 1996).






Paul Grice, an English language philosopher, proposes that speakers and hearers share a cooperative principle in ordinary conversation. Speakers shape their utterances to be understood by hearers. Grice analyzes cooperation as involving four maxims: quantity, quality, relation, and manner. Speakers give enough and not too much information: quantity. They are genuine and sincere, speaking "truth" or facts: quality. Utterances are relative to the context of the speech: relation. Speakers try to present meaning clearly and concisely, avoiding ambiguity: manner.



Consider this following conversation cited in Yule (1996). There is a woman sitting on a park bench and a large dog lying on the ground in front of the bench. A man comes along and sits down on the bench.

Man : Does your dog bite?
Woman: No, he doesn’t.
(The man reaches down to feed the dog. The dog bites the man’s hand)
Man : Ouch! Hey! You said your dog doesn’t bite.
Woman: He doesn’t. But that’s not my dog.

In the scenario, it is seems that the man’s assumption that is more communicated than what is said is answered with less information expected.



Grice's cooperative principle is a set of norms expected in conversation. Grice proposes four maxims (sub-cooperative principle) expected in conversation.
1. Quality: speaker tells the truth or provable by adequate evidence
2. Quantity: speaker is as informative as required
3. Relation: response is relevant to topic of discussion
4. Manner: speaker's avoids ambiguity or obscurity, is direct and straightforward


He suggests that there is an accepted way of speaking which we all accept as standard behavior. When we produce, or hear, an utterance, we assume that it will generally be true, have the right amount of information, be relevant, and will be couched in understandable terms. If an utterance does not appear to conform to this model, then we do not assume that the utterance is nonsense; rather, we assume that an appropriate meaning is there to be inferred. In Grice’s terms, a maxim has been flouted, and an implicature generated.



There are certain kinds of expressions speakers use to mark that they may be in danger of not fully adhering to the principles, these kinds of expressions are called “hedges”. For example we may say: “I am not sure if this is right…” or “As far as I know…” to show that we respect the maxim of quality and many of us may use this cliché expression” So, to cut a long story short,…” to emphasize that we observe the quality maxim in communication process. We can observe many of such phrases and sentences in news stories also:

To sum up the story…
There are no more details about this news…(Quantity maxim)
The official sources announced that…
No one takes the responsibility of this report …
It is heard that…(Quality maxim)
On this subject, we interview…(Relation maxim)
To clarify the news I talk to…(manner maxim)



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