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(1911-1960) still regarded as one of the founding fathers of modern pragmatics,

rejected the positivists’ definition of communication and embraced a more modern

view. According to Austin (1962) when we say something we perform actions, that he

terms speech acts (how to do things with words (1962). According to him, words,

utterance are not just words, they are speech acts (atti di parola) that allow people to

actually perform actions. When we speak we spread our influence in the world around

and drive people to do things.


When an utterance is produced, it can be analysed on 3 different levels:

Locutionary Act: the very act of saying something (sentence meaning, propositional

meaning sense, GF)

Illocutionary act (or Force): what is done in uttering the words, the purpose the

speaker has in mind (inviting, promising, ordering, requesting ect = CF).

Perlocutionary act (or effect): what is done by uttering the words, the act of bringing

about effect on the beliefs, attitudes and behaviours of addressee (the hearer’s

reaction). It’s the effect the speaker wants to have on the hearer.

Illocutionary uptake: once the hearer understood the speaker’s illocutionary force, it

is actually what the hearer will do once my perlocutionary act is given. The more

locutionary and illocutionary forms differ from each other the more the hearer won’t

follow our perlocutionary effect or because the hearer refuses to follow it or because

he really didn’t understand what the speaker want.

In a communicative interaction I have I target to achieve then I have an illocutionary

force, then I’ll use a specific locutionary act to have a specific perlocutionary effect!

Direct speech act: the locutionary act and illocutionary force overlap (1:1 relationship

between form and function). Direct speech act  Explicit illocutionary force (there is

specific linguistic signal whose function is to encode illocutionary force).

Indirect speech act: the locutionary act and illocutionary force do not overlap (no 1:1

relationship between form and function). Indirectness was wide spread. People tend to

be indirect whenever they can. (Indirect speech act  Implicit illocutionary force

(starkly dependent on context). Indirectness is also used on account of the formality of

the context or social distance (lack of familiarity, differences of status, age, gender,

education, occupation, ect: those who are in a more powerful social position (can) use

directness, while those who are in a less powerful social position tend to use


Indirectness is also used because it allows for REPARATION: e.g. an indirect accusation

can always be REPAIRED (that’s not what I meant).


we mean that there is in the utterance some explicit linguistic element which makes

explicit the illocutionary force. Austin accepted the existence of a class of speech acts

that could be verified for its true/false nature (a concept he inherited from positivism)

but he also identified a second group of speech acts.

Constative speech act: verified for their true/false nature

Performative speech act: actually, perform acts through words

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Examples Given: I hereby pronounce you man and wife, I baptise this boy Michael

(we change the world by their very utterance). By performativity we realize

explicitness. The change given could be big or small. Also saying I apologize, I ask, I

blame act. I’m sorry is different from I apologize. I apologize is an explicit form to say

that I’m sorry. Performative verbs make the illocutionary force of utterance explicit. It

is related to the lexical level of utterance. My intention (illocutionary form) is

translated in explicitness. The moment we use this kind of speech act we are

extremely explicit and we have more power on the world around

Example 1: I command you to surrender

Example 2: I promise to pay you next week

Example 3: I think you made a mistake (is different from saying) I blame you make a

mistake. performatively descriptively.

Performative verbs can be used and


they can occur with Hereby (con la presente) they have to be in the first person,

simple present sentence (active or passive), they are non-truth conditional ( you

cannot answer “That’s not true”).

Example 1

I warn you to stay away from her= I hereby warn you to stay away from her (Correct)

I hereby warned you… (incorrect)

He hereby warns you…(incorrect)

I warn you to stay away from her/ That’s not true…(incorrect)

Descriptively: they are no different from non-performative verbs (hereby is ruled out,

they can take the present continuous, or be used in the third person). It’s all the

“incorrect” phrases.

Example 1

John is always promising to do things, but he never does them = John is always hereby

promising to do things, but he never does them

By this phrase I could have different intention like criticize, blame and so on.

Grammatical Performativity

The illocutionary force of an utterance is indicated by the very grammatical shape of

the utterance rather than by a performative verb:

Interrogative & Imperative can’t be constative, they are performative in nature.

Interrogative Sentences: expression of ignorance; the desire for the removal of

ignorance: include an imperative-like component:

Example 1

Is John Brave?

It is syntactically a question. There are 3 types of question in English, Yes/No, W

(object question), W (subject question) presence of auxiliaries when the pronoun is the

subject or not.

1) I don’t know if he is brave

2) I want to know

3) Say ‘Yes’ of the proposition ‘John is brave’ is true and ‘No’ if it is false.

Imperative Sentences : direct or urge someone to do something (same area as

explicit performatives such as ‘order’, ‘command’, ect.

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Example 1

Shut the door! = I hereby command you to shut the door

But also linked to contextual elements (authority of the speaker; whether the action is

more likely to benefit the hearer or the speaker: Ex2: Come in!

For an imperative to be such, the person using the imperative needs to have the

authority to use it or it falls flat. The imperative must be in the interest of the speaker

to be an imperative because it is not it would be more an expression of politeness

(offer or suggestion).

Declarative Sentences : (Statements/affirmative sentences)

Declarative sentence generally fall under ‘constative’. However, they are sometime

classified as performatives, because their overarching function is to ‘assert’, ‘state’,

‘claim’ something.

later on, ‘performative hypothesis’, soon abandoned= only performatives exist,

because behind every constative there is an ‘hidden’ performative. The performativity

of declarative sentences very often depends on context. While explicitness doesn’t

need the context to be understood.

Example 1

The dog is black; I hereby claim the dog is black (less natural)

Example 2

I’ll be back: I promise I’ll be back? or I warn you I’ll be back?

Disjunct: modifies the all sentence, express the attitude then the intention of the


Adjunct: modifies the verb

a) Adverbs: Frankly, I couldn’t care less  I tell you frankly that I couldn’t care less

b) Reflexives: the letter was addressed to John and myself (there is no antecedent for

the reflexive pronoun)  I hereby tell you the letter was addressed to john and myself.

myself is the reflexives, myself is a reference but there’s no referent.

Searle’s Macro-classes of performative speech act.

Declarations : expressions which change the world by their very utterance (I declare, I

resign ect)

Representatives (Assertive): state what the speaker believes to be the case, what

s/he thinks it’s true (describe, state, hypothesise ect)

Commissives : commit (impegnarsi) the speaker to future action (promise, vow,

volunteer ect)

Directives : aimed at making the hearer do something (command, request, forbid ect)

Expressives : state what the speaker feels (apologise, regret ect).


By Implicitness the illocutionary force is wholly dependent by the context and there is

no linguistic element In Indirect speech acts, the surface meaning differs from the

underlying pragmatic meaning.

An utterance belonging to a macro-function is used in place of an utterance belonging

to another macro-function. A sentence which has an illocutionary force as part of its

propositional meaning can be used to perform an act with a different illocutionary

force, e.g. a(n) assertive/representative is used with the intention of conveying the

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speech act ‘request’, which is a directive. Utterance may belong – and, often, DO

belong – to more than one macro-class!

Example 1

What time is it?

At the bus stop: I have been waiting for a while, the bus hasn’t arrived, I don’t have a

watch, can you please tell me the time, so that I can possibly catch a cab or start


Locutionary act: Asking the time

Illocutionary force: asking the time, a piece of information necessary to one’s needs

‘Shall I wait or not?

Perlocutionary effect: the hearer replies to my question and tells me what I want to

know  direct speech act.

Example 2

What time is it?

Interview for a job: Interviewer to expected interviewed: You were supposed to be here

at 9:30, it’s 10.20 which doesn’t make you appear accountable.

Locutionary Act: asking for the time

Illocutionary force: blaming  making the hearer aware the interviewer’s ill-disposed

because the interviewee is late

Perlocutionary effect: making that interviewee realised he won’t get the job.

Indirect speech act (interrogative used in place of an expressive  blaming)

We need the context to understand if we deal with a direct or indirect speech act.

Every utterance has a meaning potential, it can be direct or indirect!!! Even ‘what’s

your name?’

Example 3

It’s hot in here


3 year English Lesson, University of Genoa (supposing we had a room with a window)

=The lecturer= There are 100 people in here, it is difficult to breathe, we all need air,

can someone open the window, please?

Locutionary act: making a statement

Illocutionary Force: asking/ordering someone to open the window

Perlocutionary effect: lead someone to open the window

Indirect speech act (assertive used in place of a directive  request/order).

Example 4

Open the window


3 year English Lesson, University of Genoa (supposing we had a room with a window)

=The lecturer= There are 100 people in here, it is difficult to breathe, we all need air,

can someone open the window, please?

Locutionary act: asking/ ordering someone to open the window

Illocutionary force: Asking/ ordering someone to open the window

Perlocutionary effect: bring someone to open the window

Direct Speech Act

Therefore, in this case two different Les realise the same CF.

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Felicity Conditions (Austin)

How can we understand when the speaker says A and means B. Austin draw up 3

principles to explain it.

1) There must be a conventional procedure having a conventional effect

The circumstances and persons must be appropriate as specified in the procedure

2) The procedure must be executed, correctly, completely

3) Often (not always) the person must have the requisite thoughts, feelings and

intentions, as specified in the procedure and if consequent conduct is specified, then

the relevant parties must do so.

If they are not respected: ½ MISFIRES (the act is null and void) (3) ABUSE

If they are respected, the communicative exchange will be felicitous.

Misfires: some should happen but doesn’t. An utterance is used but has no effect.

(teacher baptise someone).

Abuse: do bear consequences which are usually negative but it is difficult detect

abuses during the communicative exchange. It’s about feeling and intention, mine and

others and I cannot control the others. It happens after the communicative exchange.

It is about LIES. That’s why we have the abuse and also if we won’t have our mark


Everything we do is conventional, we follow a scheme shared by all or by specific

people in a certain context. If it is conventional it means conventional steps must be

followed completely (all the steps must be followed) and correctly (in the right way)

like having 2 lessons per week in certain hours and they’re about English and not

about anything else. This procedure needs certain participants, place and time. It is

needed in our case to be the right teacher and students.

it is needed to have the right intention for doing the right specific thing (linked to

convention). After people agreed about something, after the end of the communicative

act, this certain thing must be done to follow the consequent conduct. Due to that we

have specific consequences. Like for example register a mark after the exam, if it is

not done, different things will happen.

If They Are Respected:

Preparatory/Essential/Sincerity conditions (Searle)

Preparatory Conditions: they’re prepare the ground for the speech act to take place,

if they do not hold, the act has not been carried out, it is null and void  (Austin’s

condition 1); declarative/directives are prepared by authority; commissive are

prepared by the ability to perform the act predicated in the propositional content of

the act)

Sincerity Conditions (one must have the intention to be truthful)  (Austin’s condition

3) it means that I do mean it.

Essential Conditions: (To speak the same language, role relationship recognised ect)

which constitute an integral part of the speech act (you cannot change the context

without changing these conditions as well) (Austin’s condition 2; if not respected the

act has not been carried out). It’s about the BASIC CONDITION which must be known

and acknowledge.

NB: If they are respected the communicative exchange will be successful.

Directive (requested) Commissive (promise)

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Preparatory Condition H is able to perform A S is able to perform A. H

wants S to perform A.

Sincerity Condition S wants H to do A S intends to do A.

Essential Condition Counts as an attempt by S Counts as the undertaking

to get H to do A by S of an obligation to do




S: Speaker H: Hearer A: Act

In a successful/felicitous communicative exchange: Speakers will be able to employ

indirect speech acts and hearer will understand the INTENDED illocutionary force of

utterance, so that they can perform the INTENDED perlocutionary effect. Meaning

making consist in part in the intention to produce understanding in the hearer, by

getting the hearer to recognise his/her intention (his/her illocutionary act).

Felicitous conditions are useful for indirect speech to be applied and understood. All

the f. condition must be respected. Only those utterances which have a right to be

performed (the speaker believes it is possible for the hearer to carry out the action

and/or the act is in the hearer’s best interest) will see their intended perlocutionary

effect fulfilled.

Example 1

E. Zurru: Good afternoon. Let’s start. (Correct)

rd st

(English 3 year theoretical module, Tuesday, 1 semester a. y. 16/17) Correct.

Locutionary act: suggestion

illocutionary act: order/command (fall silent and start paying attention)

Perlocutionary effect: students fall silent and start paying attention

Indirect speech act (making a suggestion instead of a command).

Example 2

Prof Prandi: Good morning, let’s start. (Misfire)

rd st

(English 3 year theoretical module, Tuesday, 1 semester a. y. 16/17)

Example 3

E. Zurru: Can you please be quiet? (Correct)

rd st

(English 3 year theoretical module, Tuesday, 1 semester a. y. 16/17 still supposing

we had a window)

Example 4

E. Zurru: Jump out of the window (Misfire)

(English 3rd year theoretical module, Tuesday, 1st semester a. y. 16/17 still supposing

we had a window)

Example 5

Fire-fighter (during a wildfire): Jump out of the window (Correct)

(English 3rd year theoretical module, Tuesday, 1st semester a. y. 16/17 still supposing

we had a window)

Therefore, felicity/preparatory conditions represent one of the answer, together with

presupposition, modern pragmatics gives to the question: How do we communicate if

we say Z and mean Y?

Both felicity/preparatory/essential/sincerity conditions and presuppositions have non-

linguistic and communicate significance and constitute part of the background

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knowledge which can be relied on to grasp the intended meaning of an utterance.

Furthermore, they create EXPECTATIONS, which we constantly rely on when

communicating (or living, in general). Violation of expectations is what, more than

many other communicative devices, creates a striking effect (e.g. humour, fear,


Example 1

A: Can you do me a favour?

B: Sure

A: Go to hell, and stay there. Never come back (Different from direct) Go to hell, and

stay there. Never come back.

Social Dimension

The use of speech acts varies according to social factors:

Indirectness is a sign of politeness in many languages/cultures: directives are more

often expressed as interrogatives than imperatives.

Example 1

Could you please open the window?

The addition of “Please” marks the illocutionary force of the utterance as directive –

ruling out that it is a question about ability, hence ruling out that GF=CF – even

though the literal meaning of the rest of the sentence is not directive. In this case,

with Please, I don’t mean if you are able “please” to open the window. “Could” is used

in Epistemic Modality.

Example 2

Open the window vs Open the window, please.

“Please” is used to mitigate. With please is not more a Direct Speech Act cause it’s not

more and imperative but a request.

Cultural Dimension

The way of expressing speech acts is highly culture-bound:

Example 1

How fat you are!

India: Illocutionary Force is Praising, congratulating (politeness)

UK: Illocutionary Force is Deploring, criticising (Impolite)

Example 2:

Speech act  Greeting

UK: Hi, a bit cold today eh?

Hong Kong: Hi, have you had lunch? (this is a question about welfare NOT a

preliminary to an invitation)


Furthermore, it should be noticed that over and above speech acts, Brown and Yule

(1983) classify two macro-functions of talk


expression of content and transmission of factual information (e.g. the extreme pole is

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giving instructions to somebody in the street)


expression of social relations and personal attitudes, meant to show solidarity and

maintain social cohesion (the extreme pole phatic communion (e.g. at the bus stop

“My goodness, it’s cold)  language with no information content used purely to

establish/keep channels of communication open).

Phatic Communion:

it is the way we use language to open the channel to have a communication with

hearers. It is the extreme pole of this kind of device because I’m opening channels

with strangers and not ordinary people I already know. By this way so I take the first

touch with other human beings.

Most talk has mixture of two functions, although everyday human interaction is

primarily interpersonal rather than transactional. Utterances at the extreme pole of

both macro-functions might be difficult to classify as speech acts.


The utterance falling under the categories of fillers and backchannels cannot be easily

classified as speech acts

Fillers There you go; You know  they have an interactional, socially cohesive function:

avoid silence, so that every speaker feels comfortable.

backchannels: Was it? Oh, really? Uhm  they also have an interactional, social

function: they show that the hearer is listening and is encouraging the speaker to

continue talking.


To be more specific, the apparatus necessary to explain the direct part of indirect

speech acts includes:

-Mutually shared factual background information of the speaker and the hearer


-A theory of speech acts

-Certain general principles of cooperative conversation (some of which have been

discussed by Grice)

-Mutually shared factual background information of the speaker and the hearer.

FELICITY CONDITION 1.2: the circumstances and persons must be appropriate as

specified in the procedure.

it is taken for granted that people are appropriated, it is not specified.

Can you open the window, please?

It is about asking for a favour and not about ability

Can you play the guitar?

Direct speech act, the GF overlaps with CF so the Locutionary act and illocutionary

force overlaps.

Can I open the window? Direct.

It is in the first person so it’s not about ability, but permission is still there. Direct

speech act because I’m asking permission to someone else.

Could I open the window? Indirect.

Could reduce the impact of a request which, if you use can, is direct. So, the impact

starts shifting so it becomes a polite request for permission. It’s indirect also because

“Could” is in the past sentence and obviously I’m not asking the permission which lies

in the past.

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Do you mind if I open the window? Very Indirect Illocutionary level I’m asking for

permission. The locutionary act is asking for opinion.

Question: How many Les? (3) And how many CFs? (1)

Politeness is a scale, there are different levels of politeness. The very fact of asking is

polite. The politeness is based on whom I’m talking to.

Appropriacy to Context

Prescriptive grammar and communicative use of language may differ

(Can  Ability/Permission= GF vs CAN  Request (for a favour) /Command= CF).

Different linguistic selections are to be used in different contexts

(Can  75% formal Vs Could  90% formal), so that speakers do not run the risk of

being too formal or too informal (polite/impolite, straightforward/vague, ect).

Expectation has an impact on communication and politeness is an expectation

because social conventions of politeness are known. Indeed, we acquire knowledge of

and perceive sentences not only as grammatically correct, but also as appropriate or


Dell Hymes

He pointed out in 1871 that the ability to distinguish between what is appropriate and

what is not constitutes part of the communicative competence of speakers, which is to

be distinguished from their linguistic competence. Growing up we do not just acquire


language but also all the social convention. a speaker has

of a language is the knowledge of the:

Rule of Grammar (Phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics). The linguistic

competence is the knowledge of the language as a system. Knowledge of the

language as a Formal System (e.g. the knowledge of Latin studied in Italian high



Rules of Grammar (phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics) and

Rule of Use (When, where, how, why, to whom, ect communicative use of language)

Rules of use are as important as rules of grammar, if not more: lined to cultural

relativity; source of cultural ‘mistakes’. The communicative competence is the

knowledge of rule and then how use communication in the different communicative

ways. Language is used as a means of communication.

Cultural relativity is very important because is about Communicative Competence, and

the mistakes related to the rules of use /cultural mistakes/ tend to have a very big

impact on communication. The context influences the way we communicate through

communicative competence and cultural rules and then we distinguish what is

appropriate and what doesn’t.

A (to A’s mother, in 2016) I beg your pardon, Ma’am. I was wondering whether you

could be so kind as to allow me to open the window. (it is not appropriated for the set

and time). It is diachronically not appropriate. Here we have a personal relationship,

communicative mistakes are less damaging.

A (to A’s lecturer) Yo, sis, see the window open now! Here we have a social

relationship, then there is social convention. It is not appropriate because it is

extremely informal and extremely impolite. We have the slang and imperative verbs

issuing an order using performatively.

A (to A’s sweetheart) Can you open the window, please, honey? Appropriate. Request

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whose impact is reduce. It is not a command. It is Indirect. Terms of endearment



Conversation Analysis (CA) adopts a bottom-up approach: starts with the conversation,

takes real data, examine them and demonstrates that conversation is systematically


CA views conversation as a PROCESS: an unfolding event implying cooperation and

negotiation between speakers. We have a target, different social level.

Guy Cook

He claims in 1989 that talk can be classified as conversation (hence, it can be

distinguished from any other stretch of talk delivered orally (class at university,

political speeches, interviews) when:

-It’s not necessitated by practical task

-Any unequal power relation between participants is partially suspended

-The number of participants is small

-Turns are quite short

-Talk is primarily for the participants and not for an outside audience.

English class is NOT a conversation because It is necessitated by a practical task

(teaching), There exist an unequal power relation between interactants (teacher and

students), The number of participants is NOT small (about 100 people), Some turns are

not short (mostly the teacher speaks). Any stretch of talk is for the whole audience

even when it is represented by one-to-one interaction

Conversation is a type of text-type. English class is another text-type. However, these

should be considered as guidelines, rather than rules. 99% of human conversation is

outcome-oriented (there is almost always practical task). Even if no official unbalanced

power relationship between speakers exists, this kind of relationship can be

constructed during the conversation itself (one of the two speakers is a skilful

communicator and takes the lead of the conversation, for example). There are people

which are simply more skilful than others, then they will guide the conversation to the

place they want.

Turn-taking management (of utterance)

It refers to how speakers manage their turns in conversation. In many cultures,

generally speaking, only one person speaks at a time, then another, then the first ect


All cultures have their preferences as to

-whether the new speaker can overlap, and so on.

-when a new speaker can start

-how speakers should hold the floor

Example Given

Latin Americans: Pauses of a fraction of a second; it is socially acceptable to overlap

Native Americans: 2 sec. pause,

Japanese: find it unacceptable to interrupt.

Transition relevance place (TRP)

TRP represents the moment in a conversation when a change in the person taking the

turn is possible. It is a complicated phase to manage: scarcely ever can next speaker

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be sure the current speaker’s turn is over.

Interruption : If next speaker does not want to wait until TRP.

Overlap : When speakers predict that the preceding turn is about to end, but they

come in before it really is over, this is called an overlap.

In both cases the difference is not the effect, it is about the intention. The interruption

is intentional. The overlap is given by mistake.

(Non)attributable Silence

If the silence constituting the pause is not meant to carry meaning, we speak of non-

attributable silence; on the other hand, we speak of attributable silence if the pause is

intended to carry meaning instead.

Example 1

I’m getting fat/ Silence.

I refuse to answer, still conveying meaning. In this case above, the silence takes with

itself an affirmative answer. The fillers sometime are used not to give an attributable


Adjacency Pairs (copie d’adiacenza)


They are pairs of utterances which frequently co-occur. The structure of the first

making a certain response by the next speaker very likely.



Any break in the expected pattern of adjacency pairs constitutes a violation of

expectation, hence, unless it is related to an insertion sequence, it will trigger a

process of interpretation on the part of the hearer 

Example: Question/Question instead of Question/Answer…Greeting/Answer


As far as content is concerned, when we open an adjacency pair we have certain

expectation of a particular second part; if the expectation is respected we have a

PREFERRED RESPONSE (perlocutionary force and illocutionary uptake overlaps); if it is

not respected we have a DISPREFERRED RESPONSE. The preferred responses are the

one we hope to have, not the social conventional.

Preferred Dispreferred


Genuine (Willingly) Acceptance Refusal

Out of Courtesy (per forza) Refusal Acceptance


In conversations, certain sequences tend to appear: main sequences, pre-sequences,

insertion sequences, opening/closing sequences. Not every conversation necessarily

shows all the sequences (neither the right order) but it is not weird for that. The more

people are close the more they do not feel to re-establish the bond.

PRE-SEQUENCES (PS) prepare the ground for a following sequence and signal the

type of utterance that should/would follow in the MAIN SEQUENCE(S). Pre-sequences

also serve as a politeness strategy. They help to clear where the conversation is going.

We avoid a real refusal or any real invitation.

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Example 1

Pre-invitation (I was thinking about going to the cinema tonight), pre-requested (Are

you busy right now?), Pre-announcements (You’ll never guess what’s happened


INSERTION SEQUENCE (IS): the pair appears embedded within another adjacency


A: You know that movie I wanted to see?

B: Yes?

A: Do you want to go and see it tonight?

(IS) What time does it start?

(IS) 8:30

Yeah, why not?

Function: 1) Gathering further information to get the right answer 2) time-filler.

OPENING SEQUENCES constituted by greeting, enquiries health, or past references.

A: Hey

B: Hi. How are you doing?

A: I’m doing good, thanks. Lovely dinner yesterday, eh?

B: Yeah, definitely.

Function: Phatic/interactional. There’s not any kind of new information.

opening sequences are interactional in nature because we use them just to open or

reopen contact with people in our life.

CLOSING SEQUENCES can be preceded by a pre-closing sequence and are meant to

bring the conversation to a close.

A: Well, I’ve got to go now (after that the conversation is over)

B: Yeah, me too

A: So, I’ll see you tomorrow

B: Yeah, tomorrow

A: Bye, then.

B: Bye

Function: phatic/interactional/politeness.


Is there anything we can rely on to interpret the very linguistic signal in the context) Is

there a way to consider not only what happened before the conversation but also what

is going in the conversation?

H.P. Grice (The Cooperative Principle)

He elaborated the Cooperative Principle in 1975. It’s what study how cooperation is

achieved and negotiated by the speakers. Speakers tend automatically to cooperate

with each other because we need others. Starting from this premise, Grice states that

meaning in conversation (but the principle can be easily extended to other types of

communication as well) is negotiated, conveyed and shared because speakers want to

cooperative with one another. And even if they CHOOSE not to cooperate, they have a

reason to do so. Our talk exchanges do not normally consist of a succession of

disconnected remarks, and would not be rational if they did. They are

characteristically, to some degree at least, cooperative efforts; and each participant

recognize in them, to some extent, a common purpose or set of purposes, or at least a

mutually accepted direction. This purpose or direction may be fixed from the start (e.g.

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by an initial proposal of a question for discussion), or it may evolve during the

exchange; it may be fairly definite, or it may be so indefinite as to leave very

considerable latitude to the participants (as in a casual conversation). But at each

stage, some possible conversational moves (utterances) would be excluded as

conversationally unsuitable (not conventional- like adjacency pair). All this has a

philosophic approach to language.

Cooperative Principle Statement

Make your conversational contribution such as is required, at the stage at which it

occurs, by the accepted purpose or direction of the talk exchange in which you are


What is Conveyed

What is Said: Propositional meaning (e.g. entailments)

What is Meant (implicated): Implicature (conventional / conversational)

Implicature (implicatura) is a term in pragmatics and it is what we called Implied



A: What is your name?

B: Ivan (ellipsis)

What is said (propositional meaning): my name is Ivan (including entailment(s) I have

a name; my name is that of a male ect. We have a DIRECT SPEECH ACT SO I WON’T


What is implicated: //


Certain linguistic forms are conventionally attached non-truth-conditional aspects of

meaning. These are called CONVENTIONAL IMPLICATURE. In other words, they do not

impact on the truth/falsity of the utterance, at the semantic level, but contribute to its

overall meaning at the pragmatic level (e.g. the difference between ‘and’ and ‘but’).

By these linguistic forms it’s given an additional information and the very same

information is retrieved by every hearer/ participant. Conventional means they are

automatically derivable.

Examples Given


She’s poor happy

Conventional implicature: she’s happy because she’s poor


she’s poor happy

Conventional implicature: She’s happy in spite of the fact that she’s poor


He is an Englishman; he is, brave.

Conventional Implicature: He’s brave because he’s an Englishman, who’s not an

Englishman is not brave.

Even Bill like Mary

Conventional Implicature: Other people besides Bill like Mary; Of the people under

consideration, Bill is the least likely to like Mary.



Non-conventional implicatures are CONVERSATIONAL IMPLICATURE, namely aspects of

meaning which are implicated in conversation, but are not conventionally attached to

certain linguistic forms so they are unpredictable.

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A: Have you cleared the table and washed the dishes?

B: I’ve cleared the table

Conversational Implicature: I haven’t washed the dishes

A: Am I in time for supper?

B: I’ve cleared the table

Conversational Implicature: You’re too late for supper


The general principle entails four more specific categories or aspects, under which four

maxims fall:

Quantity : make your contribution as informative as is required (for the current

purpose of the exchange)

Do not make your contribution more informative than is required.

Quality : Try to make your contribution one that is true. Do not say what you believe to

be false. Do not say that for which you lack adequate evidence

Relation Relevance

/ : Be relevant

Manner : Be perspicuous (trasparente), avoid obscurity of expression, avoid ambiguity,

be brief (avoid unnecessary prolixity), be orderly. (general words are about ambiguity

and obscurity)

Therefore, when we talk to people, we take it for granted that they are being


Example 1

A: Excuse me, can you please tell me the time? (indirect. I’m not asking about ability)

B: 9:15

In this case B is cooperative because respect all the Grice’s Maxims.

Example 2 (A meets B while a dog is walking beside B)

A: Does your dog bite? (indirect, asking for permission in illocutionary force)

B: No

A: (A strokes the dog and gets bitten). But you said it didn’t bite!

B: I didn’t say this was my dog, either.

In this case B do not respect the Maxim of Quantity because avoided to give the piece

of information really requested. B should have said “No, but beware, this is not my

dog”. Even though, B respects Quality (because it is possible that B’s dog does not

bite, B’s brief and clear then respects also the Maxim of Manner)

Quantity vs Manner

Can you think of the difference between the Maxim of Quantity and the maxim of

manner, sub-maxim ‘be brief’? When we don’t respect all the piece of infos we create

implicature. By ‘be brief’ is about reduction in explicitness and if I’m supposed to used

5 words I don’t have to use 3 or 7.

Observing the maxims

Therefore, when we give the right amount of information, we are truthful, relevant and

unambiguous, we perform cooperative turns in conversation, which incidentally also

allow the communicative event to run smoothly.

Example 1

What did you have for lunch today?

Baked beans on toast

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Food (it’s obvious- less infos than required)

I had 87 warmed-up baked beans (although 8 of them were slightly crushed) served on

a slice of toast 12.7cm by 10.3cm which had been unevenly toasted X (problem with

being brief)

Example 2

Have you seen Laura today?

Yes, I have

I’m breathing (it’ obvious and it’s not relevant)

I saw her yesterday, the day before and on Wednesday last week. We also went to the

cinema two weeks ago and we had dinner together at the beginning of the month

(Problem with quantity, there are many different pieces of infos which are not


Attributable silence is the only situation in which a break all the maxims.

How conversational implicatures arise

Cls can arise due to different communicative choices.

Standard implicature

they can be explained based on the assumption that the speaker is doing his own best

to follow the CP, even though the result may not be optimum form the hearer’s point

of view. People are not actively trying to imply something (THROUGH AN INDIRECT


Example Given

A; (Stranded motorist) I’ve run out of petrol (indirect- illocutionary force is asking for

help) (Conversational Implicature is where can I find a place)

B: (Passer-by) There’s a garage just around the corner. (We take for granted that B is

cooperating) (indirect)

Assumption: B is obeying the Maxim of Relevance, we assume B is telling the truth.

Standard Implicature of B: a) The garage sells petrol; b) The garage is open.

Participants select a type of speech act rather than a direct one.

If neither of these were the case, the utterance simply would not be relevant in this


Flouting the Maxims

(break a maxim, actively choose an implicature sure the hearer will decode it).

Speakers can decide to flout the maxims BLATANTLY (that is, to exploit the

Cooperative Principle in a creative way): they can decide not to follow the maxims at

the formal level, but they nonetheless expect hearers to infer (disambiguate, decode)

the IMPLIED MEANING. Speakers make it clear to the other interactant(s) that they are

doing so. Therefore, cooperation takes place at a deeper level.

I’m following an agenda. I’m not cooperating at a surface level. I’m breaking


Example 1

A: Good grief, what a boring lesson!

B: Look, it has started to rain.

B: he’s simply changing the topic or B is trying to say something and make A

understand something.

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I’m not just selecting an indirect speech act but blatantly (platealmente) create an

implied meaning I want the hearer to decode.

Flouting Quantity

Speaker gives (a) too much information = in general, hearers might get

bored/distracted by an overload of information; (b) not enough information (cf. scalar

(or quantity) implicature) = in general, hearers won’t be able to understand. These

alert the hearer that an implied meaning is created.

Example 1

A: Well, do you like my new dress, sweetheart?

B: The colour really suites you.

There are less info than expected. It’s just a Yes/No question and B neither answered

Yes or No.

Example 2

A: Where’s the remote controller?

B: It must be somewhere (stating the obvious).

There is not enough info. The implied meaning is that B is not going to search for it.

Example 3

A: Door! (implied- someone is knocking).

Flouting Quality

Speakers might say something they do not really think:

Example 1 (White lie, not to give offence) (At the end of a job interview)

A: I am sure your skills will be better applied in another field.

Example 2

A: I’m starving!

B: I don’t think you are dying of hunger – you don’t even look thin.

I know it’s not true, it’s a hyperbole. I say something which is not true blatantly.

Hyperbole, metaphor, irony, sarcasm,

Banter: figures of speech flout the maxim of quality/ it is the opposite of irony, I say

something rude meaning another thing like Ex: You are an idiot.

Flouting Relevance

Speakers perform apparently non-relevant and unrelated turns.

Example 1

A: Good grief, what a boring lesson!

B: Look, it has started to rain!

Example 2

A: Door!

B: I’m in the bath!

A: OK!

Apparently, they are not cooperating with each other but they are creating implicature

they want to be understood by the hearer.

Flouting Manner

Speakers are ambiguous, not orderly, not brief, not perspicuous:

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Example 1

Where is Dave? / He went out/ Out where? / In a place. Outside. /Which place? Doing

what? /Some stuff.

There are not preferred response and A get more specific question. B is flouting


Therefore, when speakers flout the maxims of the cooperative principle, an implied

meaning is created and conveyed.

This implied meaning:

-is created in conversation (viz. NON-CONVENTIONALLY) so conversationally.

-has to be INFERRED (process using logic the implied meaning) by hearers who are to

fill in this missing links in communication. Inferring is construct the missing links

between what is said and what is implicated.



Ex1: John is meeting a woman tonight (“a” is used to introduce something for the first


Conventional Implicature (the woman is not his mother, sister, daughter, best friend)

Ex2: (A) Are you and John going to the football match?

B) John is meeting a woman tonight

Conventional Implicature (the woman is not his mother, sister, daughter, best friend)

Conversational Implicature (No, we are not, because he has a date)

Problem with QUANTITY MAXIM. We cannot say whether if it is Standard Implicature or

Flouting Maxims.

Features of Conversational Implicature

1) Calculability: Cis must be calculated, namely they must be the result of a working-

out procedure based on General principles: everyone needs to be able to get to the

same implied meaning, everyone who has the knowledge of the whole context and the

ability to understand the propositional meaning of utterances. The conventional

meaning of words (or GF) + contextual information= CI

This feature distinguishes Cis from, e.g. inside jokes or special/arbitrary arrangements

between people. It’s a Joke which is known or used by a small group of people. This is

not conversational implicature even if there’s implied meaning.

Example 1 A&B (husband and wife at parties/meeting/gatherings in general)

(1) Have you seen Clive recently? = (2) Let’s leave in 15 minutes.

Just they (A&B) know that 1 means 2. We cannot calculate the real meaning without

their own context (private arrangement). They arbitrarily established and reduced so

much the meaning potential.

2) Context-dependence

The same Utterance can give rise to different Cis in different contexts:

Example 1

A: have you cleared the table and washed the dishes?

B: I’ve cleared the table.

Conversational Implicature (I haven’t washed the dishes; cf. scalar implicature: if a

stronger claim could have been made, it would have.)

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Example 2

A: Am I in time for supper?

B: I’ve cleared the table

Conversational Implicature: You’re too late for supper)

3) Cancellability

Cis are cancellable: they can be nullified by additional material without any resultant

contradiction or anomaly: In other words, the addition of new information allows the

utterance to switch back to ‘what is said”. Conversational Implicature can be cancelled

without creating an anomalous sentence.

Example 1

A: Did the minister attend the meeting and signed the agreement?

B: The minister attended the meeting

Conversational Implicature: The minister didn’t sign the agreement

B: The minister attended the meeting; a statement will be issued later with regarded

to the agreement

We are no longer entitled to think that the agreement was not signed.

In this case we change the propositional meaning then changed the context

Example 2

A: Is Karl a good philosopher?

B: He’s got a beautiful handwriting; but he’s a brilliant philosopher, too!

Cf. Conventional Implicature or entailments

John hasn’t arrived yet: I know for a fact that he’s not coming (yet: He will arrive)


John killed the wasp, but it didn’t die (anomalous)

These are anomalous sentence at a propositional level.

4) Non-detachability

The same GF/propositional content in the same context will give rise to the same

conversational implicature, independently of the form of the U (the conversational

implicature is tied to meaning, NOT to form)

Example 1

A: Have you cleared the table and washed the dishes?

B: I’ve cleared the table

Conversational Implicature: I haven’t washed the dishes

Example 2

A: Have you cleared the table and washed the dishes?

B: I’ve taken all things off the table

Conversational Implicature: I haven’t washed the dishes.

Example 3

I haven’t eaten breakfast this morning

I haven’t eaten breakfast before

Illocutionary Force VS Conversational Implicature

Remember that the illocutionary force of an Utterance is the hearer’s intention in

producing that utterance, while the conversational implicature is the implied

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meaning/bridging assumption created and conveyed in conversation AS A

CONSEQUENCE of that intention!

Example Given

A: (Stranded motorist) I’ve run out of petrol

B: (Passer-by) there’s a garage just around the corner

If of A: Request for help

CI of A: Do you know any place where I can buy petrol?

If of B: Giving/providing help

CI of B: You can buy petrol at the garage just around the corner.


Maxims are guidelines (they can be broken) they are not rules (they can’t or should

not be broken)

They are REGULATIVE (we can break them- I can choose whether cooperate- rules of

use), not CONSTITUTIVE (needed to comprehend). Furthermore, sometimes they

cannot be applied literally: avoid obscurity, ambiguity is, for example, sometimes

difficult to apply. The Maxims are rules of use and not grammar.

Where is Dave?

He went out with another girl he’s been dating lately without telling you.

Therefore, sometimes we flout maxims for politeness’s sake.

And sometimes it is because of the need for indirectness:

Example Given

A: Where is my bag?

B: (I don’t know…) Was it in your bedroom? Laura was in your bedroom this morning.

An indirect accusation can always be repaired. Cooperation sometimes is not a matter

of choice, like this situation we do not really have a choice. Problem with quantity and


Violate the Maxims

Speakers can decide to violate the maxims: they deliberately choose not to follow

them, hence choosing not to be cooperative, without signalling this to the hearer, who

can be deceived. When I violate a maxim, I’m trying to not make understand the

hearer what I’m saying. I’M NOT COOPERATING.

Violating quality : one lies deliberately, deceiving the hearer. I say something I know

it’s not true willingly or saying something which lack of infos. I’m actually LYING. At a

surface level it seems I’m cooperating. (I DON’T WANT)

Where’s Dave / Working out in the gym.

Maxim of Quality Maxim of Quantity

Violation Where is Dave? Does your dog bite?

working out in the gym No/ the person knew he

was referring to the dog.

Flout Do you like Sara? Well, how do I look?

She’s my moon and my Your shoes are nice.



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Speakers may opt-out of the cooperative Principle: they show their impossibility to

cooperate, even if they don’t want to appear uncooperative: (I don’t cooperate

because I CANNOT).

Example 1

A priest who refuses to say what he has been said in confidence; a policeman refusing

to give the name of the victim(s) before his/her/their family have been informed, and

so on (e.g. I’m afraid I can’t answer that question).


Sometimes maxims can clash with each other, so that speakers are forced to respect

one and break another. We can’t cooperate fully.

Where is Dave?

He went out

Out where?

In a place. Outside

Which place? Doing what?

Some stuff

In this particular case, quality clashes with Manner (avoid ambiguity). B flouts Manner

to respect Quality.


This does not mean that we cannot flout more than one maxim at the same time!

Example Given

(A and B are friend; A phones B, and she knows that B’s boyfriend, Phil, is staying for

the weekend)

A: How is it going with Phil?

B: One of us thinks it’s ok. (to little infos, little ambiguous) I’m flouting Quantity and


Terminological Issue

Douthwaite considers ‘to flout’ and ‘to infringe’ to be synonyms.


Cutting speaks of ‘ a maxim when

the imperfect linguistic performance of the speaker (a child or a foreign learner)

the impairment of their performance (nervousness, drunkenness, excitement)

a cognitive impairment of the speaker, leads him/her to infringe the maxim itself.

NB: Cutting does not speak of clash between maxims.

Infringe: I don’t cooperate due to reason inside of me.

Cultural relativity and Cooperation

Different cultures might have very different ways of (not) observing the maxims:

Ex1: (at the end of a job interview)

In the UK: We’ll call you in about 2 weeks

(They’ll call, or it will be considered a violation of the maxim of Quality)

In Italy: We’ll call you about 2 weeks

(most probably, we’re not interested)


In pragmatics, when we talk about politeness we DO NOT talk about behavioural

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politeness (e.g. opening the door for someone else to pass through), but we talk about

Linguistic Politeness, namely the LINGUISTIC CHOICES made by speakers to give

people space and show a positive attitude. In summary, politeness is related to the

context, the language used, the speech acts, the structure of the conversation and the

principle of the cooperation. Politeness is a basic form of cooperation and it underlies

all languages in some way or another (Cutting). Politeness is a choice, people in

general term tend to be polite rather than cooperative. There are 2 main theories

which investigate politeness we will deal with: Leech’s (1983) and Brown and

Levinson’s (1987) they both underline that a difference between ‘general standards of

politeness’ (e.g. always say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’) and linguistic politeness exists.

Then what is consider general standard of politeness and the linguistic mechanism

(pragmatic way) to be polite. In general terms, the overarching function of Linguistic

Politeness is to maintain good social relation (hence, it is inherently interactional

rather than transactional in nature), even when – especially when – we are forced to

convey belittling (sminuire) messages. Politeness it’s a way to open the door to

transactional through interactional.

Leech (Politeness Principle)

He established in 1983 established that there is a politeness-oriented behaviour which

is adopted (or should be adopted) by speakers. He theorised the Politeness Principle to

fill the gap he identified in the Cooperative Principle, namely to explain why speakers

do not always abide by the CP for politeness sake.

This implies that sometimes we break the Maxims of Cooperation to respect those of

politeness. Politeness principle It’s an extension of cooperative principle. We

break/flout cooperation to be polite.

Minimize (all things being equal) the expression of impolite beliefs;

Maximize (all things being equal) the expression of polite beliefs.

The six maxims which make the Politeness Principle operational are:

The Tact Maxim:

Maximize the expression of benefit to other. (focused on the hearer)

Minimize the expression of cost to other;

Example 1

You know, I really do think you ought to sell that car. It’s costing more and more

money in repairs and it uses up far too much fuel

The generosity Maxim:

Maximize the expression of cost to self (focused on self)

Minimize the expression of benefit to self;

Example 1

You must come and have dinner with us

The Approbation/Praise Maxim:

Maximize the expression of praise of other. (focused on hearer)

Minimize the expression of dispraise of other;

Example 1

Dear aunt Mabel, I want to thank you so much for the Christmas present this year. It

was so very thoughtful of you

Example 2

I find that you sing very well

The Modesty Maxim:

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Esame: Inglese III
Corso di laurea: Corso di laurea in lingue e culture moderne
Università: Genova - Unige
A.A.: 2018-2019

I contenuti di questa pagina costituiscono rielaborazioni personali del Publisher Lau_94 di informazioni apprese con la frequenza delle lezioni di Inglese III e studio autonomo di eventuali libri di riferimento in preparazione dell'esame finale o della tesi. Non devono intendersi come materiale ufficiale dell'università Genova - Unige o del prof Zurru Elisabetta.

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