Pragmatics is the study of the way people use words and signs in particular situations and in relation to one another. It also tries to answer questions like how the meaning of words is determined and whether they can be used to get a desired result. There are various branches of pragmatics, including intercultural pragmatics, historical pragmatics, speech act theory, and ambiguity theory.
Semantics is a branch of pragmatics that studies the meaning of words. This branch is concerned with the meaning of phrases and propositions, or in more technical terms, the conventions of reference fixing. These conventions allow us to derive context-sensitive values from a linguistic expression. The content of these conventions is called semantic content. For example, if a person hears a sentence and it sounds a lot like a phrase, there is a good chance that the sentence is a meaningful one.
Another branch of pragmatics is the study of language in social settings. Children learn to follow societal norms when speaking and listening to others. They learn to pay attention to the speaker, listen carefully, and ask questions when they need more information. Adults can also learn how to adapt communication techniques to suit specific circumstances. Developing these skills early in life can be a powerful asset later in life.
The concept of context is one of the most pervasive in pragmatics. Some authors have defined it as an abstraction or an object. Others have taken it to mean a more concrete thing. One of the more common uses of the term is to refer to a particular way in which a particular word is interpreted.
Other branches of pragmatics include ambiguity theory, indexicality, and conversational implicature. An ampliative inference is a form of induction that goes beyond basic facts to make inferences about an utterance that are more abstract and less precise. In some cases, it may be Bayesian reasoning or induction.
A related, but slightly different, concept is the meaning of a sentence. While this might not be as concrete as semantics, it still deserves a mention. Kempson, for example, provides a comprehensive account of the meaning of a sentence. He specifies the truth conditions that must be met in order for a sentence to be valid.
There are other less well-known branches of pragmatics. One of these is the study of attitudes. It has become an important area of study in philosophy and linguistics. Interestingly, it has led to the development of a theory involving two different types of contexts.
Although the term pragmatics is used to describe several different things, the most general category is the study of the meaning of a word or sentence. Among the concepts that are included in this category are the content of a sentence, the simplest and most effective ways to interpret a sentence, the most obvious and most logical way to determine a sentence’s meaning, and the shortest possible route to a given proposition.
If a sentence is an ambiguous one, the shortest possible route to a given statement might be to say it. In a situation like this, it is not surprising that a literalist might not be satisfied with the fact that a sentence can be a nonsense.