Pragmatics is an academic discipline that studies the contexts in which people use language. It is a sub-branch of the study of communication, which also covers semantics, syntax, and linguistic ambiguity. Moreover, it is one of the five domains of language.
The concept of pragmatics is derived from the Greek word pragma. Pragmatics is a realist philosophy that focuses on the usefulness of knowledge in the context of practical use. In this regard, pragmatism combines the theory of practical knowledge with the theory of how ideas and information get spread.
Essentially, pragmatics is a study of the relationship between signs, their interpreters, and the people who are using them. It is based on the fact that the way we communicate with each other depends on the situation in which we are doing it. This is especially true when we are dealing with children. Children, in particular, need to be able to express their needs and wants to their caregivers. Similarly, adults must be able to communicate with their co-workers and doctors.
Several branches of pragmatics are devoted to studying these linguistic acts. These include ambiguity theory, indexicality theory, and speech act theory. Others include historical and intercultural pragmatics. Aside from these, there is the study of the correspondence theory of truth, which tries to determine how certain utterances correlate to other utterances.
The all-pervasive term in pragmatics is the context. It is the subject of many studies, and it has been the focus of some of the most important works in the field. Some of the concepts under the context umbrella include illocutionary acts, context pairing, and contextual features.
The best known of these is the illocutionary act. Specifically, this is the practice of designing assumptions to maximize productivity. Hence, this is the first level of speaking meaning.
Another is the ampliative inference, which is the application of general principles special to communication to make inferences beyond the basic facts. Such inferences may be induction, Bayesian reasoning, or an inference to the best explanation. However, in the context of pragmatics, this can be anything from the application of a rule to a special application of the aforementioned general principles.
As with most other disciplines, the concept of pragmatics is a blending of several aspects, including those of semantics, syntax, and linguistic ambivalence. For instance, in the case of semantics, there are figurative meanings, such as the word “need”, and abstract static entities such as the number five. Furthermore, there are the more abstract elements of semantics, such as the concept of the ‘propositional concept’.
Perhaps the most important element of the ‘propositional concept’ is the notion of ‘communicative intention’. According to Grice’s model, this is the notion that the speaker intends to convey something to his addressee. Interestingly, it requires the addressee to recognize that the communicative intention is being communicated to him.
While the aforementioned is a no-brainer, there are more complicated concepts in pragmatics. Among them are the coherence theory of truth, which states that accurate descriptions of the world must be coherent as a set.