What is Pragmatics?

Pragmatics is the study of language, its meaning, and its use. It is one of the five domains of language, along with grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, and spelling.

The definition of pragmatics has changed over the years but the basic idea is that it is the ability to use language with others. This can be a crucial skill that helps individuals communicate their wants, needs, pains, and weaknesses.

How we use language to talk with others can be different from person to person, which can have a dramatic effect on the way we think and communicate. This can be important for individuals to consider, especially when they are in school or have a job that requires them to interact with others on a regular basis.

Context – The Context of an Utterance

A common, and often confusing, term in the field of pragmatics is ‘context.’ It is often used interchangeably with’meaning.’ It has been suggested that context is a very broad concept, including both the previous and subsequent utterances of a speech act, and extra-linguistic facts about the utterance. For example, a sentence may be interpreted differently from one that was spoken in a completely different context, owing to ambiguity or indexicality.

Near-Side Pragmatics

A major part of the study of ‘near-side’ pragmatics is concerned with the resolution of ambiguity and vagueness, including the reference of proper names, indexicals, and demonstratives, and issues involving presupposition. These issues are based on the fact that the speaker has to provide facts about the utterance, beyond the expressions used and their meanings.

Narrow Context – The Narrow Context of an Utterance

Narrow context is usually understood as a set of parameters that correspond to basic facts about the utterance, such as the speaker, place and time, and the possible world. In addition, many people would also include other contextual factors, such as causal and informational chains that run through the utterance, the ongoing topic of the conversation, and much else.

While this is a common and sometimes confusing term in the field of pragmatics, it can be useful to understand how it can affect the way we interpret speech. It is particularly helpful to understand how narrow context can be used as a tool for understanding other aspects of an utterance, such as its anaphors and ellipsis.