What is Pragmatism?

Pragmatic people can adapt their communication techniques to the specific circumstances they’re in, and they follow social norms when interacting with others. These traits help people accurately convey ideas and feelings so they can solve problems and build relationships. People develop pragmatic skills throughout their lives, but they commonly form during adolescence. Teachers, speech pathologists and psychologists who work with children should focus on teaching these pragmatic skills, which include the ability to communicate in different situations, understand other people’s perspectives and adhere to social norms.

The word “pragmatic” comes from the Latin words for “to behave” and “to practise.” Pragmatics is a branch of language studies that focuses on how people use words in different contexts, including the cultural, social and physical aspects of a particular situation. The study of pragmatics includes elements of linguistics, philosophy, psychology, sociology and anthropology.

Pragmatism is the belief that human knowledge is based on how well a practical action works. It also entails the acceptance that human knowledge is fallible and that personal truth depends on how a person interprets a concept.

A pragmatic approach to life can benefit your career, as you’ll be more willing to take risks and act quickly when you believe that the outcome of a task will be beneficial to you in some way. You can develop this trait by practicing on less important projects at work, allowing yourself to fail and learning from your mistakes. You can also develop a pragmatic mindset by being more open to new experiences and embracing the idea that you may not always know all of the answers.

When a person says, “Gosh, look at the time,” the literal meaning is that they want you to check the time on your watch. But the fact that they’re standing up and leaving the room is implied in their general body language, and so is the idea that they’re trying to get away from the conversation. This is a classic example of how contextual features can change the literal meaning of a statement.

In the Forum article “Pragmatic Activities for the Speaking Classroom,” Joseph Siegel explains that pragmatics is considered “meaning minus semantics, grammar and semiotics.” Semantics involves the rules defining the literal linguistic meaning of expressions; syntax refers to how expressions are put together; and semiotics involves the significations (or meaning) of those expressions in different physical or social contexts.

Pragmatics takes those factors into account to complement the contributions that semantics, grammar and semiotics make to meaning. This is why it’s sometimes considered to be the fifth discipline of linguistics, alongside phonology, semantics, syntax and phonetics. While adults generally possess a certain amount of pragmatic information, they don’t always actively use it in conversation. This is why pragmatic training is important, and one of the main functions of pedagogic intervention is to help learners become more aware of their pragmatic information. The goal is to encourage them to apply it to second language (L2) interaction, which can be challenging because L2 learners typically have little exposure to pragmatics in their native language.