Pragmatics is a discipline of study that focuses on the context of language use and how this influences meaning. It is often contrasted with semantics, syntax, and semiotics—which are all areas of linguistic study that deal with the rules that determine the literal linguistic meanings of expressions.
In pragmatics, the goal is to understand how and when a person’s intended message is communicated. This is done by analyzing the linguistic and non-linguistic clues that go into understanding a person’s intention. It also involves looking at how a person’s actions may change the meaning of what has been said, as well as looking at how a word’s meaning changes when it is repeated.
The term pragmatic comes from the Greek (pragmatikos, “active, versed in civil affairs”) and is sometimes used to suggest that an idealistic person should be more practical. However, it is more often used to describe a person or activity that is useful or sensible.
A pragmatist is someone who is interested in practical solutions and methods of dealing with problems. This approach is common in fields like public administration, political science, leadership studies, and international relations. It is also an important research methodology that can be used to examine real-life situations.
Its most prominent proponents were the American philosophers Charles Peirce, William James, and John Dewey. These three are known as the Chicago School of Pragmatism, and their work influenced many other philosophers. The pragmatist view is that human knowledge is limited and partial and thus can never be complete or perfect. It is often seen as a middle ground between anti-skepticism and fallibilism.
There are several different approaches to the study of pragmatics, including relevance theory and discourse analysis. The former focuses on the idea that all utterances contain a certain amount of relevant information that is enough to justify the addressee’s effort in processing them. The latter is based on Grice’s ideas of implicature, and it looks at the ways speakers track syntactic and extra-linguistic clues to determine what an utterance is about.
Other frameworks for studying pragmatics include the lexical and gestural meaning of words, the way that people use elliptical or cataphoric pronouns to avoid ambiguity, and the way that people manage the flow of reference in conversations by referring back to previous utterances when appropriate. In addition, some pragmatists look at the role of logical form in pragmatics and consider if a grammatical rule may be necessary for interpreting an utterance.
In a research setting, the pragmatist approach is used to help develop practical decisions about what to investigate and how to conduct research. It is often combined with other research methodologies to create a more comprehensive approach to understanding reality. In other words, the pragmatist research design looks at all possible approaches to investigating the world around us and decides which ones will provide the best results. This is often referred to as a pragmatic hybrid method. For more information on this type of research methodology, click here.