Pragmatics is a field that studies the use of language. It focuses on the meanings of words and how they are used in different contexts rather than on grammar or syntax. It can be helpful to think of pragmatics as a tool that allows us to interpret the world around us. It is important to note that pragmatism does not necessarily mean practical or reasonable. For example, the idea that invisible gremlins live in electrical circuits may be a pragmatic way of thinking about how to solve a problem, but it is not pragmatic in the sense of being useful.
Pragmatism often gets confused with realism, which is the view that real world events and situations are as they should be, and that truth is objective. However, realism is not the same as pragmatism, and in fact it is a very different philosophy.
There are several different definitions of pragmatics, but most definitions include the concept that a word or phrase has more than one meaning. It is also defined as the study of the communicative intent of a speaker, and the strategies that listeners employ to determine what this intention is.
Other concepts that are frequently included in the pragmatics category are politeness and conversational implicature. These terms refer to the socially acceptable ways of saying or doing things in a given culture, and they are very important when communicating in any language.
It is also common for pragmatics to be contrasted with semantics, which studies the logical meaning of words. Semantics is usually seen as a branch of logic that analyzes the relationship between a word and the objects it refers to, while pragmatics looks at the situational context of an utterance to determine its meaning.
There are a few different theories of pragmatics, and theorists often agree on some things but disagree on others. The most significant disagreement involves the notion of context. Some theorists, particularly those who are associated with relevance theory, see context as the linguistic environment in which an utterance occurs. Other theorists, such as those who are associated with generative semantics, see context as any extra-linguistic situation surrounding an utterance that influences its meaning.
Despite the debate about context, it is generally agreed that there are some things that pragmatics cannot do. For example, a pragmatic approach to morality may work for some people, but it could easily become an excuse to justify bad behavior to other people. Another issue that pragmatics does not address well is the fact that people’s preferences and goals vary widely from one person to another. This means that a speech-language pathologist may not be able to make blanket recommendations about which patients should receive pragmatic language intervention. This is a critical point, because it is important for the speech-language pathologist to honor the individual’s perspectives and goals, and not push them into an inappropriate pragmatic language program. Fortunately, the evidence for pragmatic language assessment is growing, and there are now many tests and checklists available.