The Importance of Pragmatics

A large part of the meaning and purpose of language is based on how it is used in specific situations. This is called pragmatics. Pragmatics is a sub-discipline of linguistics that focuses on the use of language, rather than on grammar, reference, or truth. It is important to understand pragmatics because it helps us to comprehend what people actually mean by the words that they say. For example, when someone says “gosh, look at the time” to their friend, they do not usually intend the literal meaning of that statement. Instead, they may be indicating that it is time to leave or end the conversation.

For example, a child asking his/her teacher if it is OK to ask the mother a question about something that is taboo in his/her culture can be interpreted as impolite. However, it is important to note that the question itself is not inappropriate or offensive in and of itself. The child is simply trying to convey a message that he/she knows that it is a taboo topic and is aware of the cultural implications.

There are many different ways that teachers incorporate pragmatics into their classes. They can choose to teach it as a separate subject, or they might incorporate it into other subjects or lessons such as vocabulary, readings, or conversations. Pragmatics can also be taught through activities, such as role-playing, discussions, or games. For example, a game where students role-play different greetings and places they might encounter them can be a fun way to practice pragmatics.

Another way that pragmatics can be taught is through the use of a social contract that identifies what is and is not appropriate. This can help students become aware of the implications of their behavior and how they can impact others in a positive manner.

The goal of pragmatics is to allow people to express themselves in a way that is meaningful to the listener, and that will be understood by other speakers. This is a critical element in communicating effectively.

In the modern era, there is an increasing tendency for pragmatics to be used alongside formal techniques similar to those employed in semantics. This is because of an awareness that judgments based on data for which context is not carefully controlled can be highly variable.

Some philosophers divide pragmatics into two models: ‘Literalists’ believe that semantics is basically autonomous, with little ‘pragmatic intrusion’; and ‘contextualists’ adopt the basic outlines of Relevance Theory but demur on many of its details and psychological orientation.

A number of different theories of pragmatics are currently under development. The most influential among these are Speech Act Theory and Relevance Theory. Both of these theories are characterized by an emphasis on the role of context in understanding the conventional meanings of utterances, and they are able to explain some of the features of pragmatics that are not easily captured by existing definitions such as those of Semantics or Linguistics. A recent development has been the introduction of Critical Pragmatics, which combines elements from both of these previous theories. It has the potential to be a unifying force in pragmatics, and it is perhaps the best example of how the near-side and far-side of pragmatics are starting to merge into a single model.