Pragmatic, which is pronounced prag-mat-ic, is an adjective that means dealing with things sensibly and practically. It’s also a philosophical movement that started in the 1870s and has become a key part of contemporary philosophy. Pragmatics is the study of the meaning and interpretation of language in context. It’s a fairly new field, compared to semantics, syntax, and semiotics, which are all considered to be more established fields of linguistic study.
One of the main ideas behind pragmatics is that the meaning of an expression depends on its context. This includes not only the physical or social context, but also how that expression is used, and what other information it might convey. For example, when someone says “gosh, look at the time,” they aren’t necessarily meaning to give you the literal message of “look at the time.” Rather, they might be implying that they want to leave or end the conversation.
Another important concept of pragmatics is the idea that meaning doesn’t have to be expressed in a clear and precise way. Rather, people often convey meaning by referencing other parts of the conversation or other events that happened. For instance, when someone says “that sounded like John” they’re referring to the fact that other parts of the conversation or other events might have implied who it was that spoke.
This type of pragmatic thinking is an attempt to free philosophical thought from some optional assumptions that have generated insoluble problems for philosophy. Specifically, it rejects the Cartesian picture of a mind that is a mirror of nature and instead argues that the mind is a product of evolution and experience.
Several philosophers who have been associated with pragmatism have tried to express this point of view, including Charles Sanders Pierce, John Dewey, and William James. In some cases, their attempts at pragmatism were meant to be critical of positivist orthodoxy; for example, Quine’s critique of the correspondence theory of truth; Ludwig Wittgenstein’s argument about private language; and Rudolf Carnap’s mockery of the bucket theory of the mind.
However, mainstream analytic philosophers largely ignored pragmatism until the 1980s. Since then, many scholars have sought to reclaim this valuable tradition. This is particularly true in the philosophy of language, where pragmatics has proved to be a very fruitful tool for understanding how people use language in everyday life. For example, Dan Sperber and Deirdre Wilson developed a pragmatic framework called relevance theory, which argues that every utterance is relevant in some way to its linguistic or social context. This framework has been quite helpful in studying the effects of slang, jokes, and other forms of indirect communication. For this reason, the study of pragmatics is growing in popularity. In addition to its use in linguistics, it has become increasingly useful as a method for studying the effects of culture and history on our language use. This is an exciting and productive direction for pragmatics to take. It’s likely that more work will be done in this area, and that its results will help improve the way we understand our own and other languages.