A Lecture on Pragmatics

• Pragmatics is the study of “invisible” meaning
based on a lot of shared assumptions and
• It has originally come from Greek to mean
pointing via language
• There the words that cannot be interpreted
unless the physical context is known.
Deixis Types
Person Deixis:
Pointing to a person
Place Deixis: Pointing
to a Place
Time Deixis: Pointing
to Time
• It is an act by which a speaker or a writer uses
language to enable a listener or a reader to
identify something. We may not know a
person’s name but that doesn’t prevent us
from referring to them, e.g. one man who
always went by fast and loud on his
motorcycle in the neighborhood was locally
referred to as Mr. Suzuki.
• Similarly, in a restaurant, one waiter can ask
another Where’s the fresh salad sitting? And
receive the reply He’s sitting by the door. In
linguistics class you might ask someone Can I
look at your Chomsky? and get the response Sure,
it is on the shelf over there.
• There process here is called inference. An
inference is any additional information used by
the listener to connect what is said to what must
be meant.
• It is a referential relationship between a
antecedent , e.g. Can I borrow y our book? and
anaphora, e.g. Yeah, it’s on the table. Thus,
anaphora can be defined as the subsequent
reference to an already introduced entity.
• However, the connection between referent and
anaphora may not always be direct, e.g. I was
waiting for the bus, but he just drove by without
• Notice that the antecedent is bus and the
anaphora expression is he. We would normally
expect it to be used for a bus.
• Obviously, there is an inference involved here:
if someone is talking about a bus in motion,
they must assume that there is a driver.
• When a speaker uses referring expressions like
this, he, etc., they work with an assumption
that the hearer knows which referent is
• Speakers continually design their linguistic
messages on the basis of assumptions about
what their hearers already know. This process
is described as a presupposition.
• If someone tells you that Your brother is
waiting outside for you, there is an obvious
presupposition that you have a brother. Other
examples include:
• Why did you arrive late?
• When did you stop smoking?
Speech Acts
• It is the act performed by the speaker in
uttering a sentence, i.e. doing things with
• The use of speech acts covers actions such as
“requesting”, “commanding”, “questioning”,
and “informing”
• Examples
Did you eat the food?
Eat the food (please)
You ate the food
Indirect Speech Act
• Whenever one of the forms in the table is not
used to perform the function listed beside it, ,
the result is indirect speech act. For example,
when you say to someone who has just
arrived: “you have left the door open”, you
would probably be understood to have made
not a statement, but a request.
• Of course, sometimes someone might fail to
understand an indirect speech act of speaker,
• A: Excuse me, do you know where the
Ambassador Hotel is?
• B: Oh, sure, I know where it is (and walks
• Politeness include being tactful, modest, and
nice to other people.
• In the study of linguistic politeness, the most
relevant concept is “face”, which is “ public
self-image”: this is the emotional and social
sense of self that every person has and
expects everyone one else to recognize.
• So it is showing awareness of another person’s
• If you say something that represents a threat
to another person’s self-image, that is called a
face-threatening act. For example, if you use a
direct speech act to order someone to do
something, you are acting as if you have more
social power than the other person
• Whenever you say something that lessens the
possible threat to another’s face, it is called
face-saving act
• You have both negative and positive face.
Your negative face is need to be independent
and to have freedom from imposition. Your
positive face act is your need to be
connected, to belong, to be a member of the
• Thus a face-saving act that emphasizes a
person’s negative face will show concern
about imposition, e.g. I know you are busy, but
… A face-saving act that emphasizes a
person’s positive face will show solidarity and
draw attention to a common goal, e.g. Let’s do
this …