Chapter 8: Pragmatics

8.16 Exercise your linguistics skills

Exercise 1. Basic; 8.5-8.7. What’s the difference between violating a maxim and flouting a maxim? Use the Maxim of Politeness (a fifth maxim that has been proposed by some linguists; see Section 8.5) to give an example of each. You can use your first language in formulating this answer. Just imagine that the Maxim of Politeness was actually a maxim in your language community; what would violating and flouting this maxim look like in that case?

Exercise 2. Intermediate; 8.3-8.7. Recall the “lawyer dog” case (State of La. v. Demesme) from 8.3. Why do you think it feels unreasonable for many people that the police thought Demesme meant “Give me a canine lawyer”? Relate your answer to the Cooperative Principle.

Exercise 3. Advanced; 8.5-8.8. Grice mentions in his paper Logic and Conversation that it’s possible that the conversational maxims have different rankings in terms of importance. This would mean that following one of the maxims may be considered “more critical” than following some of the other maxims. Grice himself suggested that Quality could be the most important maxim in a conversation, suggesting that “other maxims come into operation only on the assumption that this maxim of Quality is satisfied” (Grice 1975, p.46). What are some reasons why Quality might be a privileged maxim like this? Imagine a discourse with a well-known liar; if Quality is not observed, what problems does this pose for the other maxims?

Exercise 4. Advanced; 8.9-8.14.  Recall from 8.13 that the illocutionary meaning of a yes-no question can be thought of as putting a question at the top of the Question Under Discussion (QUD) stack, and that this question is represented as a disjunction (= connected with “or”) of possible answers to the question. So if you ask Is that a bean casserole? The question at the top of the QUD stack is represented as “Is That is a bean casserole true, OR is That is not a bean casserole true?”, because a yes/no question only has two options for the answer. Now, consider a WH-question like Who brought the bean casserole? . For the purposes of this question, let’s assume that this question was asked in the context of a potluck party, which was attended by Aya, Bo, Cai, and Deo. Similar to yes/no questions, linguists have analyzed the illocutionary meaning of WH-questions like Who brought the bean casserole? as putting a question at the top of the QUD stack, where the question is represented in terms of the possible answers to the question. With this in mind, what might this question at the top of the QUD stack look like, if represented as a disjunction of possible answers? 

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Essentials of Linguistics, 2nd edition by Catherine Anderson; Bronwyn Bjorkman; Derek Denis; Julianne Doner; Margaret Grant; Nathan Sanders; and Ai Taniguchi is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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