CONVERSATIONAL IMPLICATURE INTRODUCTION During the time doing this assignment, I accidentally brought back a memory when I was a student. My roommate was a very charming girl, who made many boys’ hearts beat. One day, a boy came to see her and said, “Would you like to go to the cinema with me tonight? ” She replied, “Well, that’s a good idea. But I’ve got some folks coming over tonight. ” He insisted on asking her, “So you are still able to go with me, right? Please, there’s a very good film on tonight. I’ll pick you up, OK? ” That drove my roommate mad, because the boy didn’t recognize her intention that she wanted to refuse his invitation.
From this situation, it dawns on me that understanding an utterance is far from proposition analysis and literal meaning interpretation. It is the unity of what is said and what is implicated. Therefore, I chose conversational implicature to present in the final assignment of semantics. Herein, I drew special attraction to Grice’s theory of conversational implicature which provides some explicit account of how it is possible to mean more than what is literally expressed by the conventional sense of the linguistic expressions uttered.
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In this theory, the “Cooperative Principle” and associated “Maxims” play a central role. Using this theory, we can infer the speaker’s real intention, appreciate figure of speech in literary work, and improve our communicative competence. DEVELOPMENT 1. Implicature H. P. Grice (1913–1988) was the first to systematically study cases in which what a speaker means differs from what the sentence used by the speaker means. Consider the following dialogue. Alan: Are you going to Paul’s party? Barb: I have to work. If this was a typical exchange, Barb meant that she is not going to Paul’s party.
But the sentence she uttered does not mean that she is not going to Paul’s party. Hence Barb did not say that she is not going, she implied it. Grice introduced the technical terms implicate and implicature for the case in which what the speaker meant, implied, or suggested is distinct from what the speaker said. Thus Barb “implicated” that she is not going; that she is not going was her “implicature. ” The term “implicature” is used by Grice to “account for what a speaker can imply, suggest, or mean, as distinct from what the speaker literally says” (Nguyen Hoa, 2004: 242).
Implicatures can be part of sentence meaning or dependent on conversational context, and can be conventional or unconventional. Grice also introduces the concept of “conversational implicature” which are determined by “the conventional meaning of the words used”. Take the following example to illustrate this point. He is an English man, he is, therefore, brave. (Grice, 1983) In the example, the speaker does not necessarily assert that one property (bravery) follows from another property (Englishman), but the form of expression used conventionally implicates that such a relation exists.
However, the other type of implicature is not part of the conventional meaning of the sentence uttered, but depends on features of the conversational context (as in the short exchange between Alan and Barb mentioned above). This so – called conversational implicature is of more interest and derives from a general principle of conversation and a number of maxims expected to be followed by the participants in a speech event. Grice proposed an approach to the speaker’s and hearer’s cooperative use of inference, which is talked about in more detail in the next section.
Implicatures arise from the interaction of the following 3 factors: ? The proposition actually expressed in the utterance ? Possibly certain features of the context (in any of the 3 notions of ‘context’) ? The assumption that the speaker is obeying the rules of conversation to the best of their ability. There are three criteria distinguishing implicatures from aspects of conventional meaning (entailments, conventional implicatures/presuppositions). ? Cancellability (defeasibility) — Implicatures can be denied without self-contradiction. Nondetachability — any way you had expressed the proposition you uttered would have given rise to the same implicatures (with the exception of implicatures arising from the rules of Manner). ? Calculability — you can trace a line of reasoning leading from the utterance to the implicature, and including at some point the assumption that the speaker was obeying the rules of conversation to the best of their ability. 2. Grice’s maxims of conversational cooperation
Grice observed that conversations, like other human interactions, are governed by a cooperative principle, telling that you should “make your conversational contribution such as is required, at the stage at which it occurs, by the accepted purpose or direction of the talk exchange in which you are engaged”. (Edward Finegan, 2004: 300) This implies that you need not and should not supply information which you can assume that your audience already has – just as suggested by the principles of necessity and sufficiency.
From his cooperative principle, Grice derived a set of maxims concerning what should be said in a conversation and how it should be said, which are recognized are Quantity, Quality, Relation and Manner. (cited in Saeed, 2005: 204-205) 2. 1. The maxim of quality says: a. Do not say what you believe to be false, and b. Do not say that for which you lack adequate evidence. This maxim governs norms of language interpretation. Speakers and writers are expected to say only what they believe to be true and to have evidence for what they say.
Again, the other side of the coin is that speakers are ware of this expectation; they know that hearers expect them to honor the maxim of quality: Be truthful. 2. 2. The Maxim of Quantity states: a. Make yourself as informative as is required (for the current purposes of the exchange) b. Do not make your contribution more informative than is required. If you ask an acquaintance whether she has any pets and she answers, “I have two dogs”, it is the maxim of quantity that permits you to assume that she has no other pets. This maxim provides that, in normal circumstances, speakers ay just enough, that they supply no more or no less information than is necessary for the purpose of communication. Society stigmatizes individuals who habitually violate the maxim of quantity; those who give too much information are described as “never shutting up” or “always telling everyone their life story”, while those who habitually fail to provide enough information are branded sullen, secretive, or untrustworthy. 2. 3. Maxim of Relevance says: Make your contributions relevant. This maxim directs speakers to organize their utterance in such a way that they are relevant to the ongoing context: Be relevant at the time of the utterance. . 4. Maxim of Manners is to be perspicuous, and specifically: a. Avoid ambiguity b. Avoid obscurity c. Be brief d. Be orderly This grouped set of miscellaneous rules dictates that speakers and writers should be orderly and clear. In the following example, the maxim of manners is violated with respect to orderliness: A birthday cake should have icing; use unbleached flour and sugar in the cake; bake it for one hour; preheat the oven to 325 degrees; and beat in three fresh eggs. This recipe is odd for the simple reason hat English speakers normally follow a chronological order to events in describing a process such as baking.
These four maxims do not have equal importance in generating implicature. The main kind of implicature attributed to Manner is the “warning of potential listeners’ device”, which isn’t a major part of day-to-day communication. Quality, though said to underpin the functioning of all the other maxims, does not often play the main part in giving rise to implicatures. Most of the work is done by Quantity and Relevance, which are interdependent. 3. Observation and Violation of maxims In a communication act, the assumption that the speaker obeys the Cooperative Principle and the Maxims adds further information about the utterance itself.
The utterance can be taken to be currently relevant, true and informative, and the hearer can draw inferences based on these assumptions. Knowing that these ways of drawing inferences are available, the speaker can speak in such a way as to encourage inference drawing, and thus deliberately convey the content of inferences. When the speaker deliberately phrases an utterance to lead the hearer to draw a certain inference, the content of that inference is implicated by the speaker; then, implicature is a deliberate communication tactic.
Alternatively, the speaker may say something that clearly does not obey all the maxims, in such a way that both the speaker and hearer are mutually aware of this. It’s because these four maxims are basic assumptions, not rules, and they can be broken. Even so, the assumption that the maxim should be obeyed is still in force, and the obvious breaking or violating of a maxim is itself a salient feature of the utterance from which inferences may be drawn, in accordance with the speaker’s intentions.
A speaker may quietly violate a maxim (and mislead his audience) by lying, he may explicitly opt out for some linguistic effect, he may be faced with a clash between different maxims, or he may flout a maxim in such a way that the listener can be assumed to understand that this is being done. The latter case is especially interesting since it gives rise to a “conversational implicature” that is at variance with the literal meaning of the utterance. Whether a maxim is observed or violated, if it plays a clear role in the way a speaker sets up an implicature, the maxim is said to be exploited by the speaker.
For example: You are going for a picnic and the situation is described like this: It’s pouring rain, you’re two hours late already, and the car gets a flat tire. One of your friends said that: “This is a fine state of affairs! ” (Implicature: This is a terrible state of affairs. ) More interestingly, speakers are sometimes forced by cultural norms or other external factors to violate maxim. For example, irrespective of your aesthetic judgment, you may feel constrained to say “what a lovely painting! ” to a host who is manifestly proud of some newly finished artwork.
The need to adhere to social conventions of politeness sometimes invites people to violate maxims of the cooperative principle. ? Maxim of Quality: This maxim is taken by Grice to be of higher priority than the other maxims, providing the background against which they come into play, and generally taking precedence over the others if there is a clash. Without it, the other maxims are of little value or interest. For instance, If that’s a genuine Picasso then the moon is made of longlife food product. The implicature here, that is not a genuine Picasso, requires the initial assumption that the whole conditional is true, which we can attribute to the assumption that Quality is observed. The consequent is mutually accepted and hearer as false, giving a true conditional with a false consequent. Accordingly, the antecedent must also be false, hence the implicature “That’s not a genuine Picasso”. (quoted in Kate Kearns, 200: 258) ? Maxim of Quantity: This maxim requires the speaker to give enough information, as the basis of a wide range of implicature known as scalar implicature.
Scalar implicatures typically arise with terms denoting quantities or degrees of attributes which can be graded on some scale of informative weakness and strength. (weak) < some, most, all > (strong) For example, assume that the students in a particular course have just had a test. Their teacher is asked “So how did the students do on the test? ” The possible answers have different scalar implicature: – Most of them passed ( Implicature: Not all of them passed. – Some of them passed ( Implicature: Not all of them passed. Implicature: It isn’t the case that most of them passed. – Two or three did very well. ( Implicature: Not more than two or three did very well. Some more examples are stated as follows: – I tried to contact Dong several times ( Implicature: I didn’t manage to contact Dong (try, manage) – (Receptionist to patient seeking an urgent appointment) Dr Mai could fit you in tomorrow afternoon at 6. 00. ( Implicature: He can’t see you any sooner. (tomorrow at 6. 00, tomorrow morning, this afternoon, in an hour, right now) ? Maxim of Relevance:
Relevance is in fact an all-pervading consideration, not only in making and understanding implicature, but also in understanding the basic content of what a speaker actually said, which is illustrated as follows: A: I’m sick to death of going to the Laundromat. B: The man should be coming tomorrow. The general background context is that the washing machine in A and B’s flat has broken down, and A’s remark introduces the laundry problem as a topic. B’s apparently irrelevant remark can then be understood to mean that the wasking machine repairman should come to the flat the following day to repair the washing machine. cited in Kate Kearns, 200: 261) The following interaction illustrates a violation of this maxim Minh: Have you finished your report? Hai: What a beautiful day! Taken literally, Hai’s utterance seems unrelated to what Minh has just said; if so, it would violate the maxim of relevance. Owing to this maxim, when someone produces an apparently irrelevant utterance, hearers typically strive to understand how it might be relevant (as a joke, perhaps, or an indication of displeasure with, or ignorance of the direction of the conversation). Maxim of Manners: Suppose that Marcia and Clive are at a party, and have the following exchange: C: Who are those standing by the door? M: That’s my mother and her husband. If the couple referred to were Marcia’s parents in a stereotypical nuclear family, the phrase my mother and her husband used by Marcia would refer to them, but this would be an odd way for her to describe them, and would violate the Maxim of Manners. Assuming that she is in fact obeying the maxim, her reason for speaking this way is that she doesn’t judge it true to say “Those are my parents” and in particular, the man is not a parent to her.
The obvious inference to be drawn is that the man is not her father. A standard illustration of this maxim violation is in: They don’t allow dogs at that B-E-A-C-H. The speaker in the utterance above signal that utterance of the word beach is to be avoided, presumably because the dog (assume there is a dog) recognized the word and will infer that a trip to the beach is in the offing. This way seem to clear to the intended audience, but unclear to a potential one and what the speaker implicates is that what is said should be kept from the potential audience. . Generalized vs. particularized implicatures. ? A particularized conversational implicature is one which depends on particular features of the context, as in the example below: A: Will Sally be at the meeting? B: Her car broke down. The proposition “Sally’s car broke down” would ordinarily not convey anything about Sally going to a meeting, so the implicature in this case depends on the context as well as the utterance itself. Or: A: Can you tell me the time? B: Well, the milkman is here.
It must be the time when the milkman comes. ? A generalized conversational implicature is one which does not depend on particular features of the context, but is instead typically associated with the proposition expressed. Here are some (relatively) clear examples of generalized conversational implicatures: – “Fred thinks there is a meeting tonight. ” ( Implicature: Fred doesn’t know for sure that there is a meeting tonight. – “Mary has 3 children. ” (Implicature: Mary has no more than 3 children. 5. Implication for teaching
It is obvious that Principle Cooperation is an unspoken pact people will cooperate in communicating with each other. Therefore, from the educational point of view, I hold the idea that teachers should equip undergraduate students with this kind of knowledge. In doing so, speakers can rely on this cooperation to make conversation efficient; hearers can draw inferences to arrive at a full understanding of what a speaker meant by an utterance, especially in those cases where what is meant goes well beyond the literal meaning of what is uttered.
The implicature mechanism is regarded to allow the quantity and quality of information given in a message to grow. Hence, they are gradually able to improve their communication competence. Cooperation Principle and Maxims can be introduced to students in the form of criteria assessing good conversation or requirements for a good conversationalist. It is also advisable that students should be provided with simple, funny and clear examples relating to this issue. From time to time, some conversation should be recorded and analyzed for students’ better understanding. CONCLUSION
All in all, Gricean implicature is a systematic part of communication which involves the interplay between a speaker actually said and certain broad rules, shared by speakers and hearers, which govern communication. He proposed that communicative utterances and exchanges, typically in conversation but not confined to conversation, are in accordance with a general principle of cooperation, which is observed in the application of four specific maxims. However, When the Gricean maxims conflict, there is no way to determine what is required for conformity to the Cooperative Principle.
In the case of irony, for example, Manner clashes with Quality. It is hardly perspicuous to use a sentence to mean the opposite of what the sentence means. Indeed, it is hard to see how any implicatures could be worked out on the basis of the maxims, because it would always be more perspicuous to “explicate” a proposition rather than implicate it. We use irony and other figures, of course, in part because we have conversational goals other than the efficient communication of information.
Thus, we observe not only the Cooperative Principle, but also some other Principles. REFERENCES 1. John Saeed: “Semantics”, Blackwell Publishing, 2005. 2. Nguy? n Hoa: “Understanding English Semantics”, Vietnam National University Publisher, 2004. 3. Edward Finegan: “Language: Its Structure and Use” (4th ed. ), Thomson Wadsworth, 2004. 4. Kate Kearns: “Semantics”, St. Martin’s Press LLC, 2000. 5. http://www. seop. leeds. ac. uk/entries/implicature/#6 (Copyright © 2005 by Wayne Davis )