Understanding Language in Context: Key Concepts in Pragmatics

Understanding Language in Context: Key Concepts in Pragmatics

Anna Krulatz (Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8467-4.ch008
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This chapter focuses on the key concepts in the study of pragmatics, including pragmatic competence, different types of meaning (abstract meaning, contextual meaning, and force of an utterance), the cooperative principle and four conversational maxims, as well as politeness and the concept of face (positive and negative). The chapter gives some examples of cross-cultural differences in pragmatic norms to justify the importance of teaching pragmatics in a language classroom, touching briefly on the development of pragmatic skills in a second or foreign language. It then explores different approaches to pragmatics instruction, including raising awareness about pragmatic norms in the target language through deductive and inductive tasks, presenting grammatical structures jointly with their pragmatic functions, and integrating pragmatics with content-based instruction.
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What Is Pragmatic Knowledge?

Pragmatic knowledge or ability is one of the components of communicative competence, a construct introduced by Dell Hymes (1972) in response to Chomsky’s (1965) narrow definition of linguistic competence as the speaker’s perfect, abstract, and unconscious knowledge of grammar. Hymes (1972) argued that it is problematic to view linguistic competence in isolation from sociocultural factors, and instead proposed that the knowledge of what is contextually appropriate is an integral component of a speaker’s knowledge of language. In other words, in addition to knowing how to produce grammatically correct sentences, language users also need to know “when to speak, when not, and … what to talk about with whom, when, where, and in what manner” (Hymes, 1972, p. 277).

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