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GRICE AND HIS MAXIMS

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Karen Griffiths

on 13 November 2015

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Transcript of GRICE AND HIS MAXIMS

We have considered a range of conversational features.

All depend upon CO-OPERATION between participants.

Today we will consider a theorist that we can use to evidence the ideas we have considered:
The maxim of manner

Avoid ambiguity and obscurity of expression – be as precise as possible

Be orderly in your utterances – speak in a clear, coherent way

Be brief – avoid verbosity and overly complex terms
The maxim of quantity

Make your contributions as informative as is required, but not more informative than is required (i.e. don’t say too much or too little!)
The maxim of quality

You should be truthful and not say anything you suspect or know to be false.
You should have evidence/ a reason for what you say
He developed this idea by identifying four conversational maxims (rules, principles) which he said participants in a conversation should usually follow.
He argued that people involved in a conversation proceed on the assumption that they have common goals and agreed ways of achieving these goals.
The maxim of relevance

Contributions should be relevant to the aims of the conversation.
i.e.
Q. What would you like for tea?

Pizza. (relevant)
The sky is blue. (not relevant!)
Q. Where is the nearest post office?

A. Not far! (not enough information)
or

A. Turn right, go past Top Shop then the bakery, Marks and Spencer, and a toy shop – I forgot what it’s called – then there’s a Boots and Jigsaw, the ‘Pampered Pooch’ pet shop, Waterstones, a pub…

(Too much information!)
CO-OPERATIVE PRINCIPLE
He called this assumption the
H.P. Grice (philosopher and linguist) in ‘Logic in Conversation’ (1975) saw co-operation between interlocutors as the fundamental principle underlying conversation.
And his
MARVELLOUS MAXIMS
Grice
RELEVANCE
(relation)
MANNER
QUANTITY
QUALITY
CAN YOU CREATE YOUR OWN FLOUTING OF THE MAXIM OF QUANTITY?
Can you spot the broken maxims - flouted or violated?
Consider the flouting of these maxims.

What names do we have for those who flout/violate?
Bumbling Idiot
The maxim of Quantity, Quality, Relevance and manner?
Gas bag
Motor mouth
Random
Liar
ANY OTHERS?
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THESE RULES ARE BROKEN?
VIOLATING THE RULES
: This means that we break the maxims surreptitiously, or covertly, so that other people do not know.
If we violate the maxim of quality, we lie.
If we violate the maxim of quantity by not giving enough information and someone finds out we can be accused of 'being economical with the truth', another deceit.
If you like, violating the maxims amounts to breaking them 'illegally', just as people who steal are guilty of laws concerning theft. As with laws, some maxim violations can be more more heinous than others. Lying in a court of law is disapproved, but 'white lies', small lies to keep the social peace, are often thought as acceptable
.
FOUTING THE RULES:
If we FLOUT a maxim, we break it in a FLAGRANT (and often foregrounded) way, so that it is obvious to all concerned that it has been broken.
If this happens, then it is clear that the speaker is intending the hearer to infer some extra meaning over and above what is said (evidence for this is that people say things like 'He said he was happy, but the way he said it implied he wasn't really'.
Grice distinguishes what he calls 'sentence meaning' from 'utterer's meaning' and he refers to an utterer's meaning indicated through a flout as an
IMPLICATURE
.
LET'S TRY IT...
What Gricean maxim does B flout, and what is the implicature that follows from the flout?

A: Do you like John and Kate?
B: Kate is fun.
B flouts the maxim of quantity by answering a question about two people as if it were a question about just one of them. Because she says Kate is nice, but says nothing about John, we can infer that B is implicating that John is not fun.
Two married university lecturers are talking about who is going to get the children from school.

What maxim does B flout and what implicature follows from it?

A: Who is picking up the children today?
B: I've got a meeting at 3.30.
B flouts the maxim of relation by not giving the identity of the person asked about in in A's question. The implicature is that B can't pick up the children because of the work commitment, and is therefore suggesting, by extension, that A should.
Below are the first two lines of the song 'Wild Thing' by the song writer Chip Taylor. 'Wild Thing' became a hit record for a group called The Troggs in 1966.

What maxim is flouted in line 2 and what implicature follows?

Wild thing
You make my heart sing
'You make my heart sing ' flouts the maxim of quality. Hearts can't literally sing. [ Many (but not all) metaphors flout the maxim of quality.] The singer of the song is male, the song appears to be a direct address to a young woman (this is typical of the genre), leading to the implicature that the singer is declaring strong love/attraction for the to the young woman.
You ask a friend what he thinks of a lecturer who has a reputation for being sarcastic.What maxim is flouted, and what implicature is produced in the following reply?

He's not the politest person I've met.
This response flouts the maxim of manner because of the use of negation here. Your friend could have expressed roughly the same content by using a positive expression like 'He's rude'. The implicature is that your friend thinks the person is rude but doesn't want to say so directly for some reason (perhaps because he does not like being impolite about others, perhaps because he is worried that someone may overhear him etc).
IS IT THIS STRAIGHT FORWARD????
It is important to remember that in real-life examples things might be a bit more complex:

One utterance or stretch of text might break more than one maxim at the same time.

One maxim might be broken in order to preserve another (for example you might break the manner maxim to avoid saying something you think is untrue, and so uphold the quality maxim).

HAVE A LOOK AT ANY OF THE PAPERS WE HAVE STUDIED SO FAR. COULD YOU APPLY GRICE? WHAT ABOUT IN THE CRUCIBLE?


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