Article

Pragmatics

Mitchell S. Green

in Philosophy

ISBN: 9780195396577
Published online June 2011 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0146
Pragmatics

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Pragmatics is a branch of the philosophy of language as well as a field of linguistics. Pragmatics is to be distinguished from pragmatism, which is a doctrine concerning the nature of truth and knowledge. Whereas proponents of pragmatism are pragmatists, students of pragmatics are pragmaticists. Imagine a communicative interaction among two or more parties. Pragmaticists generally study that part of what is communicated that is left over after the conventionally determined, literal meaning of any words used has been subtracted out. (This is in contrast to what remains after the conventionally permitted, literal meaning has been subtracted out—see The Pragmatic Determination of What is Said) In part because pragmatics falls within the ambit of linguistics, it has an empirical, indeed an experimental dimension. Topics comprising pragmatics include speech acts (a special case of which are performatives), implicature, indexicals, presupposition, speaker meaning, and the pragmatic determination of what is said. A topic that has recently received intensive discussion and is of obvious importance to pragmatics is the very delineation of semantics from pragmatics. Other topics that have received less extensive scrutiny include expression and expressiveness and the relation of illocutionary force to semantic content and grammatical mood. In addition to the topics comprising the field, the value of pragmatics as an explanatory enterprise may be gauged by its ability to illuminate familiar communicative phenomena: among these are metaphor, irony, the significance of epithets and other “charged” language, the distinction between lying to and misleading an audience, facial expression, communicative properties of intonation, and so-called pragmatic paradoxes. Theoretical discussions of pornography have also been influenced by pragmatics. Aside from linguistics, logical theory also has a stake in pragmatics insofar as the notion of good reasoning cannot be captured simply with the notion of soundness. (A circular argument, for instance, can be sound.) Further, on the strength of certain ways of drawing the pragmatics/semantics boundary, some phenomena traditionally in the purview of semantics have been construed as pragmatic instead: among these are Frege’s distinction between sense and reference and the phenomenon of non-referring proper names. Certain semantic strategies, then, have a stake in pragmatics.

Article.  7269 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art ; Epistemology ; Feminist Philosophy ; History of Western Philosophy ; Metaphysics ; Moral Philosophy ; Non-Western Philosophy ; Philosophy of Language ; Philosophy of Law ; Philosophy of Mathematics and Logic ; Philosophy of Mind ; Philosophy of Religion ; Philosophy of Science ; Social and Political Philosophy

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