Basic Concepts and Theories of Pragmatics

The term pragmatics was first introduced by Charles Morris, a philosopher. He contrasts pragmatics with semantics and syntax.


  • Syntax is the study of the grammatical relations of linguistic units to one another and the grammatical structures of phrases and sentences that result from these grammatical relations.
  • The study of the relationship between linguistic forms, how they are arranged in sequence, and which sequences are well-formed. No consideration of any world of reference or any users of the forms.
  • Syntax is the study of the relationship between linguistics forms, how they arranged (Yule, 1996).


  • Semantics is the study of the relation of linguistic units to the objects they denote.
  • The study of the relationship between linguistic forms and entities in the world; how words literally connect to things; attempts to establish the relationships between verbal descriptions and states of affairs in the world as accurate or not, regardless of who produces that description.
  • Semantics is the study of the relationship between linguistics forms and entities in the world (Yule, 1996).


  • Pragmatics is the study of the relation of linguistic units to people who communicate.
  • Using language in various, unconventional ways.
  • Pragmatics is the study of meaning as communicated by a speaker and interpreted by a listener (Yule, 1996).

Some Definition of Pragmatics

  • Mey, 1993. The science of language seen in relation to its users, as it is used by real, live people, for their own purposes and within their limitations and affordances.
  • Morris, 1938. Pragmatics concerns the relation of signs to their interpreters.
  • Gazdar, 1979. Pragmatics = Meaning-Truth conditions.
  • Thomas, 1995. Pragmatics is meaning in use or meaning in context.
  • Yule, 1996. The study of meaning as communicated by a speaker and interpreted by a listener.

When playing different roles, our language means are not the same. We choose different words and expressions which are suitable and appropriate for the situation. The utterances we used have the same referential meaning but their pragmatic meaning is different, as they are used in different contexts. Utterance contains a propositional base (objective part) and the pragmatic component (subjective part).

Context is the surroundings that enable the participants in the communication process to interact, and that make the linguistic expressions of their interaction intelligible. It refers to user-oriented point of view; how all linguistic elements are used in a concrete setting. There are some kinds of context, those are:

  • Physical Context: where the conversation takes place; what objects are present & what action taking place).
  • Epistemic Context: background knowledge shared by the speakers and hearers.
  • Linguistic Context: utterances previous to the utterance under consideration.
  • Social Context: the social relationship and setting of the participants.

Aspects of Speech Situation

How do we know that we deal with pragmatic, rather than semantic phenomena?

  • addressers and addressees: include speaker-hearer, writer-reader
  • context of an utterance: relevant aspects of the physical or social setting of an utterance; shared background knowledge
  • goal of utterance: conscious volition or motivation, goal-oriented activities
  • illocutionary act: a speech act. While grammar deals with abstract static entities such as sentences (in syntax), and propositions (in semantics), pragmatics deals with verbal acts or performances taking place at particular situations (more concrete level).
  • utterance as a product of a verbal act : use in a particular situation

Utterance versus Force Meaning

Utterance meaning is the first level of speaking meaning. It is a sentence context pairing. Force meaning is the speaker communicative intention.



Mey, J. 1993. Pragmatics. An Introduction, Oxford: Blackwell.

Morris, C. 1938. ‘Foundations of the Theory of Signs’, in Carnap, R. Et al (eds.) International Encyclopedia of Unified Science, 2:1, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Thomas, J. 1995. Meaning in Interaction: An Introduction to Pragmatics. London: Longman.

Yule, G. 1996. Pragmatics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

About nawangwulan19

Be GREAT in ACT, as you've been in THOUGHT!!!

Posted on April 11, 2013, in Learning English, Pragmatics and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Simple but important. Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: