Grice's Theory of Implicature (Lalic, Ema Luna)fleeting
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participant of a conversation needs to understand that his partner has certain needs and expectations in terms of that specific conversation, so he should be willing to contribute to that cause. There are
persons involved in the conversation acknowledge that there is at least one shared intention or purpose and a stipulated direction which the conversation is expected to be heading.
7 Grice calls this principle the Cooperative Principle and formulates it in a form of a maxim: “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.” (Grice 1989, p. 26).
Maxims in philosophy have been usually used in the realm of ethics, as rules or sets of rules for moral reasoning and behaviour. Grice’s maxims are rules or recommendations, examples of prescriptions. However, they seem to reflect the way people actually converse, not just how they should. Grice states that “it is just a well-recognized empirical fact that people do behave in these ways” (Grice 1989, p. 29).
Furthermore, their importance to communication is such that “in paradigmatic cases, their observance promotes and their violation dispromotes conversational rationality” (Grice 1989, p.370). To behave in a completely different way would be unintuitive and would require an extreme adjustment. In that
categories of conversational maxims are: Quantity, Quality, Relation and Manner (Grice 1989, p.26). Their maxims could be interpreted as “truthfulness, informativeness, relevance and clarity”, respectively (Wilson and Sperber 2012, p.48).
first category, category of quantity refers to the quantity (amount of information that is supposed to be given by the speaker. There are two maxims in this category: “1 Make your contribution as informative as is required (for the current purpose of the exchange. 2 Do not make your contribution more informative than is required.” (Grice 1989, p. 26
your contribution one that is true” (Grice 1989, p. 27. The maxims associated with it are: “1 Do not say what you believe to be false. 2 Do not say that for which you lack adequate evidence.” (Grice 1989, p.27
category of Relation is realised through one maxim: “Be relevant.” (Grice 1989, p. 27). Conversations have a natural tendency to evolve and progress from one topic to another. This is a ubiquitous phenomenon associated with any type of conversation. So, being relevant does not have a fixed standard. It is considerably determined by the characteristics of the specific conversation (Grice 1989, p.27). Participants
problem arises when the hearer(s) believe(s) that the speaker does not to provide relevant information or provides a great number of irrelevant remarks.
fourth category, Manner, is different from the first three. Whereas the other categories are connected with the content of speaker’s contribution, Manner refers to the way the contribution was expressed. The supermaxim for this category is “Be perspicuous” (Grice 1989, p. 27), that is to say, one should be clear and precise in their way of speaking. The maxims are: “1) Avoid obscurity of expression. 2) Avoid ambiguity. 3) Be brief (avoid unnecessary prolixity). 4) Be orderly.” (Grice 1989, p. 27).
There are also types of communication that do not involve classic conversational acts, for instance different kinds of assistance, such as one person helping the other to fix a car or bake a cake (Grice 1989, p.28). These types of transactions are not conversations, but categories of conversational maxims are, nonetheless, applicable to them.
Maxims are, as may be expected, frequently disobeyed. Grice offers four typical manners in
doing so. The first one is speaker’s violation of a maxim in a understated way. When this happens, usually the
When a maxim is exploited, conversational implicatures are created.
at the very end of his career, Grice summarizes the process in which implicatures are delivered: “Implicatures are thought of as arising in the following way; an implicatum is the content of that psychological state or attitude which needs to be attributed to the speaker in order to secure […] ; (a that a violation on his part of a conversational maxim is in the circumstances justifiable, at least in his eyes, or (b that what appears to be a violation by him of a conversational maxim is only a seeming, not a real, violation; the spirit, though perhaps not the letter, of the maxim is respected” (Grice 1989, p. 370
conversational implicature (and conversation as such) is successful when the speaker’s intention is recognized by the hearer in an adequate way.
strict terms, what was said is clearly untrue (since B is not a ‘night owl’). However, in examples of this kind the implicatum (the meaning, that which is implicated) does not fail to observe the maxims or the Cooperative Principle (Grice 1989, p. 33-35). In the example, a maxim is “flouted for the purpose of getting in a conversational implicature by means of something of the nature of a figure of speech” (Grice 1989, p. 33). Further examples of this
Levinson (1983, p. 130) contrasts the concepts of standard implicature (which are created because the hearer presupposes that the speaker is not failing to observe the maxims) and conversational implicature based on flouting of the maxim.
Generalized conversational implicature, on the other hand, are created in an usual setting and do not attain their meaning through particular contextual conditions. They are expected to be carried out by a part of an utterance, independently of the particularities of the conversational situations (Grice 1989, p.26).
Whereas conversational implicatures are closely connected to the maxims, conventional are not, since their meaning is more a matter of convention and less that of context.
Grice himself points out that, even though there seems to be a relatively clear distinction between particular conversational implicature and conventional one, the situation is more complex in terms of the distinction between generalized conversational and conventional implicature, so there is often a problem of providing an unambiguous examples of them (Grice 1989, pp.37-38).
Grice defines conventional implicatures as those in which “the conventional meaning of the words used will determine what is implicated, besides helping to determine what is said”
example, the utterance ‘Our new car is inexpensive but reliable’, implies that being inexpensiveness is in contrast with reliability. In other words, the utterance implies that it is surprising that the car is both inexpensive and reliable, since the adjectives in question usually exclude each other.
instance, the utterance ‘This book is a bestseller, therefore it is incredible’. While this type of utterance containing ‘therefore’ implicates that the reason for y is x, the speaker does not want to say that this is the case, since he is apprehensive about the situation where x would be true and y false. So, if y is not true, then the proposition is also false, and the speaker would not like to commit himself to that. In the abovementioned example, although the speaker implicates, by extension, that the reason the book is incredible is that it is a bestseller, he does not want to actually say that.