Pragmatics

Grice’s principle of cooperation

Grice's principle of cooperation and examples

Grice’s principle of cooperation

A very general pragmatic assumption of communicative exchange is understood as the principle of cooperation , whereby a certain behavior is expected in the interlocutors, as a result of a previous agreement, of collaboration in the task of communicating. It can therefore be defined as a general principle that guides the interlocutors in the conversation.

The elaboration of this pragmatic model of communication is due to the American philosopher HP Grice, who defines it as follows: «Make your contribution to the conversation be, at all times, that required by the purpose or direction of the communicative exchange in the one you are involved ». This is a non-normative principle, which is assumed tacitly accepted by all who participate in the conversation (Grice 1975, 45). In a lecture delivered in 1967, and published in 1975, HP Grice argued that up to that time no due attention had been paid to the nature and importance of the conditions governing the conversation.. This author proposes an analysis of the particular type of logic that acts and governs the conversation. To do this, it tries to establish the mechanisms that regulate the communicative exchange and the interpretation of the statements ; that is, the mechanisms responsible for “added meaning”, that is, implicit information .

This is the theory that HP Grice developed to explain the speaker’s expression scenarios to an audience, that is, what happens, almost always, on the Web and has the bonus of being extraordinarily simple and intuitive. The principle of Cooperation explains communication in dynamic contexts as a coordinated action that requires cooperation between the parties. They are summarized as follows:

«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” (1989, 26).

This principle is broken down into four standards or categories, which HP Grice calls maxims, and which in turn are broken down into sub- maxims Grice lists the maxims of quantity, quality, relationship and manner, and assigns each one a varied number of specific sub-maxims:

  • Maximum amount It relates to the amount of information that must be given. It includes, in turn, the following submaximals:
    • «Make your contribution as informative as required (according to the purpose of the communication)».
    • «Do not make your contribution more informative than required».
  • Maximum quality This category includes a maxim: “Try to make your contribution true”, which in turn is broken down into the following sub-maxims:
    • “Don’t say what you think is false.”
    • “Don’t say that about which you have no proof.”
  • Maximum relationship It contains a single maximum:
    • “Be relevant.”
  • Maximum way. It is related to the way of saying things, rather than the kind of things to say. It includes a maxim: “Be clear.” And it is complemented with others:
    • “Avoid the darkness of expression.”
    • “Avoid ambiguity.”
    • «Be brief».
    • “Be neat.”

The formulation of maxims in an imperative way has generated misinterpretations about their real nature, since they should not be conceived as prescriptions, but as regulatory norms. Despite the imperative statement of these categories, the important thing for Grice’s theory is not so much the fulfillment of these supposed mandates as the fact that the interlocutors act as if they took their compliance for granted. The violation of the maxims is an indication that allows the interlocutors to activate an inferential process that allows them to access the implicature. So, for example, if at the question  [What is your name?] , Formulated by a boy to a girl, you get the answer [I have a boyfriend] , themaximum relationship, then, apparently, the answer is not related to the question. Now, from that logical mismatch, the interlocutor can infer, that is, deduce, that the girl does not want to be disturbed.

Closely linked to the principle of cooperation, the concept of inference has meant the need to contextualize language practices and activate sociocultural competence , so that the student can learn what is relevant to say in a given context, or the amount of information that must be provided as well as developing strategies to access the unsaid but communicated, that is, the implicature.

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