Conversational Implicature

Standard

Conversational Implicature

Introduction

In order to converse in a maximally efficient, rational and co-operative way, speakers should speak:
sincerely, relevantly and clearly while providing sufficient information.

Grice’s four maxims

The maxim of quality
Do not say what you believe to be false
Do not say that for which you lack adequate evidence

The maxim of Quantity
make you contribution as informative as is required for the current purpose of the exchange.
do not make your contribution more informative than is required.

The maxim of relevance:

make your contributions relevant.

The maxim of manner:
Avoid obscurity
Avoid ambiguity
Be brief
Be orderly

Conversational Implicature
People do not follow these maxims to the letter.
Contrary to appearances, the principles are adhered to at some deeper level.
Example:
A: Where is Bill?
B: There’s a yellow VW outside Sue’s house
Apparently B violates maxims of quantity and relevance.
B’s response appears to be an attempt at change of topic
But if we assume B’s reply is co-operative, we think of a possible connection that could be between the location of Bill and of a yellow VW.
We may arrive at the suggestion that if, Bill has a yellow VW, he may be in Sue’s house.
By making assumption contrary to superficial indications, inferences arise.
Inferences arise to preserve the assumption of co-operation.
Grice calls this kind of inference a ‘conversational implicature’.
The term ‘implicature’ contrasts with terms like ‘logical implication’, ‘entailment’ and ‘logical consequence’.
These terms are related to logical or semantic content only.
Implicatures are not semantic inferences, but are based on both the content of what has been said and on some specific assumptions about the co-operative nature of ordinary verbal interaction.

Standard implicature
The inferences that arise from observing the maxims in a fairly direct way are called ‘standard implicatures’
Example:
A: I’ve just run out of petrol.
B: Oh; there’s a garage just around the corner.

Flouting Implicature
Inferences may also be generated when the speaker deliberately and ostentatiously breaches or ‘flouts’ the maxims.
Example:
A: Let’s get the kids something.
B: Okay, but I veto I-C-E-C-R-E-A-M-S
The speaker deliberately flouts the maxim of__?
The second kind of implicatures come about by overtly and blatantly not following some maxim, in order to exploit it for communicative purposes.
Grice calls such usages floutings or exploitations of the maxims.
This gives rise to the traditional ‘figures of speech’

Queen Victoria was made of iron.

A: Tehran is in Turkey isn’t it teacher?
B: And London is in Armenia I suppose.

A: What if the USSR blockades the Gulf and all the oil?
B: Oh come now, Britain rules the seas!

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