. ., ..

The theory of communicative maxims by Grice in the theory of politeness


Grice's work on the nature of meaning has influenced the philosophical study of semantics. His theory of implicature is among the most important and influential contributions to contemporary pragmatics. Grice`s Maxims can be understood as pieces of advice for participants in order to hold a cooperative communication:

v Maxims of quantity:

Ø Be brief , give as much information as needed. Do not give more information than required

v Maxims of quality

Ø Avoid stating false information.

Ø Avoid saying something for which you lack adequate evidence.

v Maxims of Relation

Ø Be relevant. In other words, speak related information only

v Maxims of Manner

Ø Be perspicuous.

Ø Avoid obscurity of expression.

Ø Avoid ambiguity.

Ø Be brief (avoid unnecessary prolixity).

Ø Be orderly.

In brief, these maxims are aimed in order to make communication maximally efficient.

However, G. Leech claims that linguistic behavior exemplified by Grice`s Communication Principle (CP) and maxims differs from the kind of rule normally formulated in linguistics.

a)  Principle and maxims apply variably to different contexts of language use

b) Principle and maxims apply variably in variable degrees, rather than in an all-or-nothing way

c)   Principle and maxims can conflict with one another

d) Principle and maxims can be contravened without abnegation of the kind of activity which they control. However, there are some cases that maxims have to be violated.

Violation of the maxims of quantity:

This Maxim demands the speakers` contribution informative as it is required and no more informative as required. Below are the examples of an utterance that obeys the maxim of quantity and one that violates the maxim! Example of obeying:

A: Where are you going?

B: I am going to the post office

In the example B gives comment to A`s statement without adding other information. Example of violation: A: Are you going to work tomorrow?

B: I am on jury duty, but Ill have to go to the doctor in the evening. I have asked the manager for permission

In this example, B`s reply violates maxim of quantity because B does not give information as required by A, i.e, yes or no. Instead B gives more information which is not required or expected at all

Violations of Maxims of quality:

Example of obeying: A:Why did you come late last night?

B: The car was broke down

Examples of violation: A: Kiev is in Russia, isnt it ,teacher?

B: And London is in America

In the example B suggests that A is incorrect and B violates the maxim of quality.

Violations of Maxims of relevance:

Example of obeying the maxim: A:Where is my box of chocolates?

B: It is in your room

In the example, B`s reply relates to the question, not talking about something else.

Violations of Maxims of manner:

Example of obeying: A: Where was Alfred yesterday?

B: Alfred went to the store and bought some whiskey

Example of violation of the maxim:A: Why was he arrested?

B: He stole the money form the bank

In this example, B`s statement is ambiguous. I t can be interpreted that B didnt steal the money which is stored in the bank. He had gone to the bank first and he stole the money in another place. Another interpretation is that he stole the money stored in the bank. He got money by robbing it (Communication theory, April 21,2012)

Instances in which a maxim is violated but its violation is explained by a clash with another maxim

     A: Where does Jacqueline live?

     B: Somewhere in the south of France.

Speaker B by uttering Somewhere in the south of France, is suggesting that he does not know where Jacqueline lives. Speaker B infringes the maxim of quantity by being less informative because he is aware that to be more informative would mean violating another maxim that of quality Dont say what you lacked evidence for.

In summary, it can be understood that what a speaker intends to communicate is characteristically far wider than what he/she directly expresses; linguistic meaning radically accounts for the meaning with less than the amount of evidence needed for proof or certainty the message conveyed and understood. That is now clear why Linguopragmatics and problems around it have become an integral part in linguistic research.


The list of used literature:

1.     Grice 1975  Grice P. Logic and Conversation // P. Cole, J. Morgan (eds.) Syntax and Semantics, V. 3: Speech Acts. N. Y.: Academic Press, 1975. P. 4158.

2.     Communication Theory. April 21,2012