LINGUISTICS COURSE USING LANGUAGE FILES 12TH EDITION
File 7.6 Pragmatics
1. Below are descriptions of several possible contexts for the sentence Do any
of you have a watch?
i. For each context, paraphrase the message that the speaker seems to
be trying to get across by uttering that sentence.
ii. After doing part (i), write one or two sentences that explain how this
exercise as a whole shows the way that context affects the meaning
a. A frantic-looking man runs up to a group of people standing at a
bus stop, checks the bus schedule, and then says hurriedly, “Do
any of you have a watch?”
b. A group of preteen girls is comparing jewelry. One girl says, “My
jewelry is best, because I have the most.” Another says, “Nope.
Mine is the best because it all matches.” This sort of thing goes
on for a while. Finally the last girl pipes up that she thinks she
has the best jewelry. “Oh yeah? What makes you so special?” She
replies, “Just look at my wrist! Do any of you have a watch?”
c. A mugger traps a group of people in a dark alley and waves a gun
at them while screaming, “Do any of you have a watch?”
d. Your linguistics instructor left his watch at home this morning,
but he will need to monitor his time use in class. He wanders into
the department lounge and says to his colleagues, “Do any of you
have a watch?”
4. For each of the following sentences, construct two different contexts, such
that the sentence would mean something different depending on which of
the two contexts it was uttered in. (You may specify the situational
context, the linguistic context, the social context, or all three.) Then
paraphrase what the meaning of the sentence would be in each context
that you write.
a. I seem to have lost my pencil.
b. There’s always a police officer on duty.
c. I’m supposed to write a five-page paper for my history class.
5. Tell whether each of the following sentences contains any deictic words.
For the ones that do, list those words.
a. They want to go to your concert to see your band perform.
b. The Ohio State Buckeyes won the NCAA 2014 football championship.
c. Many authors, such as Mark Twain and Carolyn Keene, chose to write
under a pseudonym.
d. That is so cool; let me see it!
e. Although there will certainly be another major earthquake in
California, no one can predict for sure whether the next big quake will
happen tomorrow, next week, or a decade from now.
f. Hippopotamuses are herbivores.
g. Is it possible for a technician to come here to help fix the problem, or
do I have to take my computer over there?
6. For each of the following questions, write one felicitous response and one
infelicitous response. Explain what makes your infelicitous responses
infelicitous. Try to have a different reason in each case. What new ways have you learned to
make utterances infelicitous?)
a. What did you do for your birthday?
b. Which classes do you think you will take next spring?
c. I’m going to the grocery store. Do you need me to pick anything up for
10. Pay attention to the language around you.
i. Transcribe one utterance that you hear today. Then write down the
context of that utterance, being sure to note its linguistic, situational,
and social contexts.
ii. How did knowing the context help you interpret the meaning of that
iii. What else might the sentence have meant had it been uttered in a
12. Below are descriptions of four university professors. Hopefully you will
never have an instructor like any of them, because they are not very
pragmatically savvy. Each one is failing to follow one of Grice’s maxims in
particular. For each professor, tell which category of maxim is being
a. He’s so well-spoken that you can get lulled into thinking that you
believe him. Then, after a while, you start to realize that most of what
he’s saying is just unfounded opinion. He never backs up his
statements with anything factual.
b. Her lectures are really hard to understand. I think that she knows what
she’s talking about, but she uses all this complicated vocabulary, and
she never defines any of the words. Plus, every sentence is about a
million words long, and by the time you figure out what it meant, she’s
giving you another sentence that’s even more complicated!
c. His classes are hard to follow because he goes off on so many tangents.
We’ll be talking about Russian politics one minute, and then he’ll veer
off to tell us something about democracy in Ancient Greece. Then he’ll
get back to the Russian politics only to interrupt himself with a story
about what his son did at breakfast this morning.
d. I feel as though she never gives us thorough answers to our questions.
For example, I asked her yesterday why we shiver when we’re cold. All
she said was “because you’re warm-blooded,” and then she went on
with her lecture. I already knew that people are warm-blooded, but I
don’t know what that has to do with shivering.
13. In (6) in Section 7.2.2, the following possible answers are given to the
question “Where did you grow up?” Suppose that they are all true answers
and that the only difference between them is how informative they are. Write a one- or two-sentence linguistic context for each response in which
that response would be felicitous.
On the corner of Main Street and Minor Road
a. In Dayton
b. In Dayton, Ohio
c. In Dayton, Ohio, on the corner of Main Street and Minor Road
d. In Ohio
e. In the Midwest
f. In the United States
15. In the discourse below, Sophie fails to follow one of Grice’s maxims. Tell
which maxim she violates, and explain the violation.
Josh: What did you do yesterday?
Sophie: I went to the concert downtown. It was a lot of fun.
Josh: Who was there?
Sophie: I saw Jane, David, Susan, and Polly. Oh, and her mother was
Josh: Whose mother?
Sophie: What? Oh, Susan’s, of course!
16. In eighth grade, Chris thought (mistakenly) that it would be funny to
prank-call the fire department from a payphone on the wall of the school
cafeteria. Based on the following dialogue, answer questions (i)–(iii).
Fire department operator: Where is the phone that you’re calling from?
Chris: On the wall.
i. In general, why would an operator at a fire department ask where a
caller is calling from?
ii. Based on the situation (the operator’s goals), which maxim does Chris’s
iii. Is Chris’s answer true? Justify your answer relative to the maxim of
17. Suppose that you ask a friend what he thought of a new movie, and he
replies, “Well, the costumes were authentic.” His answer does seem to be
saying something positive about the movie. Nevertheless, he is guiding
you to infer that he probably did not like the movie.
i. Which maxim is he flouting in order to do this?
ii. Why might he choose to convey his dislike by flouting that maxim
instead of saying directly that he didn’t like the movie?
23. Below is a discourse between Daniel and Amy. They are in the kitchen at
their home. Following the discourse is a list of questions. None of the
questions is directly answered in the discourse, but all of the answers are
implicated by something that either Daniel or Amy says. Answer each
question. Then tell which line of the discourse contains the implicature
that answers the question and which Gricean maxim you had to appeal to
in order to figure out the implicature.
a. Daniel: Would you like me to make chocolate chip cookies this
b. Amy: Sure. That would be great! Do you have all of the ingredients?
c. Daniel: Well, I meant to go to the bank this morning, and then I was
going to stop at the store on the way home, but I wasn’t feeling
well, so I didn’t go.
d. Amy: That’s too bad. What did you need to buy?
e. Daniel: Just a few things. Do you know whether we have any eggs?
f. Amy: After breakfast, there were two left.
g. Daniel: Then I guess I’ll have to borrow some. Are the neighbors home?
h. Amy: (Looks out the window) I don’t see their car out front.
i. Daniel: That’s too bad. Maybe I should make cookies some other day.
i. What kind of cookies is Daniel planning to make?
ii. What kind of store had Daniel meant to go to this morning?
A. shoe store B. grocery store C. book store
iii. What did Amy eat for breakfast this morning?
iv. How many eggs does Amy think there are in the house?
A. fewer than two B. exactly two C. more than two
v. How many eggs does the cookie recipe call for?
A. fewer than two B. exactly two C. more than two
vi. From where does Daniel hope to get eggs now?
vii. Are Daniel and Amy’s neighbors at home?
viii. Why does Daniel decide not to make cookies today?
ix. Which of these activities is Daniel most likely to have wanted to do
at the bank?
A. give blood B. go fishing in the river C. withdraw cash
x. How was Daniel feeling this morning?
A. healthy B. a little sick C. extremely ill
24. Two basketball players are close friends. One is a very good player and
makes every shot that he attempts. The other is not as good. Their coach
has instructed them to try a new and very difficult drill. Both players try
the new drill ten times. Of course, the first player puts the ball through the
hoop all ten times. Afterwards, the friends get together to discuss how their
practice went and have the following conversation:
1st Player: How did you do?
2nd Player: Well, I made it on my fifth try. I bet you did a lot
better than me.
1st Player: Well, yeah, but don’t feel too bad. I made it on my
i. Of the ten tries, how many times did the first player make the shot?
ii. What inference is the first player hoping that the second player will
draw, counter to this fact, by saying, “I made it on my fourth shot”?
iii. Which maxim is the first player using in order to create this
iv. Why has the first player chosen to give this answer?
v. Is the first player violating a maxim of quality by saying, “I made it on
my fourth shot”?
vi. Has the first player violated any other maxims? Justify your answer
28. Look at the contexts given for the sentence Do any of you have a wrist
watch? in Exercise 1. In each case, which speech act is the speaker
performing by uttering this sentence (e.g., request, threat, apology, etc.)?
29. Look at your answers to Exercise 4. For each of your answers, tell whether it was a direct speech act
or an indirect speech act.
30. Imagine that you have a child or a younger sibling who wants you to drive
him/her to a friend’s house.
i. What speech act would this person need to perform in order to
communicate this idea to you?
ii. Write three sentences that s/he could use to get this point across: make
one declarative, one imperative, and one interrogative. Label which is
which. Also, label which are direct and which indirect.
31. Take the sentence It’s very warm outside.
i. What type of sentence is this?
ii. Write two contexts for this sentence in which it is used for different
iii. In each case, tell the speaker’s goal in uttering the sentence; in other
words, what is the speech act in question?
iv. Also, in each case, tell whether the speech act is being performed
directly or indirectly.
32. Assume that a speaker wants another person to open the window. This
speaker could try to communicate this idea by uttering any of the
sentences in (a)–(g) below.
i. What type of speech act corresponds with the speaker’s goal?
ii. Identify each sentence as a direct or an indirect speech act relative to
iii. Identify the type of each sentence.
a. I see that the window is not yet open.
b. Can you open the window?
c. I order you to open the window.
d. I would appreciate it if you opened the window.
e. I sure would love to have some fresh air in this room.
f. Please open the window.
g. Would you mind opening the window?
35. For each of the following scenarios, tell what kind of speech act seems to
be being performed. Then tell whether the utterance is felicitous or
infelicitous and why, appealing to the idea of felicity conditions.
a. A woman sitting next to the ketchup and mustard containers at a table
in a restaurant asks the man across the table from her to pass the
b. The bailiff in a courtroom approaches the judge and says, “I find the
defendant guilty, your honor.”
c. A girl approaches the school librarian and says, “Excuse me; where can
I find a book about butterflies?”
d. A woman who sees someone wearing a sweater that she admires says, “I
really like your sweater.”
e. At the end of a business meeting, an employee says to his supervisor,
“You may go now.”
f. A customer walks up to the cashier at a grocery store and says, “The
canned vegetables are located in aisle five.”
g. On her way out the door, a woman says to her dog, “I’m going to be
home late today. Would you please put dinner in the oven around
h. A geography teacher says to her fifth-grade class, “The largest mountain
range in the eastern half of the United States is the Appalachians.”
i. A man at a bus stop has his hands full of books. One slides off the pile
onto the ground, and he says to the person next to him, “Excuse me;
could you please pick up that book for me?”
36. Consider the following four scenarios. Each contains a warning, but the
warning in each case is infelicitous.
a. Someone warns an extremely careful and experienced carpenter that
his saw is sharp and could cut him.
b. Two children are taking a walk in the park; one says to the other, “Be
careful! There’s a daffodil growing in that garden!”
c. A murderer lurking in the shadows yells to his next victim, “Watch out;
there’s someone here to kill you!” before lunging at her with his knife.
d. A mother living with her child in a neighborhood in New England
warns her child, “Be careful; there’s an escaped madman running
i. First, explain what makes each an infelicitous warning.
ii. Then, based on what you have observed about these infelicities,
write a set of felicity conditions for warnings that would prevent
such inappropriate utterances.
37. Which of the following sentences contain verbs used performatively?
(Hint: Exactly five of the underlined verbs are performative.) Explain the
difference between the five verbs you chose as performative verbs and the
other five verbs that you did not choose.
a. I promise to be there.
b. I suggest that you leave.
c. I convince you that I am right.
d. I warn you not to come any closer.
e. I incite you to be angry.
f. I forbid you to enter this room.
g. I inspire you to write beautiful music.
h. I amuse you with my jokes.
i. I order you to be quiet.
j. I provoke you to punch me.
41. List all of the existence presuppositions contained in the following
sentences. (Of course, normally when we read nursery rhymes such as
these, we are very willing to accommodate the presuppositions that they
a. Old Mother Hubbard went to the cupboard to fetch her poor dog a
b. Little Boy Blue went to blow his horn on account of the sheep were in
the meadow and the cows were in the corn.
c. The black sheep had a bag of wool for his master, a bag of wool for his
dame, and a bag of wool for the little boy who lived down the lane.
d. Jack and Jill went up the hill because they wanted to test Jack’s new
high-tech anti-fall machine.
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