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, paraph


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

of sentences.

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

different context?

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

answer violate?

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

fourth shot.

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

that goal.

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

around Vienna!”

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

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