Definitio – pragmatics

This is a definition given by the U. of Texas modules on methods in teaching fl”

pragmatics: How people communicate and interpret intentions, and react to them, in a context of language use

If you are in a room full of people during a break, you can see how people interact. A common example is how 2 men talking will tend to look away from each other, exchanging glances only, while 2 women will face each other and look directly at each other as they talk.

The way you request something of someone is an example of pragmatics. It involves not only word choice and grammar but tone of voice, body language, selection of time and place, and any number of factors incl. the social identification of the people involved. Let’s unpack this paragraph.

A request is a function and the way you go about it is called pragmatics from the Greek pragma meaning a deed, from the verb “to do”. How do you do a request?

The words you choose e.g. “I’d like it if you would….” And the grammar, “Could you give me a ride?” instead of, “Give me a ride.” The tone and body language cannot be reproduced here but we could make a video and post it. Asking someone when they are on the phone would be inappropriate for some people but others accept such an intrusion, so here, who you are asking is important – some people respond to someone else making gestures and mouthing words at them while they are on the phone but others find it an unacceptable intrusion.

And then, of course, who it is is crucial. Is it a student talking to a teacher, a player to a coach, a teacher to the principal, two teachers in the hallway, two teachers at TGIF? And so on. And all this varies considerably from culture to culture.

This is not an area I have a lot of knowledge in, so any additions and amendments would be welcomed.

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