Cooperative Principle (Grice’s Maxim)

last week we have learned about the Speech Act theory bu Austin and Searle as you can easily found in the link below:

Grice’s Maxims
1. The maxim of quantity
where one tries to be as informative as one possibly can, and gives as much information as is needed, and no more.
Make your contribution as informative as is required (for the current purposes of the exchange).
Do not make your contribution more informative than is required.
A: Where is the post office?
B: Down the road, about 50 metres past the second left.
B: Not far.

2. The maxim of quality
where one tries to be truthful, and does not give information that is false or that is not supported by evidence.
Be Truthful

Do not say what you believe to be false.
Do not say that for which you lack adequate evidence.
A: Should I buy my son this new sports car?
B: I don’t know if that’s such a good idea. He’s totaled two cars since he got his license last year.
B: No, he seems like he’d be a bad driver.

3. The maxim of relevance
where one tries to be relevant, and says things that are pertinent to the discussion.
Be relevant.
With respect to this maxim, Grice writes, “Though the maxim itself is terse, its formulation conceals a number of problems that exercise me a good deal: questions about what different kinds and focuses of relevance there may be, how these shift in the course of a talk exchange, how to allow for the fact that subjects of conversations are legitimately changed, and so on. I find the treatment of such questions exceedingly difficult, and I hope to revert to them in later work.” (Grice 1989:27)

Example 1:
A: How are you doing in school?
B: Not too well, actually. I’m failing two of my classes.
B: What fine weather we’re having lately!

Example 2:
A:(Waving at B, who is driving a taxi) Taxi!
B:(Waving at A, who is walking along the side of the road) Pedestrian!

4. The maxim of manner
when one tries to be as clear, as brief, and as orderly as one can in what one says, and where one avoids obscurity and ambiguity.
Be Clear

Avoid obscurity of expression.
Avoid ambiguity.
Be brief (avoid unnecessary prolixity).
Be orderly.
A: What did you think of that movie?
B: I liked the creative storyline. The ending was really a surprise!
B: It was interestingly done, sir.

As the maxims stand, there may be an overlap, as regards the length of what one says, between the maxims of quantity and manner; this overlap can be explained (partially if not entirely) by thinking of the maxim of quantity (artificial though this approach may be) in terms of units of information. In other words, if the listener needs, let us say, five units of information from the speaker, but gets less, or more than the expected number, then the speaker is breaking the maxim of quantity. However, if the speaker gives the five required units of information, but is either too curt or long-winded in conveying them to the listener, then the maxim of manner is broken. The dividing line however, may be rather thin or unclear, and there are times when we may say that both the maxims of quantity and quality are broken by the same factors.

Breaking the maxims
We have already pointed out that the conversational maxims are broken rather more often than lingustic rules (e.g. in grammar). We can break the conversational maxims in two main ways:

We can VIOLATE them

This means that we break the maxims surreptitiously, or covertly, so that other people do not know. If we violate the maxim of quality, we lie. If we violate the maxim of quantity by not giving enough information, if someone finds out we can be accused of ‘being economical with the truth’, another deceit. If you like, violating the maxims amounts to breaking them ‘illegally’, just as people who steal are guilty of laws concerning theft. As with laws, some maxim violations can be more more heinous than others. Lying in a court of law is disapproved, but ‘white lies’, small lies to keep the social peace, are often thought as acceptable.

We can FLOUT them

If we FLOUT a maxim, we break it in a FLAGRANT (and often foregrounded) way, so that it is obvious to all concerned that it has been broken. If this happens, then it is clear that the speaker is intending the hearer to infer some extra meaning over and above what is said (evidence for this is that people of say things like ‘He said he was happy, but the way he said it implied he wasn’t really’. Grice distinguishes what he calls ‘sentence meaning’ from ‘utterer’s meaning’ and he refers to an utterer’s meaning indicated through a flout as an IMPLICATURE. So the implicature is what we have been referring to so far as the ‘extra meaning’. (

please create your own conversation containing these 4 maxims in the comment below.

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