(redirected from Discourse-pragmatic)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical.


The branch of semiotics that treats the relation of symbols to behavior and the meaning received by the listener or reader of a statement.
(computer science)
The fourth and final phase of natural language processing, following contextual analysis, that takes into account the speaker's goal in uttering a particular thought in a particular way in determining what constitutes an appropriate response.


the subdivision of LINGUISTICS concerned with the use of language in context. Pragmatics seeks to describe the systematic variation in the selection and production of linguistic items arising from the social environment. It is thus the most complex proposed ‘level’ of language study and the one about which fundamental disagreements exist. It is not settled whether it can be a systematic study, perhaps focusing on permissible or favoured sequences of speech and action in systematically represented contexts, or whether it is a catch-all category for all those aspects of meaning, largely particular, which fall outside SEMANTICS. Influential approaches include SPEECH ACT theory, which, following Austin and Searle, seeks to specify the rules for ‘bringing-off actions in speech (e.g. promising) and ethnomethodological CONVERSATION ANALYSIS, which, with its detailed evidence of preferred sequences, can make a serious claim to being the first successful empirical pragmatics.



a branch—more precisely, an aspect—of semi-otic that investigates and studies the relation between a given system of signs and the system’s interpreters and users. The fundamental ideas of pragmatics were formulated by C. Peirce. Substantial contributions were made by C. Morris, who also invented the term “pragmatics,” and a number of other scholars.

Pragmatics is distinguished from syntactics and semantics. Syntactics studies the purely structural relations between correctly constructed expressions in a sign system, without regard for the expressions’ possible interpretations (even though the interpretations may be kept in mind). Semantics focuses precisely upon these interpretations. Pragmatics studies the characteristics and relations of a given sign system through the unexpressed means and resources of this same system. These resources include the stylistic characteristics of a language that ensure the most adequate reception of messages, the degree to which a text can be condensed without losing its comprehensibility, the criteria for the optimal structure of such a condensed text, and the interpreters’ individual capacities for “solutions.” Thus, pragmatics proposes to take maximum account of the characteristics and capacities of the human intellect and in turn claims to reveal the conditions that ensure success in creating models of these characteristics and capacities.

In more concrete terms, one can mention the trends and scientific research in which the application of the concepts and ideas of pragmatics is extremely promising and often leads to direct practical results. This includes problems of heuristic programming, machine translation and the very difficult task of automatic recognition of homonymy, automatic (machine) abstracting, and the development of information-retrieval systems and specialized languages. It also includes the development of languages for outer-space communications—Lincos, the lingua cosmica of the Dutch mathematician H. Freudenthal—and the whole range of problems connected with planning and constructing any kind of robot. These are tasks for which the resources of the concrete sciences and syntactic and semantic considerations alone are clearly insufficient. The ideas of pragmatics are also widely applied in “speculative” areas, such as the development of mathematical principles and mathematical logic; examples are seen in works by the Dutch mathematician G. Mannoury and in ultraintuitionism. At the same time, pragmatics makes wide use of material gleaned from the data of psychology (especially engineering psychology), ethology (the science of animal behavior), social psychology, linguistics, and other sciences; these sciences are, in turn, influenced by pragmatics.


Carnap, R. Znachenie i neobkhodimost’. Moscow, 1959. (Translated from English.)
Logika i metodologiia nauki: IV Vses. simpozium, Kiev, iiun’ 1965. Moscow, 1967. Pages 56–67. (Translated from English.)
Vychislitel’nye mashiny i myshlenie. Moscow, 1967. (Translated from English.)
Integral’nye roboty. Moscow, 1973. (Collection of articles translated from English.)
Nilsson, N. Iskusstvennyi intellekt. Moscow, 1973. (Translated from English.)
Ajdukiewicz, K. Logika pragmatyczna. Warsaw, 1965.
Morris, C. W. Foundations of the Theory of Signs. Chicago, 1938.
Russell, B. An Inquiry Into Meaning and Truth. New York [1940].
Martin, R. M. Toward a Systematic Pragmatics. Amsterdam, 1959.
Peirce, C. S. Collected Papers, 2nd ed., vols. 5–6. Cambridge, Mass., 1960.
References in periodicals archive ?
The different scopes of the enclitic -mm are important for the discourse-pragmatic interpretation of circumpositional phrases.
This semantic difference in usage between the discourse-pragmatic particle -m(m) and a coordinative conjunction was already observed by Gutt (1988 and 1997: 942) for Silt'e, an Ethiosemitic language closely related to Amharic.
According to Prince, LD in English can fulfill other discourse-pragmatic functions as well.
Discourse-pragmatic knowledge develops alongside grammatical knowledge; this needs to be remembered when we examine young children's productions in an attempt to determine knowledge of grammar.
Although the first utterance would go against our hypothesis that informativeness induces use of the overt form, the immediate correction in the following utterance would show that the speaker is nonetheless following a discourse-pragmatic strategy in use of argument form in general.
In sum, we can say with a fair degree of certainty that Inuit children use discourse-pragmatic information in deciding whether to represent arguments overtly in their speech, or whether to omit them.
Thus, it may well be the case that children learning English, for example, initially assume that such discourse-pragmatic information provides the main motivation for argument representation.