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Hi, in the previous videos, we looked at
the semantic layer of meaning, at semantics. And in particular we looked at
the meaning of words, at color terms. I now want to go a little bit deeper
into this other layer of meaning. Which we call pragmatics. In the first video of this module I
already explained that pragmatics is about the situation. It's about a meaning which
is given by this situation. It's about situational meaning. I gave the example of I
do not have any money. And I gave you all these different kinds
of meanings that such a sentence can have in different situations. I have to warn you that in this part of
the module we will really talk a little bit less on variation,
less on languages other than English. We do so less than in other
parts of the course because pragmatics seems more removed
from linguistic differences. As a matter of fact, you can even
do pragmatics without language. I gave you an example of that before,
also, when I did this grunt. ahh! But even if I don't make any sound you
can say there's something pragmatic. If I point here, you immediately think
that I have a meaning with that, that I mean something with pointing
my finger like this, to that. That meaning is also pragmatic. We have seen that semantics
is typically about truth and falsehood and pragmatics is not. Now some sentences just clearly
are not really true or false. We cannot say they're true or
that they're false. Here are a few examples of such sentances. I name this ship the Queen Elizabeth. You can't say that's false. You don't name the ship
the Queen Elizabeth. You name the ship Queen Mary. Maybe you can say you shouldn't do
that but you cannot say it's false. Similarly when I get married, I say, I do. And then you can't say, no, that's false. You don't. Or I say, In my will, I give and
bequeath my watch to my brother. It's a little bit more formal,
but again it's not really true or false that I say that. It's an act. That's going to be an important word. And the final example,
I bet you sixpence, it will rain tomorrow. Again you can't say no you don't,
you're not betting. Yes I am betting,
I'm saying that I'm betting. These examples are from a British
philosopher called Austin. Who argued that, there can be sentences
which are what he called speech acts. So, speech acts are sentences of which we
cannot say that they describe the world, but that they change it. Now, in most of the sentences
we've just seen, this actually becomes explicit
because there is some verb. Which denotes that,
action by which we change the world. Name, or give and bequeath, or bet, but there's other kinds of sentences which
are also not clearly true or false. But, in which there's
no such verb present. If I say listen, or
a penny for your thoughts! In the latter sentence,
there's not even any verb at all. And still, they're not true or false. If I say to you, listen,
you can't say, no, that's false. You have to do something. And I'm making you do something,
so I'm changing the world. Now, if you philosophize
a little bit about this, you could say every sentence, in the end,
changes the world a little bit. If I just tell you something. If you, if I tell you it's raining
outside, how am I changing the world a little bit? Well after I've said that,
now you know that it's raining outside. So I've changed you and
I've changed the world. Sometimes the pragmatic meaning can
even come from things you do not say, from being silent. Here's a famous example. Suppose a law professor is asked
to write a reference letter for a former student of hers. The former student is now applying to
become an associate in a law firm. The professor writes the following letter. Dear Sir, Ms. X has been my student between 2012 and
2014, and I can assure you that her handwriting is very clear and that she
has a very good taste in Italian food. Yours sincerely, Professor Y. Would miss X, the student be
very happy about this letter. Well, I don't think she would. But, it's funny, because strictly
speaking, lets say at the semantic layer, the letter doesn't say
anything negative about her. As a matter of fact, it only
mentions positive things about her. That her handwriting is very clear
that she likes Italian food. That's the best candidate there is, or no. But the pragmatic layer there
seems to be some problem. The reason is that in a reference letter
one expects the writer to be as positive about a candidate as he or she can. And since Professor Y mentions
two positive things, but they both don't seem to be very
relevant to the application, it doesn't really matter if you want to be
an associate in a law firm whether or not you like Italian food, or whether
your handwriting is very clear. We assume that she is trying to
tell us in some complicated way, that she doesn't have anything
positive and relevant to say. And that's why some, very weird and
complicated calculations, think about it, we know that she thinks that maybe Ms. X
is not such a good candidate after all. Now this calculation is not just very
complicated it involves her knowing that we will know that this
is actually not relevant. It's also very quick and
completely automatic. It's very quick and automatic, if you read the letter you don't realize
you're doing all this calculation. But you do see that the letter
is not actually very positive. The thing about pragmatics
is that you can also ignore it, you can ignore these pragmatic layers
of meaning and people sometimes do. But that then leads to misunderstanding,
or even annoyance. So here's an example. Suppose you come home and your spouse tells you he has eaten half
of the apple pie you baked yesterday. Okay, he ate half the apple pie. You walk to the fridge and you discover
that there's no apple pie at all. The whole apple has been eaten,
it has actually been eaten by your spouse. Now you get very upset and
angry with him, right? Most people would, but why is that? Because he has said the truth, he has
eaten half of the apple pie hasn't he, I mean, if you eat the whole apple pie
you also eat half of the apple pie. So it's on a semantic level,
it's true what he says. So, why are you annoyed? Well, you're annoyed because it would have
been more informative and important for you to know he has eaten the whole apple
pie, then he has eaten the half apple pie. So, why would somebody go through
this trouble of saying to you, I ate half of the apple pie, when it would
actually have been shorter, and easier, and more informative to have said
that he has eaten the whole thing. What this example shows is that
apparently there are certain rules about what you say and
what you mean when you say certain things. And people are very aware of that rule,
rules, and you are annoyed when somebody
doesn't obey that rule, when your spouse says things which you
could interpret in a different way. The British philosopher Paul Grice
has become very famous for establishing a set of so-called maxims,
names for those rules. Rules which participants in
a conversation are supposed to hold. One of those maxims is that of quantity. It says that the speaker is assumed
to provide as much information as he thinks is relevant. So, all the information which is relevant, if I eat the whole cake,
that's what I say. Or, in our example of Professor Y,
because of this maxim of quantity you assume that the professor's giving as
much information as is necessary to make the relevant decision to hire Ms. X. Well if the only thing she has
to offer is this information, apparently, we conclude that she's
trying to reveal to us that she doesn't have anything
really positive to say. So we assume that she knows
that we understand that too. So there's actually a lot of calculation,
back and forth, going on, right? So she assumes that we know this. We know that she assumes that she
knows this. She knows that we know that we, et cetera. You can start wondering, why does
she do it in this complicated way? Why does she choose this route,
why doesn't she just say, well, I've nothing positive to say? That's actually because this pragmatic
layer has this kind of weakness, you can always deny it, you can always say, well,
I only said positive things about you. So what we have seen in this video is
that it's very important to distinguish a pragmatic layer of meaning next
to this semantic layer of meaning. This pragmatic layer is always there and it's always a little bit
different from semantics. Every sentence we say
has a pragmatic meaning. We change the world by
saying the things we do. Sometimes this can be very explicit when I
say I do and I'm in a wedding ceremonial. Sometimes it's not so
explicit but it's still there. That's the reason why we call
our utterances speech acts. But even when we omit something, when we don't say something,
that can have a meaning. That was the example, both of the
reference letter, and of the apple pie. By not saying the right things about
either of those two situations. The other person is going to infer that we mean something else than
what we are actually saying. It's this complicated process which is
studied by people who study pragmatics. It's also this, what we're going to discuss more
in the next video when I will talk about the other maxims of Paul Grice
with Marten and Inge.

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