What is Pragmatics?

Pragmatics is the study of the way people use language in social and non-social contexts. It differs from other areas of linguistic study, such as semantics, syntax, and semiotics, because it emphasizes the nonliteral aspects of language.

Pragmatic skills are traits involving language and communication in social settings, which allow people to adapt their communication techniques to different circumstances and follow social norms when interacting with others. They also help people accurately convey their ideas and feelings so that they can solve problems and build relationships.

Some of these skills are learned in adolescence, but they develop throughout the lifespan. They include knowledge of how to talk effectively with others, social skills such as turn-taking procedures and politeness marking, and the ability to understand other people’s intentions in language situations.

The History of Pragmatics

In the 1970s and 1980s, psychologists studying developmental psychology and psycholinguistics began to investigate how people understood meaning in a more linguistically focused way than previously. The field of experimental pragmatics emerged from this interest.

The main focus of experimental pragmatics is on the “processes” by which people learn, produce, and interpret language. However, this approach misses out on the “meaning “products” that people really convey or interpret in real-world language situations.

The main conceptual challenges to this approach are that: (1) the ‘processes’ by which people learn and produce language do not function in a task-free manner, so there is no universal set of “processes” that govern all language use; (2) “processes” are always task-specific, so there can be no one-size-fits-all “process” to describe all pragmatic language use; and (3) “processes” do not automatically lead to a clear understanding of all “products” that people convey or interpret in real-world language situations.