This material has been published in
Special Issue: Pragmatics: Theoretical and Clinical
Guest Editor: Brigitte Stemmer
Centre de Recherche, Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal, Canada
Lurija Institute for Rehabilitation and Health Sciences at the University of Konstanz,
Kliniken Schmieder, Allensbach, Germany
What is pragmatic theory? It has proven difficult to provide a satisfactorydefinition of pragmatics due to the complexity of the phenomena involved. The modern use of the term can be traced back to Charles Morris (1938) who defined pragmatics as the study of “the relation of signs to interpreters”. He distinguished three fields of study: (1) syntax, the study of “the formal relations of signs to one another”, (2) semantics, the study of “the relations of signs to the objects to which the signs are applicable”, and (3) pragmatics, the study of “the relation of signs to interpreters” (Morris, 1938: 6). H. Paul Grice (1957, 1975) was concerned with the nature of the relation of signs to interpreters, and in particular how a speaker manages to communicate a specific communicative intention to his or her interlocutor, and how the interlocutor recognizes this intention. He formulated a set of maxims that guide the process by which the interlocutors recognize each other’s communicative intention. John L. Austin (1962) and his student John R. Searle (1969, 1975) tried to provide a systematic classification of such communicative intention. With each utterance a person makes, three acts are performed simultaneously: somehing is said (locutionary act), a communicative function (inviting, apologizing, requesting) is performed (illocutionary act), and an effect is produced on the listener or hearer (perlocutionary act). Searle (1969, 1975, 1979) grouped illocutionary acts into five main types (representatives, directives, commissives, expressives, declarations) and formulated specific contextual conditions relevant for the performance and distinction of different speech acts.
I end this introduction by providing a brief insight into the origins and the development of the term “pragmatics” and its multifacet meanings (see Figure 1) and leave it to the reader to pragmatically choose the appropriate pragmatic concept.
Figure 1 Derivatives of πραγμα and πραξιζ (modified after Stachowiak, 1986).
One of the central meanings of the Greek word πραγμα (pragma) and, in this context its synonym πραξιζ (praxis), is action, doing; the other central meaning refers to factual, real. It is from the first central meaning that the performance oriented notion of “Praxis”/“practical” and related fields develop. A second major meaning area develops around “pragmatical”/“pragmatics”, in colloquial language often synonymous to useful, suitable, opportune. The third field is around the notion “pragmatism” which refers mainly to philosophical ways of thinking such as those introduced by Peirce or Kant. A fourth derivative is “pragmatology” (4), a term used differently in different contexts and which centers on self reflection on pragmatic thinking. Finally, there is the derivative “praxeology” (5) which refers to a research area established by Polish researchers and which centers around the methodology of efficient actions and optimal action directives.
ReferencesAustin, J. L. (1962). How to do things with words. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Dascal, M. (1983). Pragmatics and the philosophy of mind I. Thought in language. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Grice, H. P. (1957). Meaning. Philosophical Review, 66, 377-388.
Grice, H. P. (1975). Logic and conversation. In P. Cole & J. Morgan (Eds.), Syntax and Semantics 3: Speech acts (pp. 41-58). New York: Academic Press.
Levinson, S. C. (1983). Pragmatics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Morris, C. H. (1938). Foundation of the theory of signs. In International Encyclopedia of Unified Science, Vol. 2, No. 1. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Schönle, P. W. (1999). Neuropragmatics - a practical neurofunctional approach to neurological rehabilitation. Unpublished manuscript. Kliniken Schmieder, Allensbach, Germany.
Searle, J. R. (1969). Speech acts. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Searle, J. R. (1975). Indirect speech acts. In P. Cole & J. Morgan (Eds.), Syntax and semantics 3: Speech acts (pp. 59-82). New York: Academic Press.
Searle, J. R. (1979). The classification of illocutionary acts. Language in Society, 5, 1-24.
Stachowiak, H. (Ed.) (1986). Pragmatics. Handbook of pragmatic thought. Volume I: Pragmatic thought from the beginning to the 18th century. Hamburg: Felix Meiner Verlag.
 In the neurolinguistic literature concerned with speech acts, it is often disregarded that Searle’s classification has also had numerous critics and is not universally accepted.
 Dascal, M. (1983). Pragmatics and the philosophy of mind I. Thought in language. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Copyright © 1999 by Academic Press