Glossary: Grice's maxims

Explanation

Paul Grice (1975) contends that speakers ideally observe the co-operative principle in conversation by adhering to four sets of conversational maxims. These maxims are general principles which underlie an optimally efficient, cooperative use of language. The four categories are:

1 quantity: make your contribution as informative as is required for the current purposes of the exchange - don't say too much or too little

2 quality: try to make your contribution one that is true

3 relation: be relevant

4 manner: be perspicuous - avoid unneccessary obscurity and ambiguity

The frequent differences between these ideals and the nature of actual conversations are the result of speakers' conscious or unconscious decisions to conform to communicative pressures which conflict with the maxim.

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