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Maxims Research Paper

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Background of the Study

        In every individual’s life, communicating and interacting with others is vital for carrying out a healthy social and professional relationship. It helps spread awareness, knowledge and helps one to build understanding among all sorts of people around the world. Communicating and interacting helps a person to easily express his/her feelings, ideas, and thoughts; it facilitates as well to create a special bond with others. A person unconsciously connects with others in many ways such as language, gestures and expressions to give or share information with others. Levinson (1983) defined conversation as the familiar kind of talk in which two or more participants freely alternate communication.

        It is now over 25 years since Paul Grice, in his William James Lectures, sketched a theory of utterance interpretation based on a Cooperative Principle and suggested that human communication centers on four maxims: quality, quantity, relation and manner. These maxims are supposed to govern the production and interpretation of messages. According on Grice (1975), people will have a successful conversation if they fulfill the cooperative principles that are related in the four maxims of conversation (as sited by Grundy, 2000). In support of Grice’s theory, Seymour (2001) claims that “humans tend to show change in both verbal and non-verbal communication due to influence of external factors such as the power, relationship, the topic of discussion, the interlocutors involved in a conversation, the setting in which the conversation takes place or even the audience around them in order to manipulate what they are saying”.

        However, these maxims are often not observed in any discourse (intentionally or unintentionally) by the conversationalist to convey a different meaning from what is being articulated. Floats of the maxims happen in which the communicator deliberately does not explicitly show what he or she means so the four maxims cannot operate normally. As Heindin (2003) says, “flouting of maxims happens in any conversation, especially in casual conversations.” These flouts therefore play a vital role in conveying messages intended by the speaker as well (Markkanen, 1997). The consequence of flouting of the maxims of conversation can be seen on the occurrence of understanding or misunderstanding of the listener through verbal or nonverbal clues refer to either written or spoken language.

        Considering the phenomenon of flouting maxims in communication, the researchers are eager to analyze what type of maxim was commonly flouted and the data chosen for this purpose is the official chat boxes of selected students of ABE. In addition to looking into the flouting of maxims, this research further focuses its main concern: the reasons and effects of flouting Grice’s conversational maxims on casual conversations by selected Bachelor of English students as well as, to know the type of maxim commonly flouted. In this study, the maxim flouts are focused because one of the aims of this research is to show what are the causes and effects of the exchange talks of the participants. Hence, the correspondents intentionally do not observe the maxims, which lead to flouting of maxims. However, there will be instances in which the participants do violate the maxims rather than flouting the maxims but the violations are not focused here unless they are important to explain any research finding. This will heavily influence the research findings and it would be difficult to prove that the findings of their research are accurate and applicable in the functional world since the data gathered do not accurately represent the language and behavior of participants in a natural setting.

Review of Related Literature

        This section provides a synthesis of the literature reviewed and findings of the studies relating to the present study.

1.1 Pragmatics

        Morris (1938), who first introduces the term pragmatics, defines it as the study of relationship between signs and their interpreters (cited in Yule, 1996).

        As stated by Yule (1996) it is concerned with what people want to mean by their utterances rather than the literal meaning of words in those utterances, but on year 2006, Yule gave another definition to the term pragmatics in his book ‘‘The Study of Language’’, where he says that pragmatics is the study of the ‘‘invisible meaning’’, or how hearers understand what is meant when it is not actually said or written. What makes pragmatics appealing according to him is that, it takes into account the kind of relation between the speaker and hearers in interpreting the utterances.

        According to Cruse (2000) conversations are not just a set of unrelated utterances produced randomly. In fact, there are rules that govern them. (Cited in Cruse 2000)

        Grice (1975) expects that people follow certain rules, called principles, when communicating with each other. He puts his assumption under the concept of the cooperative principle and says that when people interact a cooperative principle is put into practice (cited in Yule, 1938).

        Grice formulates the cooperative principle as follows: “Make your conversational contribution such is required at the stage in which it occurs, by the accepted purpose or direction of talk exchange in which you are engaged” (cited in Jaszczolt, 2002). In other words, speakers try to contribute meaningful productive utterances in conversation. It then follows that listeners assume that their conversational partners are doing the same. The cooperative principle is divided into four maxims: quantity, quality, relation and manner. Although Grice puts them in the imperative form, these four maxims are not rules that interlocutors are required to obey. Rather, they are principles to be observed for ‘‘coherent’’ and efficient communication of meaning. By cooperation between speakers and hearers, Grice is only referring to what people need to make sense of each other’s contributions (Thomas, 1995).

1.2 The Conversational Maxims

        In order to illustrate how speakers interpret meaning Grice presented, in addition to the cooperative principle, four maxims. Grice conversational maxims are rules of conversation assumed to be followed (Yule, 1996).

        According to Griffiths (2006), ‘‘a maxim is a pithy piece of widely applicable advice.’’ He goes on to say that Grice’s maxims play as ‘‘if’’ role because Grice does not put them as advice to show people how to talk, but he says that communication through conversations proceeds as if speakers are generally guided by these maxims (2006).



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