BOOKS: Pragmatics and Grammar


Series: Cambridge Textbooks in Linguistics

Mira Ariel

Tel-Aviv University


Paperback (ISBN-13: 9780521559942)

Hardback (ISBN-13: 9780521550185)



When using language, many aspects of our messages are left implicit in what we say. While grammar is responsible for what we express explicitly, pragmatics explains how we infer additional meanings. The problem is that it is not always a trivial matter to decide which of the meanings conveyed is explicit (grammatical) and which implicit (pragmatic). Pragmatics and Grammar lays out a methodology for students and scholars to distinguish between the two. It explains how and why grammar and pragmatics combine together in natural discourse, and how pragmatic uses become grammatical in time.


2011 Carston, Robyn. Pragmatics and grammar (review). Language 87:3. 625-628. [PDF]

2010 Doerr, Anne Kathrin, Nicolai Kircher, Jörg Meibauer, Sven Müller, Laura Neuhaus and Marie Luise Rau. Review of Pragmatics and grammar. Linguistische Berichte 222, 247251. [PDF]

2010 Zielinska, Dorota. Pragmatics and grammar (review). The Canadian Journal of Linguistics / La revue canadienne de linguistique 55(3), 433434. [PDF]

2009 Gorgis, Dinha. Review of Pragmatics and grammar. Linguist List 20.2280, 24 June 2009. [Link:]

2009 Ziv, Yael. Review of Mira Ariel, Pragmatics and grammar (2008). Lingua 119 (7), 11011105. [PDF]



1. Introduction: grammar, pragmatics and what's between them; Part I. Drawing the Grammar/Pragmatics Divide: 2. Distinguishing the grammatical and the extragrammatical: referential expressions; 3. Distinguishing codes, explicated, implicated and truth-compatible inferences; Part II. Crossing the Extralinguistic-Linguistic Divide: 4. Grammar, pragmatics and arbitrariness; 5. All paths lead to the salient discourse pattern; 6. The rise (and potential fall) of reflexive pronouns; Part III. Bringing Grammar and Pragmatics Back Together: 7. Grammar/pragmatics interfaces.


Pragmatics and grammar is neither about pragmatics, nor about grammar. It is about the complex relationship between grammar and pragmatics. Grammar is defined as a set of codes, and pragmatics as a set of nonlogical inferences derived on the basis of these codes. Here are some of the main questions we seek to illucidate.


First, what does pragmatic inference do that grammar cannot? In other words, what aspects of the interpretation of an utterance should be seen as pragmatic rather than semantic? How much of the interpretation should we attribute to pragmatics? Should the role of grammar in this process be minimized or maximized? Given that the concept of pragmatic inference may involve more than one subtype, we have to ask which kind of pragmatic inference best accounts for any given pragmatic interpretation. Some inferences constitute part of the information explicitly conveyed, in that they contribute, along with the coded meanings, to the truth conditions of the proposition expressed. If so, once we've ascertained that a putative interpretation should be analyzed as a pragmatic inference, we must also determine whether the inference is best viewed as a conversational implicature or as part of the proposition expressed. The classification carries cognitive and interactional implications.


We also address a puzzle which is frequently overlooked in discussions of the grammar/pragmatics interface. The fact is that our current grammar is very often our pragmatics (of the past) turned grammatical. If grammar and pragmatics are absolutely distinct from each other, as suggested by standard analyses, how can we account for grammaticization and semanticization? There must be some way for pragmatic interpretations and distributional patterns to penetrate through the grammar /pragmatics divide to become part of the grammar. We explain how this penetrability is possible while maintaining the validity of the grammar/pragmatics division of labor.


Finally, we examine various synchronic levels at which the grammar/pragmatics interface operates. In addition to the level of conveyed meaning (a representation of the linguistic meaning augmented by all pragmatic inferences), researchers have identified a basic-level meaning which is not as maximal as the conveyed meaning, yet not as minimal as the linguistic meaning. This is the representation we focus on, and once again we ask, how minimal/maximal it should be. As we shall see, both minimalist and maximalist basic-level representations play a role in accounting for how language works for communication. We end by noting that the same basic-level synchronic interpretation may also be responsible for the diachronic grammaticization and semanticization.


There is a narrative development to this textbook. The first chapter introduces the issues and the terms needed for later analyses. Part I splits linguistic acts into separate grammatical (encoded) and pragmatic (inferred) components. Part II presents evidence for an intimate association between the two. Finally, Part III brings codes and inferences back together, as we consider interface levels where codes and inferences combine.


The examples listed in this appendix appear only in their free English gloss in the book. The appendix provides the original transcription, as well as their literal and free glosses.










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