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Literal meaning Vs Intended meaning

The speech act theory tries to explain the distinction between literal and intended
meaning. However, there are many aspects which SAT can't explain. There are
many ways in which what we literally say differs from what we patently mean-
:which can't be explained in terms of a list of illocutionary forces
A: My ex-husband has just told me he can't look after our daughter tomorrow after
!B: He is such a considerate man
What does the speaker mean ? Does she really mean that the ex-husband is
?considerate? Does she mean that his behavior is surprising
What we need is a way of describing how we know when words are being used
literally and when they are being used non-literary and also a way of explaining
.How we know what the non-literal meaning is
The fact that what we literally say and what we clearly mean often differ is
intuitively obvious but difficult to describe systematically. This was one the
driving forces behind the work of Grice. He was convinced that any account
of meaning that focused on the conditions that make propositions true or false
would be inadequate to explain the use of natural language. For example, the
praise for the ex-husband in the example may be false, but that doesn't prevent
it from making a significant… contributions in the particular context in which it
He observed that what we mean when we use a word like and in conversation
generally goes well beyond its truth-conditional meaning of logical conjunction.
Interestingly, this additional meaning is not necessarily constant; and, for
example, can mean different things in different contexts:
(23)â•… a. Bill opened a book and began to read.
b. Yesterday I ate three meals and took two naps.
c. Jennifer forgot to study for her algebra exam and got a D
Grice was interested in developing a systematic explanation of how and why literal
and intended meaning differ. He was looking for an account of the particular
features of how language is used in communication that would be able to
explain the diverse ways in which people use language non-literally. He was
attempting to show how the differences between literal meaning and what
speakers can convey in context were not random and unpredictable, but rather
.can be explained in relation to some general principles of language use

Thus, he focused on two different versions, or levels, of meaning: what is said

.and what is implicated
What is said

What is said: it is equivalent to literal meaning; it is that aspect of overall

meaning contributed by linguistic knowledge: 'given a knowledge of the
English language', one would know something about what the speaker
had said. So what is said is important in explaining meaning in
general-even in cases where what a speaker intends seems to differ
from literal meaning we need to understand what was said as a
necessary starting point- but it can't tell us everything. We need to add
to it information about what is implicated. The word implicature was
coined by Grice whose work about language was concerned with the
different ways in which what is implicated can be derived from what is
Conventional Implicature

According to Grice, Conventional Implicature is a type of meaning which is

distinct from what is said. However, it is dependent on the actual meaning of
the words used. These words contribute to what is said. However, they also
:give rise to this form of implicature . Consider the following examples
.He is an Arab; he is, therefore, generous .1
.He is an Arab; he is generous .2
Grice’s contention is that the use of therefore in the first example introduces the
implicature that the referent of he is generous as a consequence of the fact that
.he is Arab
Conversational Implicature

While knowledge of the language is enough to understand 'what is said'

and what is conventionally implicated, this needs to be supplemented
by knowledge about language use before a full understanding of what
has been conveyed by a particular utterance can be reached.' What is
said" feeds into a hearer's understanding of what is implicated in this
way but is not sufficient on its own. The hearer needs also to assume
that the speaker is adhering to general principles of language use and
to take into account various aspects of context of utterance. CI is
dependent on aspects of the context in which it occurs... thus Grice
sums up what people typically do when they use language to
.communicate with each other

Grices's central claim was that an overarching principle of human

interaction was an impulse towards cooperative behavior. He summed
this up in relation to language use in what he labeled the "Cooperative
The Cooperative Principle: Make your conversational contribution
such as is required, at the stage at which it occurs, by the accepted
purpose or direction of the talk exchange in which you are engaged.
(Grice 1975: 45)
The CP consists of four “maxims,” each of which covers one aspect of
linguistic interaction and describes what is expected of a cooperative
speaker with respect to that maxim. The maxims, with rough
:paraphrases of their content
The maxims

1. The Maxim of Quantity: Say enough, but don’t say too much.
2. The Maxim of Quality: Say only what you have reason to believe is true.
3. The Maxim of Relation: Say only what is relevant.
4. The Maxim of Manner: Be brief, clear, and unambiguous.
The principle and the maxims :
expressed in imperative form -
sound like a rule of etiquette-
.don't have anything to do with being nice -
But it tries to pin down the general norms by which people actually_
operate. Whether we realize it or not we tend to act in accordance with
this principle and to assume that other people are acting in this way too.
These are
various maxims for the behavior that together constitute the way in which we
…follow the CP
The basic idea behind the Cooperative Principle (CP) is that interlocutors, above
all else, are attempting to be cooperative in conversation .In short, whether
the conversation is a friendly or hostile one, it is only because the participants
are trying to be cooperative that the conversation can proceed. Moreover, as we
will see below, it is only because each assumes that the other is being
cooperative that they stand a chance of being able to accurately interpret each
.other’s comments
These principles are assumed in normal interaction, so speakers rarely mention
them. However, there are certain expressions speakers use to mark that they
may be in danger of not fully adhering to the principles (hedges)
The general line of reasoning the hearer undergoes is to implicitly ask, “What 
intention on the part of the speaker would allow this to count as a cooperative
utterance?” The answer to that question suggests to the hearer what the
.speaker’s probable intention was
Ways speakers follow with respect to the CP

There are four ways in which the speaker can behave with respect to the CP; the
speaker can:
 • observe the maxims,
 • violate a maxim,
 • flout a maxim, or
opt out of the maxims •
Observing the maxims

To observe a maxim is to straightforwardly obey it – that is, to in fact say the right
amount, to say only what you have evidence for, to be relevant, or to be brief, clear,
and unambiguous (depending on the maxim in question . Thus, many
conversational implicatures arise as simple and generally unnoticed consequence of
the speaker straightforwardly observing the maxims and the hearer assuming that
this is the case:

Visitor: I'd like to read today's newspaper.

Local: There is a shop round the corner.
The local has led visitor to believe that the shop is one that sells newspapers.(this has
been implicated). But this is not part of the literal content of her utterance or "what
is said". …So, the proposition that the shop was one that sold newspapers was a
conversational implicature of the local's utterance, based on the assumption that
she was adhering to the maxim of Relation. Thus, what a speaker literally says
needs something added to it in order to understand how it conforms to the CP.
Violating the maxims

To violate a maxim is to fail to observe it, but to do so

inconspicuously, with the assumption that your
hearer won’t realize that the maxim is being violated.
A straightforward example of this is a lie: The
speaker makes an utterance while knowing it to be
false (that is, a violation of Quality), and assumes
that the hearer won’t know the difference. Violations
.of maxims are generally intended to mislead
Flouting the maxims

To flout a maxim is also to violate it – but in this case the violation is

so intentionally blatant that the hearer is expected to be aware of the
violation. "what is said" may appear to go quite blatantly and deliberately
against what is expected to( for a certain communicative effect), such that a
completely new interpretation is needed if the assumption of cooperation is
to be maintained. Thus, utterances that are indeed uncooperative in terms
of "what is said" can turn out to cooperative once we take account of what
is implicated:
GuestA: What a boring party this is.
GuestB: We've had such lovely weather this month.
On the face, B's "what is said" is irrelevant(uncooperative).
B had two options: give up _uncooperative
- flouting the maxim of Relation, thus implicating that what A
is saying is not an appropriate topic. B's remark is relevant but motivated
To continue

If, after taking an exam, I tell a friend that exam was a breeze, I
clearly don’t expect my friend to believe I intended my utterance
to be taken as literal truth, since an exam and a (literal) breeze
are two completely distinct things. Here, the hearer’s line of
reasoning is something like, “The speaker said something that
blatantly violates the maxim of Quality; nonetheless, I must
assume that they are trying to be cooperative. What meaning
might they intend that would constitute cooperative behavior in
this context?” In the case of that exam was a breeze, the
assumption of overall cooperativity might lead the hearer to
appeal to the maxim of Relation and realize that the speaker’s
intention was to attribute a relevant property of breezes (e.g.,
ease, pleasantness) to the exam.
Opt out
Finally, to opt out of the maxims altogether is, in a sense, to refuse to play the
game at all. That is, another way in which speakers go against the requirements
of the maxims. Unlike in cases of flouting which leads to exploitation, this case
does not generate implicature. A speaker may simply violate one or more of the
maxims: he may choose to disregard them. Ex. Lying. The purpose of lying is to
.disregard the maxim in a way that is not detected, so as to deceive
The speaker may also choose to opt out of the CP. It is a violation with no
intention to deceive or conceal the non-fulfillment of a maxim, ..unlike flouting,
there is no intention that the disregard for a maxim should give rise to CI. The
speaker is clearly pointing out that s/he will not be acting in accordance with
:one or more of the maxims….because some concern overrides cooperation
No comment
I have nothing to say on this matter.
(the speaker indicates that he is not following the demands of a maxim( Quantity)
….he demonstrates an awareness of the usual expectations of cooperation….