The Cooperative Principle in TBB Nov 19, 2017 11:06:23 GMT -5 Hermes, Cafe SalMONAlla, and 2 more like this
Post by Stay-at-homet on Nov 19, 2017 11:06:23 GMT -5
Cafe SalMONAlla , QuisbyGadabout , Hermes and Grace expressed interest, so here's something I wrote for school. This assigment was mainly an excuse to get some practice in formalia, so I went into this knowing that the actual content would be a little cursory here and there, but I decided to use the chance anyway to talk about ASOUE. Well - here you go!
The Grice is Right
A brief discussion of the extents of the Cooperative Principle
The Cooperative Principle (abbreviated CP throughout this paper), as originally proposed by Paul Grice, states that there are certain principles in language which speakers will generally follow, and which listeners will generally assume the speaker to follow. CP is divided into four subprinciples, referred to as Grice's Maxims. These are, respectively, the maxim of quality, quantity, relation and manner, and will be further explained in the following section. While phrased as rules, the maxims are better described as 'guidelines', since a speaker can in any utterance fail to follow them, or simply decide not to.
My overall aim with this paper is to provide some perspective on the extent to which CP applies. I intend to do so, first by demonstrating its validity in a literary context – an area in which it has, to the best of my knowledge, not too often been discussed in academia – and consequently, by citing a criticism which argues against its originally assumed universality.
2. Examples of floutations
In this section, I aim to illustrate each of the four maxims making up the Cooperative Principle with an example of how it can be flouted. Note that in none of these cases, the text is failing to live up to the maxim in question – instead, for various effects, they're deliberately not following one or more maxim.
Since an extensive literature already exists on the floutation of CP on the screen, I have chosen instead to take my examples from literature – namely, from the children's novel The Bad Beginning, which is notable for the narrator's direct way of addressing the reader. With this decision, I wish to illustrate the validity of CP in different types of communication – not only in spoken dialogue between people or characters, but also in the unidirectional communication that exists between a reader and a literary narrator.
The validity of CP in literature has previously been discussed, but while Kvorning's thesis concerns itself mainly with character dialogue, I hope to show the possibility that CP applies in prose as well.
2.1. The maxim of quality
(1) In the time since the Baudelaire parents' death, most of the Baudelaire orphans' friends had fallen by the wayside [...] You and I, of course, would never do this to any of our grieving acquaintances […] (Snicket 1999:34)
The maxim of quality goes as follows: ”Try to make your contribution one that is true”. Grice divides this into two submaxims, one of which is ”Do not say that for which you lack adequate evidence". While the term 'adequate evidence' is up for individual interpretation, most people can agree that this submaxim is not fulfilled in (1). The narrator makes a statement about his reader, whom he knows nothing about – in fact, it is practically impossible that the statement will be true of everyone who reads the book. In that way, (1) flouts the maxim of quality for rhetorical effect.
2.2. The maxim of quantity
(2) Count Olaf had taken out a bottle of wine to pour himself some breakfast […] (Snicket 1999:96)
The maxim of quantity says to make any given statement as informative as required, and no more than that. In (2), the narrator flouts this maxim to imply that Count Olaf was planning to let his breakfast consist entirely of wine. This is never directly stated – he might, for instance, have taken out the wine to get to a container of cereal behind it, but in that case, why would it be relevant to mention the wine? The maxim of quantity leads us to assume that, since the contents of the bottle is specified, it must be relevant to the rest of the statement; thus creating the implication of breakfast bordeaux.
2.3. The maxim of relation
(3) ”This is absolutely horrendous. This is completely monstrous. This is financially dreadful.” (Snicket 1999:149)
The maxim of relation simply says ”Be relevant”. Grice himself admits that the interpretation of 'relevance' involves a number of issues, and that examples of floutations are usually debatable. For this example, I have chosen a line spoken by a character denouncing the actions of the book's villain. The first two statements do essentially the same thing, but the last is a statement on the 'financial' rather than moral consequences of the events. This is not relevant to anything in the quote's immediate context, and rather goes to reinforce the character as someone who has difficulty seeing the difference between finance and morality. In that way, (3) describes a character by floutation of the maxim of relation: As readers, we assume that the character views their own statement as relevant, leading us to conclude something about their worldview.
2.4. The maxim of manner
(4) Like most fourteen-year-olds, she was right-handed […] (Snicket 1999:2)
The maxim of manner goes: ”Be perspicuous”, and is defined by Grice as pursuing brevity and order, and avoiding obscurity and ambiguity. This maxim is flouted in (4), where the narrator notes that a character is right-handed ”like most fourteen-year-olds”, and not simply ”like most people”. At a first glance, this implies that her being right-handed is in some way a result of her being fourteen years old. However, with the knowledge that most people in general are right-handed (and that fourteen-year-olds eventually stop being fourteen, yet don't switch their handedness for that reason), the reader realises the absurdity of the statement. As such, the narrator achieves humour by being unnecessarily specific; the nature of the given information creates a false implicature, flouting the maxim of manner.
No account of the Cooperative Principle in academical discussion is complete without mention of one criticism in particular. Studies tend to show that Grice's maxims apply only partially, or not at all, to many languages. This indicates that Grice's original claim of universality is wrong, and that CP is actually specific to English, on which Grice's hypothesis was originally based.
A noteworthy proponent of this criticism is Michael Clyne, who has suggested a number of revisions to the original maxims. Clyne demonstrates how different maxims apply in different languages, but instead of entirely rejecting Grice's claim, he only rejects its universality. Clyne's claim is that maxims such as those originally listed in CP exist, but need to be adapted between languages in order to remain valid.
An example of such an adaptation has been made by José Mateo Martinez, who suggests a version of CP adjusted to Spanish. In doing so, however, Martinez also notes that Spanish has a stronger tendency to circumvent literal meaning by flouting maxims. This seems to imply that even with adjustments made for each language, the relationship between English and its version of CP does not directly correspond to that between Spanish and its version. It should, however, also be noted that Martinez' adjustments were made specifically in the context of translation between English and Spanish texts, and that a more general adaptation, which may not have the same issue, is still hypothetically possible.
4. Conclusion and suggestions for further research
While the Cooperative Principle is a generally well-supported theory when applied to English and closely related languages, research generally suggests that they are culture-specific rather than universal, as originally claimed by Grice. In this paper, however, I suggest that some variant of CP is valid in literary prose as well as spoken conversation. The hypothesis needs much further examination before it can be assumed true, but the notion itself also leads to an interesting question for further research: Do the maxims vary between mediums as they do between languages?
It is worth noting that I was unable to find an example of a floutation of the maxim of relation outside of spoken dialogue. This might suggest that this particular maxim may not apply to narrative prose, or at least not to the same extent as the other maxims. If this is the case, that would suggest that CP applies to different mediums only in adapted versions similar to those suggested by Clyne.