From the Floutings of the Cooperative Principle
and to the Function of Context in Conversation
by
It is for a long time that linguists have set great store by the effectiveness of linguistic communication through the oral channel that is to say our daily conversation On account of the fact that these scholars regard linguistics or to be more specific here pragmatics as a discipline stricter or more logical than any other one in social sciences or humanities a strong impulse to generalize certain universal principles out of a huge variety of complex phenomena of our oral communication emerged and has been exuberantly growing Hence the theory of the Cooperative Principle
As early as the 1960s Grice has already propounded in Harvard his Cooperative Principle with the definition as such Make your conversational contribution such as required at the stage at which it occurs by the accepted purpose or direction of the talk exchange in which you are engaged He further worked four maxims in support of the principle by making it more concrete 1The Maxim of Quality try to make your contribution one that is true or one that has adequate evidence to testify to its very truth 2 The Maxim of Quantity try to say as much and just as much as necessary in your contribution 3 The Maxim of Relevance try to make your contribution relevant 4 The Maxim of Manner try to make your conversation specific perspicuous concise and orderly

According to grices theoretical system if one wants to make the conversation smooth or effective in conveying or understanding information such principle and maxims are expected to be observed either intentionally or unintentionally by each participant involved In sum the Cooperative Principle is the prescriptive guidance to direct peoples conversation

The Introduction of the Paradox to the Principle
It can be suggested that the view discussed above beautifully pictures a paradisiacal dream of linguistics and philosophers The maxims specify what participants have to do so as to converse in maximally effectual sensible cooperative way they should speak honestly relevantly and clearly while offering enough information However that is not the case in our real life The genuine fact of our daily conversation put an imminent objection to this view of the nature of oral communication no one actually speaks for the whole time like what is described by the principle It is not difficult to note that all the maxims are frequently violated either with intention or without Here four examples are respectively offered as follows
EXAMPLE 1 the violation of the Maxim of Quality
A I didnt know Jack got married two months ago
B I think he had a lioness at home now
EXAMPLE 2 the violation of the Maxim of Quantity
A Have you seen my keys
B Well somewhere in the room
EXAMPLE 3 the violation of the Maxim of Relevance
A What do you intend to do today
B I have a terrible headache
EXAMPLE 4 the violation of the Maxim of Manner
A Shall we get something for the kids
B Thats OK But I veto I-C-E-C-R-E-A-M B speaks out the word letter by letter
In fact there exist innumerable cases similar to these four representative examples Although the four maxims are ignorantly flouted yet the exchange of information proceeds successfully Besides the result of such floutings is the gaining of some special effects that could not be obtained if there were no floutings In this sense such kinds of floutings of the Cooperative Principle can be suggestively named positive floutings

Toward the prevalent phenomena of the foregoing floutings which constitute up a direct and apparent opposition to the theory that Grice has put forth the linguist further provides two points to explain away the discrepancy 1 People do not follow these guidelines to the letter 2 In most ordinary kinds of talk the principle is oriented to such a extent that when talks does not proceed according to those specifications addressees premise that the principle is nevertheless being adhered to at some deeper level Please see here
EXAMPLE 5
A Do you know where Tom has gone
B There is a blue bicycle outside the gym
Bs reply seemingly violates the Maxim of Relevance however the context and common sense tell A that what B has told him is not nonsense and A will make some efforts to unravel its underlying meaning Consequently a further inference is accessible that the bicycle belongs to Tom and its owner is in the gym In short A still believes that B observes the Cooperative Principle who only carries it out indirectly

Therefore when the addresser violates the four maxims the addressee still endeavors to understand what he has perceived with the aid of the principle ie he presupposes that the speaker is in a cooperative manner At the very spine the principle still functions importantly in a implicit rather than explicit fashion In addition the preservation of such a presupposition is the very basis upon which a proper and reasonable inference termed Conversation Implicature by Grice is eventually available Thus the theory of the Cooperative Principle is a paradoxical albeit seemingly false in appearance soundly correct at core not a specious one
The Floutings and the Contexts
Let us just table for moment Grices explanation concerning a contradiction in his theory and proceed to study the language phenomena themselves Because of their universalness implicitness and specialness in oral communication it is important as well as interesting to pay more attention to the floutings in real contexts To further delve into the problem Let us first see a specially designed yet typical and reasonable instance in the following expatiations

A very popular expression the phrase I love you is widely employed by people to manifest their love to the beloved Then let us put it in another way what about saying it in such a blatant way I-L-O-V-E-Y-O-U Apparently such a fashion of expression violates the Maxim of Manner by rendering vague and obscure what is clear and direct On most occasions ranging from a very formal wedding ceremony to a casual talk during a movie when one hopes to confess his passion to the lover a straightforward and simple utterance of I love you is in any sense adequate and appropriate There is no need to exaggeratedly spell out the phrase letter by letter which will only make the addresser facetious and the addressee puzzled

However let us picture in mind one particular situation It is in a large hall in a university dormitory Now just after supper about fifteen college students are sitting or standing there enjoying the TV programs By the seats at a public telephone a girl is making a call at that moment Her words are clear to other people in the hall very likely she is talking to her boy friend through the line At length she concludes the conversation by saying in such a exaggerated way as has been discussed above I-L-O-V-E-Y-O-U Through analysis we have to admit that under such circumstances the talented violation by the girl in fact makes her utterance more effectual For one thing the peculiar expression will require of the her boyfriend to make more effort to understand it thereupon making a deeper impression upon him she wants the boy to know that her love is by no means less strong even despite the temporary distance in between For another thing on a public occasion her words might be exposed to everyone present Therefore the direct expression I love you is likely to be too sensitive to the rest of the students By speaking out one word after another at least herself thinks that she will call less attention to others and to a certain extent her privacy is preserved On this account we cannot help envying the special effects brought off by such a smart flouting

It therefore can be concluded from the above example that the floutings of the Cooperative Principle are a two edged sword The same violation of the Cooperative Principle that will terribly embarrass the speaker in one context will also vastly enhance the quality of the talk in another context Hence the influences of the floutings upon Communicative Competence work in two opposite directions one is in a positive way the other a negative way There is a strong connection between the violations of the Cooperative Principle and communicative competence and context is the most decisive factor that determines the direction that the sword might thrust at

The Floutings of the Cooperative Principle Positively
As has been discussed special effects will be brought up by the intentional floutings of the Cooperative Principle so as to raise the quality of our oral communication To further the problem the purpose of this part is to dramatize what these special effects are and to what degree the quality of the conversation will be raised We will analyze the positive floutings from two points of view rhetorical perspective and social perspective

I From Rhetorical Perspective
Although the importance of rhetorical devices in written materials have long since been spotted we cannot be blind to the very fact that rhetoric is also widely employed in spoken language with a variety of functions it makes our conversation colorful vivid impressive etc What is interesting here is that many rhetorical devices result directly from the floutings of the Cooperative Principle Six devices Irony Hyperbole Metaphor Rhetorical Question Rhetorical Repetition and Parallelism are presented as follows

1 Irony
Irony is a pretense of being ignorant or false so as to express something other than and especially opposite to the literal usually aiming at ridiculing the mistaken and dramatizing the right In terms of pragmatics Irony flouts the Maxim of Quality in that the addresser knowingly says something he believes to be false
EXAMPLE 6
A What if the Iraq controls the Gulf and all the oil
B Oh come now Hitler has won the Second World War
In reply to As childish question at least B thinks so B makes a false statement about Hitler and the Second World War by which he implicates that A worry is unnecessary under any circumstance And with his own knowledge about history A will realize that B has made an intentionally wrong uttering and then infers what B exactly means B just dismisses As presumption as impossible This is the very purpose of Bs using Irony in his response to the inquiry

2 Hyperbole
Similar to Irony the device Hyperbole is an expression from the angle of common sense too extravagant to be true It also violates the Maxim of Quality When utilizing Hyperbole the addresser will render the addressee a feeling that the expression is graphic and impressive
EXAMPLE 7
A How much cheese have you prepared for our dinner tonight
B Dont worry There is enough for an army
Actually for a family dinner however much the cheese is prepared it cannot suffice the need of a whole army None the less in such a exaggerated manner B ensures A of the ample amount of the cheese he has got for the dinner On the other hand A will well understand what is meant by Bs boasting words and relaxedly dispel the worry about the cheese

3 Metaphor
Metaphor is a figure of speech in which a word or phrase literally denoting one sort of object or idea is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them The act of likening one thing to another is the act of disregarding the Maxim of Relevance However it is the deviation from the topic of conversation that ironically yet beautifully helps establish a deeply etched image in the hearers mind about that topic The gap between the original object and the referred one is naturally bridged by the Conversation Implicature that is based upon a bilateral agreement on the understanding of the context
EXAMPLE 8
A Which do you think the more difficult chess or bridge
B As a matter of fact both of them are apples and oranges for me
Literally Bs answer is not qualified since it has little relation to the very subject matter that A introduces for reason that apples and oranges is a category of concept very dissimilar to that of the concept of chess or bridge However the keynote point lies with what is called Context in pragmatics there is an agreed knowledge here apples and oranges is a synonym for easy thing By saying such slightly B reveals that chess and bridge is just a piece of cake to him

4 Rhetorical Question
The device Rhetorical Question is a direct and seeming objection to the Maxim of Manner Using one question to reply another one it appears that the utterance does not give an assured and specific answer But with the help of the tone the answer is definite
EXAMPLE 9
A Does Prof Ford always come to class
B Is ice cold
Here aside from violating the Maxim of Relevance B is also heedless to the Maxim of Manner who uses another question in respond to As inquiry Though with no direct answer like Yes or No A can still deduce from common sense that ice is cold and from Bs rising intonation that what B says in fact hints at a Yes answer

5 Rhetorical Repetition
The uttering of simple and evident tautologies should in principle have no communicative import Therefore repeating the same content during the talk should usually be shunned for it makes the expressions redundant and prolonged while adding no more fresh information However such a flouting of the Maxim of Manner can in certain context augment the strength of the addressers tone or can imply some overtone
EXAMPLE 10
A How Tom can win the full scholarship is still a mystery to me
B Well If he does it he does it
Bs repetition actually means a great deal He tells A that there is no mystery at all Toms studies are good and if he gets the scholarship it is possible Therefore such a simple repetitious statement is stronger than a more detailed explanation

6 Parallelism
In spite of its widespread employment in written form parallelism is rare in spoken language it might sound a little ostentatious and unnatural The long and parallel sentence patterns are hard to understand in the course of conversing Yet under certain circumstances parallelism does have its place in oral communication Typical examples are speeches before rallies debates in contests and concluding statements in courts
EXAMPLE 11
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted every hill and mountain shall be made low the rough places will be made plain and the crooked places will be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together Martin Luther King
Dr Kings eloquence is fully evinced by the foregoing parallel sentences The successful use of the very rhetorical device here it should be pointed out is because the words comply well with the solemnity of the situation a huge rally before the Lincoln Memorial involving altogether one million people If expressed in other more casual daily situations the words will be degenerated into a facetious show-off

II From Social Perspective
The community of human beings cannot subsist without the communications with one another Hence the great importance of language However the concept of being able to use language should be distinguished from the concept of being able to exploit language the former is a only a primary level whereas the latter is a higher requirement that can make humans more sociable and effective in expressing what they want to express to one another The real reason that the floutings of the Cooperative Principle are so universal lies in the fact that the floutings can enhance communicative ability and therewith bring on social advantages during the conversation Subsequently it is necessary to analyze the phenomena of the floutings from social perspective

1 To Decline Politely
EXAMPLE 12
A Would you like to come to our party tonight
B Im afraid Im not feeling so well tonight
Both A and B know that B is well But by evidently saying something false B declines the invitation politely while still keeping his privacy and A also understands that B cannot come because he really has something important that night

2 To Imply Something Implicitly
EXAMPLE 13
A What do you think of the hostesss cooking
B She is a charming lady isnt she
Clearly B doesnt quite enjoy the food prepared by the hostess But he feels it is too reckless to say straight that I dont like it Due to this he fails to answer the question directly yet offering some disconnected information a frequently used conversation skill in our daily life And of course A can understand with ease what is under Bs words

3 To Express Vividly
EXAMPLE 14
A I really need a good dentist now Do you recommend Doctor Johnson
B As far as I am concerned he has good magazines and papers in the waiting room
What A is really concerned about is the quality of Johnson as a dentist and surely enough B understands As concern But his answer seems to be no help it does not matter at all whether Doctor Johnson has good magazines and papers or not Yet the function of the context here common experience and knowledge shared by both sides function efficiently again A will successfully infers that Doctor Johnson is not a gook choice B expresses such a meaning indirectly humorously and vividly

4 To Convey Information Accurately
EXAMPLE 15
A Got the time
B Well the sports news has just began
In reply to As inquiring what time it is B talks about the irrelevant matter the sports news In truth nevertheless this statement could be the most accurate one in the condition that B is currently in A will make little effort to detect the exact meaning since B has no timepiece with him he is not able to tell the exact time of the present moment but he can provide some information from which A might be deduce the approximate time namely the beginning of the sports news The very context here is that both A and B know the rough time when the news begins which is a prerequisite for a positive flouting

5 To Remind Somebody Strongly
EXAMPLE 16
A Susan did you remember to take my notes back when you came home yesterday
B Oh I am really sorry to say that I forgot it again
A My gosh Please please please please remember to give me tomorrow I can do nothing about my term paper without them And the deadline of the paper is next Monday
Repeating the word please four times undoubtedly violates the Maxim of Manner But in such a urgent situation all the clearness orderliness and politeness give way to the first priority reminding A that he must return the notes as soon as possible By relinquishing other social principles B puts all the emphasis upon the most important fact at present moment

From above when the principle is infringed the importance of context in conversing acts can never be too much valued it is the key for the addressee to proceed with his inferring Still take EXAMPLE 6 for instance
A What if the Iraq controls the Gulf and all the oil
B Oh come now Hitler has won the Second World War
The effects of Irony can only be attained when A has such a common sense that Hitler didnt won the war Suppose A has no such historical knowledge B will not practice the device of Irony in such a form And if he does say so the utterance will be an ineffectual one Here the context is the historical knowledge about Hitler

The Flouting of the Cooperative Principle Negatively
Although the prodigious strength of the floutings of Grices maxims frequently and makes its appearance in human beings conversational behavior as has been demonstrated in details a jeopardizing misconception the flountings are the equivalent of communicative competence should be staved off our mind On the very contrary in reality if not well grappled with the violations of the Cooperative Principle will unfortunately but inevitably turn out to be disgusting communicative failures with which all the efforts of exchanging and understanding information is about to be in vain

I Negative Effects Caused by the Floutings of the Maxim of Quality
When something obviously wrong or too fulsome is pronounced the speakers sincerity might be tensioned to such that unpleased or uncomfortable reaction will occur in the addressee
EXAMPLE 17
A Professor Smith youve made a wonderful lecture
It can be assumed that the student does appreciate the professors lecture very much and that his complimenting the lecturer is very sincere However the choice of the word wonderful adversely hints at an untruthful and inordinate laud In westerners eyes the attitude towards the academic lecture unlike towards a pop music concert should be very factualistic and religious The appropriate expression is I really appreciate your lecture Professor Smith

II Negative Effects Caused by the Floutings of the Maxim of Quantity
On many occasions providing too much information has no use at all communicating those virtues of the speaker such as warm-heartedness sincerity and honesty An overwhelming heap of unnecessary or disorganized information will disable the addressee of his correct and quick understanding What is more such an over-providing may mislead the addressee to such that his privacy is interfered with and his independence principle is disturbed
EXAMPLE 18
A You look pale Whats the matter
B Im feeling sick A cold maybe
A Go and see the doctor Drink more water Did you take any pills Chinese medicine works wonderful Would you like to try Put on more clothes Have a good rest
B You are not my mother are you
During the short conversation Bs good intention cannot be doubted however it seems that his warmth is out of control A long series of advice will but intrude the hearers independence and personal business In fact Take care of yourself I hope you will get better soon is enough to express Bs concern Still one more Example
EXAMPLR 19
A John have you finished your homework
B Yes I have finished my homework
Bs answering the question in a complete sentence might appear in second language textbooks However if it appears in native speakers daily talk a tone of impatience and boredom is looming at large

III Negative Effects Caused by the Floutings of the Maxim of Relevance
Sometimes when one introduces a certain topic to begin the conversation the addressee nevertheless mentions something unrelated to what has been uttered by his partner Such a diversion from the topic will show that he has no interest and enthusiasm in this field
EXAMPLE 20
A Hi Jane I have had a really wonderful summer in China I went Beijing you know the Great Wall the Forbidden City
B I also had a good time I spent my vacation in Seattle In there I
A And then I left for Yunnan The International Gardening Fair was being held there
B In Seattle I
We believe that both of them have enjoyed their summer vacation very much Each of them is eager to say something about the trip Since A has initiated the talk and introduced the topic however B should adopt a cooperative attitude and let B finish his account of the trip By such a means shown in the example not only will A mistake that B has no interest at all in his talk but also in such atmosphere Bs descriptions about his own travel are of no attraction to A ears

IV Negative Effects Caused by the Floutings of the Maxim of Manner
To a larger or less extent the observation of the Maxim of Manner will make one accurate or clear in conveying information When the maxim is ignored obstacles will be unavoidably caused on the part of the understanding of the addressee
EXAMPLE 21
A I am about to the library Whose works do you recommend Woolf or Austin
B Well Woolf is terrific But Austin works are all classics Woolf seminal creation is her stream of consciousness Yet it is hard to understand Austins ability to describe different people is incomparable
Although B knows a lot about the two writers and does say enough But he does not organize what he wants to say in a methodical way and there is no emphasis in his utterance Therefore his conversing act is inefficient it will make A more puzzled to make a choice

Attempts are necessary to be made to analyze the very causes that channel the floutings into a negative direction For those native speakers it can be assumed that there exists a strong impulse to express oneself on the part of the speaker Under some circumstances when the impulse escapes from the grip of the addressers control enthusiasm and eagerness to impart more dominates logic and sense and the only matter that he is concerned about is to inform as much as possible without paying enough heed to the clarity orderliness accuracy and effectiveness of the utterance To summarize he just becomes temporary blind to the context he should have and could have noticed and understood In this sense it can be boldly suggested that peoples mental condition should also be with the study of pragmatics Whereas for those foreigners cultural differences and incompetence in using language are main obstacles to their correct understanding of temporal and local context A mistake in using words or misreading meanings will negatively violate the principle and disrupt the conveyance of information

Conclusion Some Reflections upon Grices Theory
Having completed the analysis of the phenomena themselves it is time to reconsider Grices theory According to him as has been mentioned in the introduction it is only because of the existence of the Cooperative Principle that makes language implicature smoothly proceed When one drastically and dramatically deviates from the maxims the addressee will still subject the utterance to the over-arching framework of conversational cooperation Thus by overtly trespassing certain maxims the speaker can oblige the hearer to do extensive and further inferring the inferring based on an cooperative attitude between the addresser and the addressee and aiming at sustaining the Cooperative Principle in a maximum sense

However more accurately and logically it can be suggested that it is the exploitation of context rather than principle that eventually leads to a correct implicature of the addressee When people converse with one another Little concept of maxims and principles will domineeringly matter during their speaking acts What has keynote influence upon the acts is the context in which conversation takes place The extent to which the information can be successfully conveyed and comprehended large depends on the extent to which the knowledge about context is shared and understood by participants including background knowledge common sense about daily life correct understanding specific to the current situation familiarity with the topic as well as capability to use the language By functioning separately or comprehensively all these varied kinds of knowledge of context make oral exchange a dynamic and mutual process yet in the most natural form

Hence an overriding concern of linguistics the significance of context has been further strengthened by the phenomena of the floutings of the Cooperative Principle A deep and conclusive understanding of the context will produce a successful flouting However when the context is either intentionally or unintentionally ignored or when it is misinterpreted the unpleasant flouting will endanger the effectiveness of oral exchange in that the addressee has no basis the specific context to find out where the addressers cooperation lies

For another reflection on the other side of the shield a great challenge has also been submitted to the agenda There is no conclusive way to reduce a full account of the complexity of the communicative power to a mere set of conventions and principles concerning the use of language When some conventions or rules for the use of language arise there will also arise the probability of the non-conventional exploitations of those previously set principles Due to such a fact it follows that a purely principle-based account of natural language usage can never be complete or sound Considering this point the challenge might be the germ that later burgeons into Sperber and Wilsons Relevance Theory which excluding any principles or maxims constructs the whole theoretical system with a few simple and loose points of view

Bibliography
1 He Ziran 1997 Pragmatics and English Learning Shanghai Foreign Language Education Press Shanghai
2 Dai Weidong He Zhaoxiong Hua Jun 1984 A Concise Course on Linguistics for Students of English Shanghai Foreign Language Education Press Shanghai
3 Kempson R 1975 Pragmatics Cambridge Press Cambridge