Module Guides ENC1502 The Study of Language - Page 36

For example: One of Grice’s maxims is that when somebody says something to us, we generally say something back which relates to it.

If somebody asks, ‘who stole my banana?’, we might be expected to say something in reply which is at least related to the question. We might say, 'not me!', or 'what banana?'

If, however, we respond with something entirely unrelated to the question, it seems strange – for example ‘Isn't it hot in here?’ By saying something not related to the conversation, we have broken one of Grice’s maxims - the Maxim of Relation.

Breaking one of these maxims can create its own meaning. For example, by changing the subject from the banana, we might be trying to distract attention from the fact that we have, actually, stolen the banana.

We can visualise this very conversation by using a cartoon. On the next page, we can see this scenario, in which a conversation takes place between two people.

In each of the pictures, conversational maxims are being broken.

CARTOON

Listen here: