Pragmatics and Social Language

One of the more fascinating aspects of social language is its complexity. The use and meaning of words can be influenced by many different factors which makes understanding the message being delivered a highly complex affair. So much time and effort is spent teaching children the nuances of language so that they can grow their vocabulary and better express themselves.

However, even those who speak in correctly structured sentences using the right grammar may still not be able to effectively communicate. Social language is governed by a series of rules that are known as pragmatics.

What is Pragmatics?

This is three major skills of communication that must be mastered so that proper delivery of the message can be made. This mostly affects children who have yet to have the experience or develop the skills needed to master pragmatics. However, it can also apply to adults who have had brain injuries that have limited their ability to speak.

How Language is Used: In social language, there are different aspects that are used to convey intent.

  • Greetings
  • Information
  • Demands
  • Promises
  • Requests

The language used changes depending on the intent of the speaker. From providing a greeting, to telling them what you will do, to telling them what they will do, promising and asking. It all involves how language is used combined with tone and non-verbal clues.

How Language Can Change: Here, the way that language is used changes depending on who the speaker is talking to at any one time.

  • Age of the Listener
  • Knowledge of the Listener
  • Environment of those who are Listening

For example, a person talks differently to an adult as opposed to a child. They also speak differently depending on how much information the listener has in regards to the subject. Finally, there is the environment of where the listener is located, which means it is different in a noisy place as opposed to a quiet one.

The Rules of Conversation: Here, there are certain rules that are usually followed for the speaker to deliver their message.

  • Introducing Topics
  • Taking Turns
  • Keeping on Topic
  • Using Verbal and Non-Verbal Signals
  • Using Appropriate Facial Expressions and Eye Contact
  • Rephrasing when not Understood
  • Standing the Appropriate Distance

It is true that these rules are based in culture and may vary considerably depending on the background and culture from which the person was born and raised.

Issues with Pragmatics

Those who have trouble with pragmatics show specific signs such as saying inappropriate things, telling stories without a good structure, and not varying their language to any real degree. These issues are most prominent with children who have yet to learn the proper pragmatics. However, if they continue beyond the age where they should have been associated, then additional training may be needed.

Those with such disorders may also have other issues with language rooted in their vocabulary or use of grammar. Those who fail to develop the skills necessary in social language will have trouble in the future relating to those who are unfamiliar with their background. Therefore, they will need some form of training or instruction to overcome these issues.


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