Select your language

Suggested languages for you:
Log In Start studying!
StudySmarter - The all-in-one study app.
4.8 • +11k Ratings
More than 3 Million Downloads
Free
|
|

All-in-one learning app

  • Flashcards
  • NotesNotes
  • ExplanationsExplanations
  • Study Planner
  • Textbook solutions
Start studying

Grice's Conversational Maxims

Save Save
Print Print
Edit Edit
Sign up to use all features for free. Sign up now
English

Grice's conversational maxims were created by the British philosopher H. Paul Grice in the 1970s. Grice's conversational maxims, also known as The Gricean Maxims, are based on Grice's Cooperative Principle , which aims to explain how people achieve effective communication in everyday situations.

What are Grice's Conversational Maxims?

Grice believed that meaningful dialogue was characterized by cooperation and based his Cooperative Principle theory on the assumption that participants in a conversation usually attempt to be truthful, informative, relevant, and clear in order to facilitate successful communication. Based on these assumptions, Grice divided his cooperative principle into four conversational maxims .

The 4 Conversational Maxims are the Maxim of Quality, the Maxim of Quantity, the Maxim of Relevance, and the Maxim of Manner.

Grice believed that anyone wishing to engage in meaningful communication would follow these maxims and would assume that others would also be following them.

The Maxim of Quality

Abiding by the Maxim of Quality means not telling a lie on purpose. When following this maxim during communication, you should:

  • Only say things you believe to be true.
  • Not say things that you cannot back up with evidence.

' The capital of India is New Delhi. '

Here the speaker believes that they are telling the truth to the best of their knowledge.

The Maxim of Quantity

When following the Maxim of Quantity, it is important to not withhold information during communication that would be necessary to keep the conversation going. However, it is also important not to bombard our listeners with too much irrelevant information. When abiding by this maxim during communication, you should:

  • Make your contribution to the conversation as informative as required.
  • Not contribute more informative than required.

Speaker A: ' Do you know if Katie got on okay with her exams? '

Speaker B: ' Yes, I do. She did really well and got an A! '

Here speaker B could have ended their reply after ' yes, I do. ' However, they shared all of the information they knew so as not to flout the Maxim of Quantity.

(Don't worry, we're going to cover flouting Maxims soon!)

Flouting a maxim, Hannah Morris - StudySmarter Originals

The Maxim of relevance

Following the Maxim of relevance keeps conversations on track and helps prevent random conversations that lack continuity. This maxim also helps us to understand utterances in conversations that may not be initially obvious. When abiding by this maxim, you should:

  • Only say things that are relevant to the conversation.

Speaker A: ' Do you think Leo is dating someone new? '

Speaker B: ' Well, he goes to Brighton most weekends. '

Due to the Maxim of Relevance, we can infer that there is a link between Leo dating someone and him going to Brighton, and speaker B isn't just randomly telling us about Leo's trips to Brighton.

The Maxim of Manner

The Maxim of Manner mainly refers to the choice of words you use. For example, when following this maxim, we should avoid using big or overly complex words that we know our listeners won't understand and should try our best to be concise and coherent. When abiding by the Maxim of Manner, you should:

  • Avoid obscurity or ambiguity.
  • Be brief and orderly.
  • Try and be as clear as possible.

' I'm writing an essay on metonymy. It's a type of figure of speech ! '

Here the speaker knew that it was possible that the listener wouldn't know the term metonymy and decided to give a quick explanation.

Breaking Grice's 4 Conversational Maxims

Grice's Maxims are statements that express a rule of conduct; However, these conducts are often broken during communication. Grice did not assume that everyone would constantly follow these maxims. Instead, he found it interesting when the maxims were not respected, namely by being either violated or flouted .

Violating Grice's Maxims

When Grice's Maxims are violated, they have been broken surreptitiously (secretly) or covertly (undercover). This means that others involved in the conversation are unaware that a Maxim has been broken.

The most common maxims that get violated are the Maxim of Quality and the Maxim of Quantity .

  • Maxim of Quality is violated when an individual purposely tells a lie.
  • Maxim of quantity is violated when an individual secretly with holds information that someone else wants to know.

Violating Grice's Maxims is more serious than flouting them, yet the severity of the violation can vary. For example, telling a lie in court is arguably worse than telling a little 'white lie'.

Flouting Grice's maxims

Flouting Grice's Maxims is a lot more common than violating maxims and is usually considered more acceptable. When Grice's Maxims are being flouted, it should be apparent to all those concerned.

Being ironic, using metaphors, pretending to mishear someone, and using a tone of voice that does not match the content of what you are saying are all examples of flouting Grice's Maxims.

Let's take a look at some of the different ways in which the maxims are often flouted.

  • Maxim of Manner is flouted when speakers use many big words and technical jargon that they know their listeners won't understand.
  • Maxim of relevance is flouted when someone pretends to mishear what has been said to change the conversation.
  • Maxim of Quantity is flouted when someone does not answer a question in full, usually to be obtuse or even annoying.
  • Maxim of Quality is flouted when someone is being ironic.

(This is not an extensive list of all the ways Maxims can be flouted, just a few handy examples. Can you think of any other ways people flout Grice's Maxims?)

When individuals flout maxims, they usually expect the listener to understand the intended meaning. Maxims are even purposefully flouted at times by comedians and writers for comedic effect!

Here are a few discourse examples of Grice's Maxims being flouted.

Speaker A: ' Do you know if there is any food in the fridge? '

Speaker B: ' Yes, I do know. '

Here the Maxim of Quantity has been flouted as speaker B is with holding information from speaker A. This example is a flout and not a violation because everyone in the conversation is aware that information is not being shared.

Zack: ' Wow, this place is awesome. Where do they keep the Archies? '

Sheldon: ' In the bedroom of ten-year-old girls, where they belong. '

In this extract from The Big Bang Theory , Sheldon flouts the Maxim of Quality by giving an answer that both people know is not true. Here, the maxim has been flouted for comedic effect.

Speaker A: ' I'm not sure about this new guy I'm seeing. He never messages me back, and I think he's talking to someone else. '

Speaker B: ' Sounds like a real keeper! '

Here the Maxim of Quality has been flouted. Speaker B is lying - they don't really think that the new guy is a real keeper - they are being ironic. Again, this is not a violation because everyone concerned knows that the truth isn't being told.

Speaker A: ' Are you okay? You look upset. '

Speaker B: ' Uh ... I'm fine .' (in a sad tone)

Here the Maxim of Quality has again been flouted as speaker B obviously isn't fine. Speaker B is expecting speaker A to infer something different from what is actually being said. Grice refers to this flout as an implicature. Conversational implicature refers to the extra meaning implied within discourse without necessarily being said aloud.

Grice's conversational maxims Sad girl flouting a maxim StudySmarterSad girl flouting a maxim, Hannah Morris - StudySmarter Originals

What are some criticisms of Grice's Conversational Maxims?

Grice's conversational maxims have been criticized as they fail to recognize that cooperation within conversations is culturally determined, as with most social interactions.

Grice's maxims are based upon expected behaviors within the Western world, and therefore, cannot be applied globally due to potential cultural differences (Clyne, 1994) .¹ Additionally, several theorists have criticized the maxims for being too vague and overly ambiguous.

As a result of this ambiguity, Grice's maxims have frequently been misinterpreted and misrepresented as guidelines for etiquette and instructions on being polite. However, this is not their intention. The maxims are only ever meant to describe the commonly accepted traits of successful communication.

Grice's conversational maxims - key takeaways

  • Grice's conversational maxims were created by the British philosopher H. Paul Grice in the 1970s.
  • Grice's 4 Conversational Maxims are: Maxim of Quality, Maxim of Quantity, Maxim of Relevance, and Maxim of Manner.
  • Grice believed that anyone wishing to engage in meaningful communication would follow these 4 Maxims and would assume that others would also be following them.
  • Grice's Maxims are often broken and can either be violated or flouted.
  • Grice's Maxims have been criticized for not considering cultural differences and for being overly ambiguous.

¹ Clyne, M. Intercultural Communication at Work: Cultural values in discourse . 1994.

Grice's Conversational Maxims

 Grice's conversational maxims were created by the British philosopher H. Paul Grice in the 1970s. Grice believed that anyone wishing to engage in meaningful communication would follow these 4 Maxims and assume that others would also be following them. The four maxims of conversation derive from Grice's Cooperative Principle.

 Grices four conversational maxims in accordance with the Cooperative Principle are Maxim of Quality, Maxim of Quantity, Maxim of Relevance, and Maxim of Manner.

When a maxim has been flouted, an individual has chosen not to follow the guidelines of one of Grice's maxims. For example, the Maxim of Manner states that we should be as clear as possible and avoid obscurity when we speak. If the speaker uses lots of words and technical jargon where inappropriate, then the Maxim of Manner has been flouted.

When a maxim has been violated, an individual has chosen to purposely break the guidelines of one of Grice's maxims overtly. For example, the Maxim of Quality states that we should only say things we believe to be true. If the speaker tells a lie and tries to conceal the lie from the listener (s), then the Maxim of Quality has been violated.

H. Paul Grice introduced the Cooperative principle in his 1975 article 'Logic and Conversation'. The principle is based upon the assumption that participants in a conversation cooperate with each other and usually attempt to be truthful, informative, relevant, and clear in order to facilitate successful communication.

Final Grice's Conversational Maxims Quiz

Question

Who created the 4 conversational maxims?

Show answer

Answer

Paul Grice.

Show question

Question

Can you name the 4 conversational maxims?

Show answer

Answer

Maxim of Quality, Maxim of Quantity, Maxim of Relevance, and Maxim of Manner.

Show question

Question

Which of Grice's Maxims has been violated if you purposely tell a lie?


Show answer

Answer

Maxim of Quality.

Show question

Question

Which of Grice's Maxims has been violated if you purposely withhold information from someone?


Show answer

Answer

Maxim of Quantity.

Show question

Question

Which principle are Grice's Conversational Maxims drawn from?


Show answer

Answer

The Cooperative Principle.

Show question

Question

What is the difference between flouting a maxim and violating a maxim?


Show answer

Answer

When a maxim is violated, it is usually done overtly, and the listener is unaware that a maxim has been broken. In contrast, all those concerned are usually aware when a maxim has been flouted.

Show question

Question

Which maxim states that 'You should only say things that are relevant to the conversation.'?


Show answer

Answer

Maxim of relevance.

Show question

Question

Which maxim states that 'You shouldn't say things that you can't back up with evidence.'?


Show answer

Answer

Maxim of Quality.

Show question

Question

Which maxim states that 'You should try and be as clear as possible.'?


Show answer

Answer

Maxim of Manner.

Show question

Question

Why have Grice's Conversational Maxims been criticized?


Show answer

Answer

Grice's Maxims have been criticized for not considering cultural differences and for being overly ambiguous.

Show question

Question

If an individual tells a lie, have they flouted or violated a maxim?


Show answer

Answer

They have violated the Maxim of quality.

Show question

60%

of the users don't pass the Grice's Conversational Maxims quiz! Will you pass the quiz?

Start Quiz

Discover the right content for your subjects

No need to cheat if you have everything you need to succeed! Packed into one app!

Study Plan

Be perfectly prepared on time with an individual plan.

Quizzes

Test your knowledge with gamified quizzes.

Flashcards

Create and find flashcards in record time.

Notes

Create beautiful notes faster than ever before.

Study Sets

Have all your study materials in one place.

Documents

Upload unlimited documents and save them online.

Study Analytics

Identify your study strength and weaknesses.

Weekly Goals

Set individual study goals and earn points reaching them.

Smart Reminders

Stop procrastinating with our study reminders.

Rewards

Earn points, unlock badges and level up while studying.

Magic Marker

Create flashcards in notes completely automatically.

Smart Formatting

Create the most beautiful study materials using our templates.

Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.