The Study of Meaning in Conversation

Topics: Implicature, Gricean maxims, Paul Grice Pages: 8 (1687 words) Published: January 30, 2013
Transilvania University of Brasov

Faculty of Letters


The study of meaning in conversation

Professor: Liliana Coposescu
Student: Adina Pantazi
LMA-F-E, 3rd year

Brasov 2013

The study of meaning in conversation


In this paper prepared for the pragmatic course, it is proposed to make an analysis of the Grice’s Cooperative Principle, turn taking mechanism and insertion sequences focused on a transcript from series House MD and to observe how the participants of the conversation react and respond from these points of view.


The purpose of this paper is to provide information about the study of language use, the study of linguistic phenomena from the point of view of their usage properties and processes and the study of meaning in interaction and make an analysis on a dialog from to the popular series House MD, in terms of the turn-taking mechanism, insertion sequences and the co-operative principles defined by Grice (the four maxims, Maxim of quantity, Maxim of quality, Maxim of Relation, Maxim of Manner).


The dialog begins in House's apartment that is having a conversation with Wilson, his best friend about his illness, and he continues to the hospital where they are doctors and do their routine.

Conversations are the ideal form of communication in some respects, since they allow people with different views on a topic to learn from each other. The main aspect of the definition is that the participants, the listener and the speaker, perform the act of conversation, but they also have to respect the Cooperative Principle in order to conduct and an effective use of oral conversation.

So, in this paper we are going to comment around rules of Cooperative Principle and flouting the four maxims, intentionally or not.

The beginning of the dialog provide a conversational implicature namely the flout of the maxim of manner in lines (1)” Come on in”,(2) ”I'm not doing any more chemo”,(3),(4) and (5) when the conversation is clear and explicit, except the (6) line “House… I'm sorry.”, where Wilson is ambiguous and leaves room for interpretation, but also in the (4) line “We went for a cure. It didn't work. I've thought about this a lot. Five more months on this earth is reasonable. A year in the hospital in excruciating pain is… not.”, a maxims of quantity is present because Wilson’s explanation is not necessary and the contribution is more informative that is required.

The concept of turn taking is central to Conversation Analysis. Turn taking organizes the distribution and the flow of speech between the two participants of interaction thereby keeping speech continuous. The time gap between one person stopping and the other starting being just a few fractions of a second, yet the coordination is achieved with some rapidity and turns are appropriated, but overlaps can occur ,like in the example (11),(12),(13),when the turn order is not fixed, transitions are taking places and the talk is discontinuous.

Further, in lines (13),(14),(15),(16),(17),(18),(19),(20),(21),(22), we can see a real conversation game between doctors trying to diagnose a patient, only they are interrupted by Dr House who is always trying to change the subject being used to dominate any conversation. This sort of game can be analyzed as a flout of the maxim of relation where one tries to be relevant, and says things that are pertinent to the discussion and another participant in the discussion change the subject intentionally.

The flout of the maxim of relation from lines (23),(24)” He just wants to die with a little dignity”,(25)” It's not your choice, House. Your only choice here is between acceptance and misery.”, (26) “It’s a midline granuloma.” Get your patient a PET scan”, is reinforced by Dr. House’s game that brings the other participants of the dialogue always the idea that he wants to debate.

Although his colleagues...
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