How is pragmatics studied?

Pragmatics can be studied using various different methods.


Empirical Pragmatics

This is a relatively new method of pragmatics and involves studying actual language in use. The language data can be collected in various ways such as interview, spontaneous speech and experiments. Pragmatic theories and ideas are then applied to analyse features and the text as a whole.[1]

Corpus Pragmatics

A corpus is a selection of electronic texts which are collected and ordered. They can be searched according to different criteria. Frequency and patterns of usage can easily be shown. Generalisations about language can be drawn from patterns and pragmatic analysis can be applied to the data.[2]

Experimental Pragmatics

Experimental evidence can be used, together with intuition and recordings, to confirm or disconfirm hypotheses.[3]

Theoretical Pragmatics

This approach was initially how pragmatic analysis was conducted. Linguists used their own intuitions to make generalisations about the meaning and interpretation of hypothetical uterrances. The pragmatic theories, based on such hypothetical interaction, were later applied to real data.

Historical Pragmatics

This considers historical texts in light of pragmatic theories. It focuses on how linguistic features are interpreted differently at various periods in time. It also considers interactional exchanges over time and the evolution of pragmatic theories.[4][5]

Contrastive Pragmatics

This compares the pragmatic principles of one language/culture to those of another language/culture to see if conversational function and meaning is the same for different people. It considers how language is used differently by communicators of different languages.[6]


[1] The Research Centre of Empirical Pragmatics (2011). <Empirical Pragmatics> [Accessed 23.05.2012]

[2] What is a corpus? What is corpus linguistics? <Corpus Linguistics> [Accessed 23.05.2012]

[3] Introduction to Experimental Pragmatics <Experimental Pragmatics> [Accessed 23.05.2012]
[4] Jucker, A. H., (1995). Historical Pragmatics: Pragmatic Developments in the History of English. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
[5] Arnovick, L. K., (1999). Diachronic Pragmatics: Seven Case Studies in English Illocutionary Development. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
[6] Oleksy, W., (1989). Contrastive Pragmatics. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

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