• Pragmatics is the area of language that encompasses the use of language in social contexts (knowing what to say, how to say it, and when to say it - and how to "be" with other people).

    Pragmatics involve three major communication skills (Asha.org, 2012):

    • Using language for different purposes, such as
      • greeting (e.g., hello, goodbye)
      • informing (e.g., I'm going to get a cookie)
      • demanding (e.g., Give me a cookie)
      • promising (e.g., I'm going to get you a cookie)
      • requesting (e.g., I would like a cookie, please)
    • Changing language according to the needs of a listener or situation, such as
      • talking differently to a baby than to an adult
      • giving background information to an unfamiliar listener
      • speaking differently in a classroom than on a playground
    • Following rules for conversations and storytelling, such as
      • taking turns in conversation
      • introducing topics of conversation
      • staying on topic
      • rephrasing when misunderstood
      • how to use verbal and nonverbal signals
      • how close to stand to someone when speaking
      • how to use facial expressions and eye contact

    These rules may vary across cultures and within cultures. It is important to understand the rules of your communication partner.

    An individual with pragmatic problems may:

    • say inappropriate or unrelated things during conversations
    • tell stories in a disorganized way
    • have little variety in language use

    It is not unusual for children to have pragmatic problems in only a few situations. However, if problems in social language use occur often and seem inappropriate considering the child's age, a pragmatic disorder may exist. Pragmatic disorders often coexist with other language problems such as vocabulary development or grammar. Pragmatic problems can lower social acceptance. Peers may avoid having conversations with an individual with a pragmatic disorder.

    They often do not assume prior knowledge. So for example, one boy explained to me in minute detail how to wash a car, wrongly assuming that I needed (and wanted) the information and that I had never washed a car.

    On the other hand, they may assume prior knowledge that the listener could not possibly have, and launch into a long disquisition without describing in sufficient detail the participants, location and general background of their story.

    They can go on far too long telling stories, and include so much detail that the listener becomes disinterested. 


    Pragmatics skills include:

    1. knowing that you have to answer when a question has been asked; 
    2. being able to participate in a conversation by taking it in turns with the other speaker; 
    3. the ability to notice and respond to the non-verbal aspects of language (reacting appropriately to the other person's body language and 'mood', as well as their words);
    4. awareness that you have to introduce a topic of conversation in order for the listener to fully understand; 
    5. knowing which words or what sort of sentence-type to use when initiating a conversation or responding to something someone has said; 
    6. the ability to maintain a topic (or change topic appropriately, or 'interrupt' politely); 
    7. the ability to maintain appropriate eye-contact (not too much staring, and not too much looking away) during a conversation; and 
    8. the ability to distinguish how to talk and behave towards different communicative partners (formal with some, informal with others).

      Go here to see how pragmatic skills fit with other aspects of language development.
    http://speech-language-therapy.com/spld.htm Copyright © 2001 Caroline Bowen


    Click here to view Resources for Pragmatic Language