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Unit of study_

LNGS3702: Pragmatics - Meaning in Use

Semester 1, 2020 [Normal day] - Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney

Pragmatics explores interactions of meaning and context in discourse. This unit of study introduces students to some important topics in pragmatics research: reference and speech acts, non-literal language, the role of inference and reasoning in discourse, politeness, conversation, and the ethnography of speaking.

Unit details and rules

Unit code LNGS3702
Academic unit Linguistics
Credit points 6
12 credit points at 2000 level in Linguistics
Assumed knowledge


Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Nick Riemer,
Lecturer(s) Nick Riemer,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Assignment Essay
50% Mid-semester exam period
Due date: 08 Jun 2020 at 23:59
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Assignment Exercise 1
Written exercise
25% Week 04
Due date: 20 Mar 2020 at 23:59
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO5 LO4 LO3 LO2
Assignment Exercise 2
Written exercise
25% Week 07
Due date: 08 Apr 2020 at 23:59
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO5 LO4 LO3 LO2

Assessment summary

  • Exercise 1: written exercise demonstrating your understanding of ideas from early in the course
  • Exercise 2: written exercise demonstrating your understanding of ideas from later in the course
  • Essay: essay demonstrating your understanding or, and research on, topics or themes from the course as a whole, with a special concentration on its last third.

Assessment criteria

High Distinction 85-100

  • Intelligent critical analysis of evidence or sophisticated analysis of data;
  • Demonstrates high level of initiative in research and reading;
  • Impressive command of underlying debates and assumptions, and awareness of alternative analyses;
  • Properly documented;
  • Solid argumentation;
  • Precise, clear writing and control of appropriate formalism;
  • All criteria addressed to a high level.

Distinction 75-84

  • Intelligent, critical analysis of evidence or sophisticated analysis of data
  • Demonstrates initiative in research and reading;
  • Good command of underlying theory, debates and assumptions;
  • Properly documented;
  • Solid argumentation;
  • Precise, clear writing and control of appropriate formalism;
  • All criteria addressed clearly, and most to a high level.

Credit 65-74

  • Good analysis of evidence or data;
  • Demonstrates control of research and reading;
  • Shows an understanding of the underlying debates and assumptions;
  • Properly documented;
  • Solid argumentation;
  • Precise, clear writing, and control of formalism;
  • Most criteria addressed clearly

Pass 50-64

  • Satisfactory analysis of evidence or data;
  • Demonstrates control of research and reading;
  • Properly documented;
  • Work is adequately written, with some grammatical errors; adequate control of appropriate formalism, with some errors;
  • Most criteria addressed adequately

Fail 0-49

  • Work not of acceptable standard
  • Most criteria not clearly or adequately addressed;
  • Written style inappropriate to task; major problems with expression

Work may fail for any or all of the following reasons:

  • Failure to demonstrate understanding of content;
  • Faulty analysis (e.g., internal inconsistency or failure to account for data);
  • Inadequate argumentation;
  • Failure to understand the theoretical framework;
  • Gross lack of control of appropriate formalism;
  • Irrelevance of content;
  • Unacceptable paraphrasing;
  • Absence of referencing where assignment requires this
  • Unreadability (including major grammatical or structural problems).

For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.  

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 Introduction: Language, use and meaning Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 02 Speech acts Seminar (2 hr)  
Speech acts Tutorial (1 hr)  
Week 03 Speech act theory - critiques Seminar (2 hr)  
Speech act theory - critiques Tutorial (1 hr)  
Week 04 Inference and implicature - Grice Seminar (2 hr)  
Inference and implicature - Grice Tutorial (1 hr)  
Week 05 Post-Gricean developments Seminar (2 hr)  
Post-Gricean developments Tutorial (1 hr)  
Week 06 Approaches to non-literal language Seminar (2 hr)  
Approaches to non-literal language Tutorial (1 hr)  
Week 07 Conversation Analysis 1 Seminar (2 hr)  
Conversation Analysis 1 Tutorial (1 hr)  
Week 08 Conversation Analysis 2 Seminar (2 hr)  
Conversation Analysis 2 Tutorial (1 hr)  
Week 09 Politeness 1 Seminar (2 hr)  
Politeness 1 Tutorial (1 hr)  
Week 10 Politeness 2 Seminar (2 hr)  
Politeness 2 Tutorial (1 hr)  
Week 11 Power, language use and linguistics 1 Seminar (2 hr)  
Power, language use and linguistics 1 Tutorial (1 hr)  
Week 12 Power, language use and linguistics 2 Seminar (2 hr)  
Power, language use and linguistics 2 Tutorial (1 hr)  
Week 13 Power, language use and linguistics 3 Seminar (2 hr)  
Power, language use and linguistics 3 Tutorial (1 hr)  

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Required readings

All readings are in the Course Reader, which is to be bought from the University Copy Centre.

It is essential that you come to tutorials and seminars each week having completed all the readings listed below. For ten of the thirteen weeks, you will be asked to submit two questions on each piece of reading set for the week, reflecting your engagement with the content. These questions will inform the week’s discussion. More details will be given in the first week’s seminar.

Week 1: Language, use and meaning

Seminar: No set reading.

Tutorial reading:

  • Louise Cummings 2005. ‘Meaning: a three-part approach’. Excerpt from chapter 2 of Pragmatics (Edinburgh, EUP), pp. 40-43
  • Billy Clark 2013. ‘Communication and cognition: a fuller overview’. Excerpt from chapter 1 of Relevance Theory (Cambridge, CUP), pp. 12-23.

Week 2: Speech acts


  • J.L. Austin 1962. Excerpts from How to do things with words (Oxford, OUP), pp. 5-7, 14-24, 32-38
  • J. R. Searle 1969. ‘The structure of illocutionary acts’, chapter 3 of Speech Acts. An essay in the philosophy of language. Cambridge: CUP

Tutorial: As for seminar

Week 3: Speech act theory – critiques


  • Stephen C. Levinson. ‘Speech acts’. Chapter 10 of Yan Huang (ed.) The Oxford Handbook of Pragmatics. Oxford Handbooks Online, 2016.
  • Michelle Z. Rosaldo, ‘The things we do with words: Ilongot speech acts and speech act theory in philosophy’ Language in Society 11 (1982): 203-237.

Week 4: Inference and implicature – Grice

  • H.P. Grice. ‘Logic and Conversation’, chapter 2 of Studies in the way of words. (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1989 [originally published in 1975])
  • Stephen Levinson, ‘Conversational Implicature’, chapter 3 of Pragmatics (Cambridge, CUP, 1983).

Week 5: Post-Gricean developments

  • Wayne A. Davis. ‘Quantity implicatures’, and ‘Quantity implicatures: the possibility of ignorance’, sections 2.1 and 3.7 of Implicature. Intention, convention and principle in the failure of Gricean theory (Cambridge, CUP, 1998), pp. 33-41 and 77-80.
  • Deirdre Wilson and Dan Sperber. Relevance Theory. In Horn, L. and G. Ward (eds) The Handbook of Pragmatics (Malden: Blackwell, 2004), 607–632. See the course webpage for the list of references to this chapter.

Week 6 – Approaches to non-literal language

  • Dan Sperber and Deirdre Wilson, ‘A deflationary account of metaphor’, chapter 5 of Raymond W. Gibbs, Jr., The Cambridge Handbook of metaphor and thought. (Cambridge, CUP, 2008).
  • Vega Moreno, ‘Relevance theory and metaphor interpretation’. Chapter 4 of Creativity and Convention. The pragmatics of everyday figurative speech. (Amsterdam, Benjamins, 2007).

Week 7: Conversation Analysis 1

  • Emanuel A Schegloff. Presequences and indirection. Journal of Pragmatics 12 (1988): 55-62
  • Emanuel A Schegloff. Conversation analysis. Chapter 23 of Yan Huang (ed.) The Oxford Handbook of Pragmatics. Oxford Handbooks Online, 2018.

Week 8: Conversation Analysis 2

  • Rebecca Clift. Discovering Order, Lingua 115 (2005): 1641–1665.
  • Harvey Sacks, Emanuel A. Schegloff and Gail Jefferson. A Simplest Systematics for the Organization of Turn-Taking for Conversation. Language 50 (1974): 696-735
  • Emanuel A Schegloff. Presequences and indirection. Journal of Pragmatics 12 (1988): 55-62

Week 9: Politeness 1

  • Penelope Brown and Stephen C. Levinson. Politeness. Some universals in language use (excerpt) (Cambridge, CUP, 1987).

Week 10: Politeness 2

  • Luming Robert Mao. Beyond politeness theory: ‘Face’ revisited and renewed. Journal of Pragmatics 21 (1994): 451—486.
  • Sara Mills. Class, gender and politeness. Multilingua 23 (1994):171—190.

Week 11: Power, language use and linguistics 1

  • Pierre Bourdieu and Loïc J D Wacquant, excerpt from ‘Language, gender and symbolic violence’, section 5 of chapter 2 of An invitation to reflexive sociology (Cambridge, Polity, 1992), pp. 140-151.
  • Pierre Bourdieu 1992. ‘The production and reproduction of legitimate language’, chapter 1 of Language and symbolic power (Raymond and Adamson, tr) (Cambridge, Polity)

Week 12: Power, language use and linguistics 2

  • Nick Riemer. ‘Linguistic form; a political epistemology’. In James McElvenny (ed.), Form and formalism in linguistics, 225–264 (Berlin: Language Science Press, 2019).

Week 13: Power, language use and linguistics 3

  • Eric A. Anchimbe and Richard W. Janney. ‘Postcolonial pragmatics’. Chapter 11 of Anne Barron, et al. (eds), The Routledge Handbook of Pragmatics (Abingdon, Routledge, 2017).
  • Elizabeth Keating. ‘Power and pragmatics’. Language and Linguistics Compass 3/4 (2009): 996–1009.


Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University's graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. to introduce students to some key ideas in the study of pragmatics in linguistics
  • LO2. to encourage students to develop an understanding of how pragmatics fits in the structure of linguistic theory in general
  • LO3. to cultivate a critical and self-conscious approach to problems of empirical enquiry in the empirical study of communication
  • LO4. to appreciate the biases and presuppositions that inform the study of linguistic pragmatics
  • LO5. to appreciate the complexity of communication as an object of theoretical enquiry

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities

This section outlines changes made to this unit following staff and student reviews.

No changes have been made since this unit was last offered'.


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