The role of context is always important in the study of the use of pragmatics. Pragmatics studies the ways that context affects meaning. Pragmatics studies more than the surface meaning that is, it studies the real or intended meaning. Situational context refers to every non-linguistic factor that affects the meaning of a phrase. An example of situational context can be seen in the phrase “It’s cold in here,” which can either be a simple statement of fact or a request to turn up the heat, depending on, among other things, whether or not it is believed to be in the listener’s power to affect the temperature. It depends on the intention and expectation from the speaker to the hearer. Therefore, the situation demands a particular kind of sentence and this speech situation has three things: place, purpose and people.
Pragmatics is also concerned with the management that is how people manage different kinds of situations. The competence with which a situation is handled is known as ‘pragmatic competence.’ The data for pragmatics comes from day-today speech, used by the user of language in different context. According to Noam Chomsky in his Rules and Representations, ‘Pragmatic competence is the one that underlies the ability to use language along with the conceptual system to achieve certain ends or purposes’ (Chomsky.1980:24) and it determines how the tool can be effectively put to use; it is user-oriented.
In ‘conversational principle,’ pragmatics deals with how people express certain things and how equally it is understood by the other in the process of conversation. Therefore, the data is the conversation that goes between two persons for example, a telephonic conversation is different from day-today conversation, depending on whom a person talks and how he talks. All conversations are structured and have different ways of starting and ending the conversation. ‘Turn-taking’ is an important aspect of conversation. In conversational analysis, there is always an initiator, who starts the conversation. One important thing is how to begin or end the conversation. It is identified by different types of utterances, which may or may not be spoken and even a sound is meaningful in utterance, for example, gesture is also a part of it. Turn-taking is important part of pragmatics because when people use language, they make use of utterances.
J.L. Austin originally distinguished three aspects of a speech act: the locutionary act (the act of saying something and its basic content), the illocutionary act (What you’re trying to do by speaking), and the perlocutionary act (the effect of what you say). Today, however, ‘the term speech act is often used to denote specifically an illocutionary act (promising, threatening, informing, persuading, defending, blaming, and so on), and the intended effect of a speech act is its illocutionary force’ (Austin, 1975:78). Searle believed that in an utterance lie hidden many acts of various kinds: asking, commanding, promising, requesting, declaring, etc. Utterances represent certain actions or acts. For example, if someone says, “Be careful, there is a snake,” here shows a threat and somebody is warning someone. By speaking you are performing certain acts. The reverse of performative verbs is ‘constative verbs.’ The constative verbs are those which do not perform action but provide information. There are five kinds of speech acts: representative, directive, commissive, declarative and expressive speech acts. In ‘representative speech acts,’ the truth or falsity of the statement is represented, for example—’swear,’ ‘belief,’ ‘report,’ etc. They all are performative verbs. In ‘directive speech acts,’ certain verbs that refer to ‘command,’ ‘appeal,’ and ‘urge’ or ‘request’ are used, for example, “I command you to bring me sweets.” ‘Commissive speech acts’ are related to the commitment of speaker, for example, verbs like—’promise,’ ‘undertake,’ and soon. In ‘declarative speech acts,’ there is a declaration by speaker, verbs like ‘pronounce,’ ‘announce,’ etc. For example, when priest declares by saying, “I hereby pronounce you husband and wife.” ‘Expressive speech acts’ express someone’s attitude, verbs like ‘congratulate,’ ‘sorry,’ etc (Searle, 1969:414).
Sociolinguists often discuss politeness phenomena in terms of face. Face is what you lose when you are embarrassed or humiliated in public. There are two kinds of face—the positive face and the negative face. Positive face is associated with desire. It is a person’s need to maintain and demonstrate its membership in a social group. Negative face is the face that seeks freedom for action. It is a person’s need to be individual and independent, to get what that person wants without offending anyone. Face is the socially acted projection of one’s self-esteem. “A face-threatening act” is any piece of behavior which can easily make another person lose face; “a face-saving act” is any piece of behavior which lessens or removes the threat of losing face. The linguistic aspects of politeness have been much studied in recent years, and a number of important variables have been identified: tone of voice, markers of status, terms of address, degrees of certainty or confidence, discourse markers (like English please), the choice between speaking and remaining silent, acceptability of direct questions, and others. The rules of politeness vary considerably from society to society, and it is very easy to give inadvertent offence when talking to speakers of another language. The study of the relation between language and society is a branch of both linguistics and sociology.
Pragmatics is the study of meaning in situation or in context. It is a medium where we examine how people convey different kinds of meanings with the use of language or how people express a variety of meaning with variety of people. It is the study of mutual world knowledge. It is the only discipline where we study the real role of persons in language use. Therefore, pragmatics, on the other hand, is much more than semantics. It is a holistic image. It studies the construction of meaning by the speaker and the understanding of that by the hearer. So we can say that pragmatics studies the relation between intension and analyses the actual content.