11: Layers of meaning - Cooperation, humour, and Gricean Maxims

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Aug 17 2017 33 mins   1.4k
– Would you like some coffee? – Coffee would keep me awake. Does that mean yes coffee, or no coffee? It depends! Is it the morning or the evening? Is the person trying to pull an all-nighter or take an afternoon nap? A computer looking strictly at the meanings of the words would be confused, but we humans do this kind of thing all the time without even noticing it. In episode 11 of Lingthusiasm, your hosts Gretchen McCulloch and Lauren Gawne talk about the hidden assumptions of cooperation that we bring to every conversation. They were formulated by the linguist Paul Grice, and are known as the Cooperative Principle or Grice’s Maxims. Not only does stating these assumptions explicitly help us understand conversations where we exchange messages beyond the literal meaning of our words, but it also explains a lot of humour – many jokes rely on creative flouting of Gricean Maxims! This month’s Patreon bonus was about language play: games like Pig Latin, rhyming slang, and Verlan, as nominated and voted on by our patrons. You can get access to it and previous bonuses about hypercorrection, the doggo meme, swearing, teaching yourself linguistics, and explaining linguistics to employers by supporting Lingthusiasm on Patreon. http://patreon.com/lingthusiasm We hit our next funding goal shortly after recording this episode, which will allow us to start bringing on guest linguists, so stay tuned for more info on upcoming interviews! For the links mentioned in this episode, check out our shownotes page at: http://lingthusiasm.com/post/164303700686/lingthusiasm-episode-11-layers-of-meaning