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Pragmatics: speakers, hearers and meanings


Admission requirements

Basic understanding of syntax and semantics, or willingness to acquire these through self-guided study. Please contact the instructor before the course if you are interested in this. This course can be used to meet the Extra Requirement of the ResMA in Linguistics; please contact the instructor for more information. Res/MA students interested in taking a course / writing a thesis in (Experimental) Pragmatics are required to have taken this course first.


We explore how the use of a linguistic expression in context can communicate meaning beyond its narrow semantic content. Various explanations have been proposed both for the reasons why utterances may communicate something more or something different from the sum of the meanings of their constituent parts, and the processes by which this is achieved. After introducing some basic distinctions, we focus on developments in (post-)Gricean pragmatics, especially, notions and types of implicature (conventional, generalized conversational, particularized conversational; scalar), impliciture, and explicature. We then tackle theories of speech acts and explore indirect speech acts and proposed explanations. Finally, we briefly introduce im/politeness theor(ies), which seek to provide unified frameworks addressing the issues raised by situated language use in different cultures. Theoretical concepts are explained and applied to real-world examples through bi-weekly take-home assignments.

Course objectives

By the end of this course, students will have:

  • developed an understanding of different levels of meaning (compositional, truth-conditional, implicated) and the processes by which these are generated according to different theoretical frameworks.

  • developed the ability to compare the suitability of these frameworks to explain different linguistic phenomena.

  • practised applying these frameworks to real-life examples and become able to distinguish between these levels in new datasets.

  • acquired practical analytical skills in analyzing conversation and conversations in different cultures.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Assessment method

  • Written examination with essay questions

  • Active Participation/coöperation in class/group


4 take-home assignments 40%
Final exam 40%
In class exercises 10%
Participation 10%
Total 100%


As shown above.
The final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average. To pass the course, the weighted average of the partial grades must be 5.5 or higher.


Resit is only possible for the final exam. Extra credit options are available for students who wish to improve their grade on the take-home assignments, if necessary. Extra credit options are agreed individually with the instructor during the semester and cannot be requested after the course is completed.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

Recommended textbooks (not required):
Clark, Billy (2022) Pragmatics: The Basics. London: Routledge. (introductory)
Thomas, Jenny (1995) Meaning in Interaction: An Introduction to Pragmatics. London: Longman. (introductory)
Birner, Betty (2013) Introduction to Pragmatics. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. (advanced)
A preliminary reading list may be required from the instructor in order to meet the course pre-prequisites prior to the start of the course.
Weekly readings will be made available Brightspace.


Enrolment through My Studymap is mandatory.
General information about course and exam enrolment is available on the website.


For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar

For questions regarding enrollment please contact the Education Administration Office Reuvensplaats E-mail address Education Administration Office Reuvensplaats:


Not applicable.