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Pragmatics and Grammar


Admission requirements



Language is used for communication, but the interpretation of an utterance in communication is only partially determined by the meaning of the language that the speaker uses. A speakers means more than, and sometimes even something different from what the words and the constructions mean. In linguistics, this difference is assumed to be captured by distinguishing between semantics, as part of grammar (the linguistic system), and pragmatics (language use).
The first part of the course offers an introduction into the domain of pragmatics. In addition to the ‘classics’ in pragmatics (Grice, Searle, Brown & Levinson), we will focus on more recent developments such as neo-Gricean Pragmatics, Relevance Theory and the ‘discursive’ approach to politeness (Watts). We study Pragmatics by Chapman (2011). In the final classes of the first part we study a number of recent approaches that actually reverse the link between grammar and pragmatics: pragmatically successful communication is a necessary condition for learning a language. And some special form of non-linguistic communication must also have preceded the emergence of language in the evolutionary history of our species (Tomasello, Verhagen, Mercier).

In the second half of the course, students have an option. One is a follow-up class on contemporary research on a specific topic within pragmatics. (The topic will be announced early on in the first part.) The other option is to join the course for students in the MA-program Dutch Studies (Grammatica en Pragmatiek: De Sturende Kracht van Taal), which focuses on the question how grammatical constructions serve cooperative (and perhaps even non-cooperative) communication, i.e. the rhetorical functions of language. The language of instruction for this option is Dutch, so students wishing to take this option must understand Dutch.
Students complete the second part of the course with a term paper presenting a small research project.

Course objectives

Course objective 1: Students have insight into the main theories within the domain of pragmatics and are able to compare them and apply them to specific real life instances of language in use.

Course objective 2: Students can analyze analyze, for specific instances of spoken or written communication a) what the balance ànd the connection is between conventional meanings of linguistic units and inferred aspects of the interpretation of utterances, and b) in what way the interaction between knowledge of conventions on the one hand, and knowledge of the context produces specific communicative effects.


The timetable is available on the “MA Linguistics website”:

Mode of instruction

Lecture + Seminar

Course Load

  • Total course load 10 EC = 280 hours

  • Classes 12 weeks x 2 hours = 24 hours

  • Preparation of classes 12 weeks x 8 hours = 96 hours

  • Written test part 1 including preparation = 20 hours

  • Research paper part 2 = 140 hours

Assessment Method

  1. Written examination with essay questions (50%)
    1. Research paper (50%)

The grade for both the written examination and the research paper has to be at least 5.5. Both can be re-taken if insufficient.


This course is supported by Blackboard.

Reading list

Siobhan Chapman (2011), Pragmatics. Basingstoke etc. : Palgrave Macmillan.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

When registering, students that are registered for the specialisation that this course belongs to, or the Research Master, take priority. The deadline for registration is August 15. All other students should contact the “coordinator of studies”:

General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte
Registration Contractonderwijs


Student administration Van Eyckhof