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Admission requirements

A basic understanding of syntax and semantics, or willingness to acquire these through self-guided study. Some basic concepts in first-order logic, lexical and truth-conditional semantics are reviewed early on in the course. Additional reading can be made available on request.


Pragmatics: Language use in context.
We explore the ways in which the meaning communicated by utterances in context can go beyond the narrow semantic content of the corresponding sentences. 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, discussing such notions as implicature (conventional, generalized conversational, particularized conversational; scalar), impliciture, and explicature. From there, we move on to theories of speech acts and explore the notion of indirect speech acts and proposed explanations. Finally, we introduce im/politeness theor(ies), which seek to provide unified frameworks addressing the issues raised by situated language use in different cultures.

Recommended textbooks (not required):
Thomas, Jenny (1995) Meaning in Interaction: An Introduction to Pragmatics. London: Longman. (introductory)
Birner, Betty (2013) Introduction to Pragmatics. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. (advanced)
Weekly readings will be made available on Blackboard.

Course objectives

Students will develop an understanding of different levels of meaning (compositional, truth-conditional, implicated) and the processes by which these are generated according to different theoretical frameworks.
They develop the ability to compare the suitability of these frameworks to explain different linguistic phenomena.
They practice applying these frameworks to real-life examples and become able to distinguish between these levels in new datasets.
They also acquire practical analytical skills in analyzing conversation and conversations in different cultures.


The timetable is available on the MA Linguistics website

Mode of instruction


Course Load

  • Lectures: 26

  • Study of compulsory literature: 164

  • Assignment(s): 32

  • Preparation exam: 50

  • Exam(s): 8

Assessment method


8 take-home assignments 40%
Mid-term exam 30%
Final exam 30%

Resit is only possible for the final exam. If the grade for the midterm is too low and averaging betwen the midterm exam grade and final exam resit grade results in fail (less than 5.5 for these two components of the course), the midterm exam grade will be discounted (i.e. the final exam will count for 60% and that will be addes to the 40% gained from weekly assignments).

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. Will be done by appintment.


Blackboard will be used

Reading list

A detailed reading list will be provided at the start of the course and all readings will be available as pdfs through blackboard. These should be read weekly before the class when a particular topic is discussed to help stimulate discussion,and, depending on the level of difficulty, again afterwards to consolidate understanding.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available in [English]) and Dutch

Students other than MA Linguistics need permission from the coordinator of studies before enrolling.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


Please contact Student administration van Eyckhof for questions.


Students interested in taking this course are welcome to contact the lecturer for more information about the course contents and a short bibliography of suggested titles they can read in preparation for taking this course.