How Grice's co-operative principle's four maxims are broken in an American Sitcom: The Big Bang Theory

Essay by ctu042University, Bachelor'sC, January 2010

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[1.0 INTRODUCTION]This essay discusses the four maxims of Grice's co-operative principle and how they are broken. In the first section I describe each of the four maxims. By providing dialogues from an American sitcom 'The Big Bang Theory'; I explain how each of these maxims are broken in various ways.

In the second section, I examine how these methods of breaking maxims can overlap one another. In the final section, I conclude on the role that these maxims play in conversation and how they achieve humorous effects in situational comedies.

1.1 WHAT IS GRICE'S CO-OPERATIVE PRINCIPLE?The English language philosopher Paul Grice proposes that speakers and hearers have a common purpose or at least share a mutually accepted direction in a conversation (Robinson , 2006, pg. 161). Therefore he formulates a general principle which the participants of the conversation will be expected to observe in order to be perceived as competent.

He calls this the Cooperative principle and it consists of four maxims: quantity, quality, manner and relation.

Maxim of quantity:Be as informative as one possibly can and give as much information as needed. Do not say less or more than is requiredMaxim of quality:Only say things that one believes to be trueDo not say things which are false or lack evidenceMaxim of relevance:Make one's contribution relevant to the current conversationMaxim of manner:Avoid being obscureAvoid ambiguityBe brief and orderly in speech(W.Littlejohn, 2002, pg. 79-80)In my first draft of my assignment, I probably wrote too much on how these maxims are broken while I did not discuss these maxims independently in more detail. It is raised to my attention that these maxims can overlap each other. For instance, one may be confused by the maxim of quantity and the maxim of manner. Surely, if a speaker gives more information than is...