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Introduction to Pragmatics - LAN00059I

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  • Department: Language and Linguistic Science
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Julia Kolkmann
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2021-22

Module summary

This module will introduce you to the study of meaning in context. One of the leading questions we will seek to answer is how much of the meaning we communicate by using language is coded in the grammatical system and how much needs to be inferred. By looking at how meaning is constructed and negotiated by speakers in concrete communicative situations, you will learn about those aspects of communication that go beyond truth-conditional (often labeled 'semantic') aspects of utterance interpretation. These include notions such as explicit and implicit meaning (the distinction between 'what is said' and 'what is meant'), conversational implicature (suggested inferences that arise as a result of co-operative behaviour), reference determination (the various ways in which our grammar allows us to talk about entities in the external world), figurative language (metaphor, irony, etc.) and information packaging (strategies of making larger chunks of language appear coherent). The module will appeal to those students who would like to deepen their knowledge of English grammar and meaning from a non-formal point of view.

Related modules

Co-requisite modules

  • None

Prohibited combinations

  • None

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2021-22

Module aims

The module is aimed at students who would like to take their study of meaning and grammar further and deepen their knowledge of core concepts introduced in Introduction to Semantics. The approach taken is strictly non-formal in nature but emphasizes the same attention to detail as its formal counterpart. Students will:

  • learn about some of the major concepts in inferential pragmatics
  • learn how to construct holistic, step-by-step analyses of how meaning is constructed via code (grammar) and inference (interpretation) in human interaction
  • learn how to understand the relationship between linguistic theory and the analysis of naturally-occurring data
  • develop an appreciation of ambiguity and 'grey areas' in semantic and pragmatic theory

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module, you will be able to:

  • analyse natural language data from the point of view of some core pragmatic theories
  • form generalizations and spot patterns in data
  • evaluate in written form the strengths and weaknesses of certain pragmatic theories for the analysis of naturally occurring data

Module content

The module will focus on core topics at the interface between grammar and pragmatics, e.g.

  • Code vs. inference
  • Varieties of non-truth-conditional meaning at the lexical, phrasal and syntactic level
  • Reference at discourse-level: the English NP, definiteness, deixis, types of anaphora, coherence and cohesion
  • Information structure/packaging
  • Research methods in pragmatics: experimental pragmatics, corpus pragmatics


Task Length % of module mark
Analysis of data excerpt
N/A 30
Data analysis portfolio
N/A 70

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Analysis of data excerpt
N/A 30
Data analysis portfolio
N/A 70

Module feedback

Students will receive written, individualised feedback within two weeks of submission on the formative core notion essay and the summative data analysis essay, and within 20 working days of submission on the summative data analysis portfolio.

Indicative reading

Birner, B. J. (2012). Introduction to pragmatics. John Wiley & Sons.

Culpeper, J., & Haugh, M. (2014). Pragmatics and the English language. Palgrave Macmillan.


The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.