Conversational Implicature in the Harry Potter from the Perspective of the Cooperative Principle
The purpose of this study is to pragmatically identify and analyze the Conversational Implicature contained within the thirty selected dialogues of seven main characters in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter focusing on Grice’s Cooperative Principle (1975) to find out whether the seven main characters flouted or violated the conversational maxims. Moreover, the study aimed to demonstrate how the main characters conveyed their intended meanings through Conversational Implicatures and how the others as listeners recognized the intended meanings.
The findings showed that the selected dialogues contained 75 Conversational Implicatures. The seven main characters employed the Conversational Implicatures for nineteen functions: sarcasm, irony, confirmation, guessing, clarifying, expressing dissatisfaction, politeness, conviction, indirect answers, disagreements, indirect statements, indirect questions, and requests, emphasizing, avoiding embarrassment, telling lies, changing the topic of the conversation, distracting the listeners from the topic of discussion, and distracting the third party from the current discussion. Additionally, it was found that the ways the characters as the speakers conveyed their intended meanings and the ways the others as the listeners recognized the implicatures contained in the dialogues depended on the utterances themselves, the context of the situation, the listeners’ background knowledge and the listeners’ knowledge of the conversational maxims.
A Study of Conversational Implicature in the Harry Potter from the Perspective of the Cooperative Principle
Reading plays a vital role in second and foreign language acquisition because the majority of ESL and EFL learners rely on reading to gain knowledge and open themselves to the literature and culture of the target languages’ societies. Ubukawa and Ishida (2003) pointed out that reading literary works is necessary for EFL learners as a way of exposure to various uses of English. They succeeded in using Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in EFL reading classes to motivate students to learn language and culture.
Due to the widespread success of the Harry Potter series (1997-2007) written by the British author J.K. Rowling, several studies on the series have been conducted in Thailand; for example, ‘An Analysis of Focus and Emphasis Constructions in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’, ‘Harry Potter: An Analysis of Plot and Techniques’, and ‘A study of English Relative Clauses in Children Literature Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’. In addition, as literary works such as the Harry Potter series are popularly used as reading materials in language classrooms, understanding dialogues are fundamental because readers generally receive information and get to know the characters’ intentions through their conversations. Therefore, Conversational Implicature, the notion in pragmatics that can explain the explicit account of how it is possible to mean more than what is actually said, must be employed to define the implied meanings in the dialogues.
Furthermore, Grice’s Conversational Implicature and Cooperative Principle were beneficial for ESL and EFL teaching and learning, as the theories acted as powerful tools for efficient language teaching and learning as well as for explaining implied meanings, and as useful strategies for ESL and EFL learners for inferring accurate intended meanings of language in real life.
In Thailand, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban has been analyzed only in the grammatical aspect of relative clauses, and the efficiency of the book’s Thai translation version. To provide further perspectives to the study of the linguistics of a well-known book, this present study aimed to analyze the Conversational Implicature in the seven main characters’ dialogues of the widely popular full-length English language novel Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Grice’s Cooperative Principle and conversational maxims were employed to examine whether the characters generally observed the conversational maxims in order to make successful communication, and whether, when the maxims were flouted or violated, it was done to achieve specific conversational purposes as the characters saw fit according to the situations.
The research findings on the pragmatic analysis of the selected fiction Harry Potter will assist the reading and understanding of the fictional dialogues of EFL and ESL readers for literary works appreciation. Besides, the research findings will help give rise to the use of literary works as a means to teach discourse and practical skills for EFL learners who lack opportunities to acquire direct access to honing their English discourse and pragmatic skills in their daily life. Furthermore, the study attempts to apply pragmatic theories to explain the Conversational Implicatures of fictional dialogues. By identifying and analyzing the Conversational Implicatures, EFL, and ESL readers and learners can learn how to interpret implied meanings in conversations using fictional dialogues as their conversational models.
- What were the conversational implicatures contained within the 30 selected dialogues of the seven main characters in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter?
- How and why did the seven main characters flout or violate the conversational maxims to achieve their conversational purposes?
Scope of the Study
- Thirty dialogues reflecting the flouting and violation of the conversational maxims produced by the seven main characters: Harry Potter, Ronald Weasley, Hermione Granger, Albus Dumbledore, Remus Lupin, Sirius Black and Peter Pettigrew in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter, published by Bloombury in 1999, were selected for this study.
- Grice’s theory of Cooperative Principle was used as a research framework in identifying and analyzing the Conversational Implicatures in the thirty selected fictional dialogues.
The subject in the study is thirty dialogues reflecting the flouting and the violation of the conversational maxims among the seven main characters: Harry Potter, Ronald Weasley, Hermione Granger, Albus Dumbledore, Remus Lupin, Sirius Black, and Peter Pettigrew in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban published by Bloombury in 1999.
Grice’s Cooperative Principle and conversational maxims were employed to identify and analyze the Conversational Implicatures of the thirty selected fictional dialogues.
The Cooperative Principle
Grice (1975) developed the concept of Implicature and proposed a principle about how people use language. The concept of the Cooperative Principle is expressed as an expected amount of information provided in conversation as the speaker and the listener in a conversation cooperate with each other.
In short, the Cooperative Principle describes how people use language when they communicate. According to the principle, the listener interprets the meanings of the speaker’s utterances by expecting that the speaker is cooperative to avoid misunderstanding and to make successful communication. However, the speaker can be deliberately uncooperative when he/she aims to convey hidden meanings through his/her utterances by flouting the conversational maxims, and when the speaker seeks to tell a lie to the listener by violating the conversational maxims.
Conversational maxims are the four subprinciples underlying the Cooperative Principle, which are, the maxim of quality, the maxim of quantity, the maxim of relation, and the maxim of manner.
The Maxim of Quantity: 1) make your contribution as informative as is required for the current purposes of the exchange, and 2) do not make your contribution more informative than is required.
The Maxim of Quality: 1) do not say what you believe to be false, and 2) do not say that for which you lack adequate evidence.
The Maxim of Relation: make your contributions relevant.
The Maxim of Manner: 1) avoid obscurity, 2) avoid ambiguity, 3) be brief, and 4) be orderly.
Grice stated that the conversational maxims could be employed to explain how people cooperate when they communicate and can be used to identify Conversational Implicature because Conversational Implicature occurs when the conversational maxims are flouted or violated. The paper only studies on verbal irony, and the following examples can illustrate the phenomenon:
Hermione: ‘Stop moving! I know what this is—it’s Devil’s Snare!’
Ron: ‘OH, I’m glad we know what it’s called, that’s a great help.’
Hermione: ‘Shut up, I’m trying to remember how to kill it!’
Hermione: ‘Devil’s Snare, Devil’s Snare…what did Professor Sprout say?—it
likes the dark and the damp—’
Harry: ‘So light a fire!’
Hermione: ‘Yes—of course—but there’s no wood!’
Ron: ‘HAVE YOU GONE MAD? ARE YOU A WITCH OR NOT?’
Hermione: ‘OH, right!’
Harry: ‘Lucky you pay attention in Herbology, Hermione,’
Ron: ‘Yeah, and lucky Harry doesn’t lose his head in a crisis—‘there’s no
(Harry Potter and Sorcerer’s Stone, P277-278)
Research Question One: What were the conversational implicatures contained within the 30 selected dialogues of the seven main characters in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban?
Finding One: The findings revealed that the conversational implicatures derived from flouting and violating the conversational maxims occurred 75 times altogether: 52 utterances flouted the conversational maxims and 23 utterances violated the conversational maxims.
In the 30 selected dialogues, the flouting of the maxim of quality was found at the highest frequency (23 times), followed by the maxim of quantity (15 times), the maxim of manner (10 times), and the maxim of relation (4 times), respectively. Also, the violation of the maxim of quality was found at the highest frequency (10 times), followed by the maxims of relation (6 times), the maxim of manner (5 times), and the maxim of quantity (2 times), respectively.
An example of the analysis and interpretation of flouting and violating the conversational maxims is provided below:
Setting: Harry, Ron, and Hermione were climbing the steps to the Entrance Hall after they finished Potions.
Situation: While they were hurrying up the stairs, Hermione’s bag split. Hermione asked Ron to help carry her school books.
Ron: Why are you carrying all these around with you?
Hermione: You know how many subjects I’m taking. Couldn’t hold these for me, could you?
Ron: But you haven’t got any of these subjects today. It’s only Defence Against the Dark Arts this afternoon.
Hermione: Oh, yes. I hope there’s something good for lunch, I’m starving.
Conversational Implicature: Hermione was not cooperative by flouting the maxim of quality as her question ‘could you?’ did not require any answer. Hermione talked to Ron rhetorically using the question tag to emphasize that she needed his help. Besides, this statement flouted the maxim of manner, because Hermione did not make a direct request to Ron. Even though she needed Ron to help carry her books, Hermione used a rhetorical question tag functioning as an ironic statement instead of projecting direct requests such as ‘Could you give me a hand?’ or ‘Could you help me?’.
In addition, Hermione was uncooperative by violating the maxim of relation. In saying, ‘I hope there’s something good for lunch, I’m starving,’ she changed the topic of conversation from her study to lunch as she did not want Ron to talk about her school subjects. That would involve the question as to how she managed her study time and the fact that she had been given a Time- Tuner by Professor McGonagall. Thus, Hermione switched to the topic of lunch to distract Harry and Ron from any further inquiry about her school subjects.
Research Question Two: How and why did the seven main characters flout or violate the conversational maxims to achieve their conversational purposes?
Finding Two: The findings showed that the ways the characters flouted and violated the conversational maxims to achieve their conversational purposes depended on the context of their situation and background knowledge. The flouting of the maxim of quality, which occurred at the highest frequency, happened when the characters wanted to convey the apparent contrary meanings to the literal meanings of the utterances (such as sarcasm, irony, and metaphor), or to assert the apparent confirmation of the utterances (such as rhetorical questions and hyperbole).
Regarding the flouting of the maxim of quantity, the characters usually provided too much or too little information than was required. The characters flouted the maxim of quantity on purposes for guessing, clarifying, expressing dissatisfaction, politeness, conviction, and indirect answers, avoiding embarrassment and emphasizing.
Moreover, the characters often said something obscure, ambiguous, brief, and unorganized to flout the maxim of the manner to express disagreements, indirect statements, and indirect requests as well as in an attempt to exclude the third party from a conversation. The flouting of the maxim of manner reflected the unwillingness of the characters to deliver a straightforward message. Although the characters believed that their brief utterances were clear enough, the brief utterances could be unclear and ambiguous for the listeners.
Also, some utterances were irrelevant because their literal meaning did not correspond to the context. These utterances flouted the maxim of relation by expressing indirect statements, indirect questions, and sarcasm.
In terms of violation, the maxim of quality was violated the most often by the characters through expressions of insincerity and intentions to give wrong information. They intended to tell lies on purposes for keeping secrets, avoiding embarrassment, and avoiding guilts. The maxim of relation was violated when the characters’ utterances were irrelevant to the current topic of the conversation to distract the listeners from that particular topic. Furthermore, the characters violated the maxim of the manner by deliberately giving ambiguous utterances. They wanted to convey unclear meanings to the listeners because they did not want the listener to have clear messages of what they had said.
Lastly, the maxim of quantity was violated when the characters gave too much or too little information on the topic of the conversation. It was because they did not want the listeners to know all the information.
This study has shown that the application of Grice’s cooperative principle and conversational maxims to identify conversational implicatures could help raise awareness of employing genuine language materials in language classrooms.
For further studies, data should be collected from other fictional sources, for example, novels and plays. Moreover, other pragmatic theories, such as neo-Grice theory and relevance theory, which could be applied to the analysis, should be employed.
Additionally, the use of idioms is one of the aspects that could be considered. The correlation between the characters’ speaking styles and their behavioral characteristics, as well as the correlation between the characters’ speaking styles and their cultures, are other aspects that should be considered for further studies. Further studies on other pragmatic theories and literary aspects would be interesting as they could enhance the use of literature in language teaching. They could be applied to improve ESL and EFL learners’ pragmatic skills.
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