Language and Power

Revising Language and Power


The co-operative principle

Grice believed that conversation is a co-operative enterprise where speakers allow certain rules, which are never spelt out, to be understood and used as part of language aquisition and early socialisation.

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Grice's Maxims

Grice believed these rules to be:

  • QUALITY - speakers must tell the truth
  • QUANTITY - speakers must give right amount of imformation
  • RELEANCE - get the the point and stay on the point of conversation
  • MANNER - present material in an orderly way.

related vocabulary:

TACITURN - reluctance/unwillingness to speak

LACONIC - only speak when you've got something good to say

VERBOSE - talking too much

GARRULOS - speaking rubbish

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Lakoff's Politeness Principles

Lakoff belieed that a co-operative conversation required:

  • not imposing
  • giving options
  • making the reciever feel good.
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Breaking the rules

We do flout Lakoff's and Grice's maxims regularly it is a MARKED ACTIVITY i.e. we do it on purpose.

Examples of this are hyperbole, irony, ambiguity, puns and metaphors.

The understanding of the effects we create when we break the rules on purpose is called CONVERSATIONSAL IMPLICATURE.

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What to look out for in texts in relation to power

  • Who has the power?
  • What is the function of the conversation?
  • What is the context?
  • Are there any phatic features?
  • Is anyone asking questions?
  • What do they call each other?
  • Any pauses or signs of hesitance?
  • How politearethey being to one another?
  • Are there any ajacency pairs or three-part exchanges?
  • How polite are they being to one another?
  • Are there any pragmatics?
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Related vocabulary

PHATIC TALK: Small/chatty talk

INTERACTIONAL TALK: Conversational, socialising

TRANSACTIONAL TALK: Wanting to get something

PERFORMATIVE TALK: Does something practical in talk e.g "I do" in wedding ceromony.

BACKCHANNELING: words, phrases or non-verbal soundsused to agree or show you are listening to the speaker/s

TAG QUESTION: Turning a statement into a question to get affirmation e.g. "I like this top, do you?"


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Really helpful! Especially the 'what to look for' revision card!

Jos Martin


Brilliant ! Great information in a great, easily understandable format ! Thanks so much ! Just what I was looking for !



I hate language and power, but that has really helped!



Thats really useful, I've only been taught grice's maxims, not Lakoff's. I've never been taught about interactional talk, transactional talk and performative talk either. I've done some wider reading on it but this is by far the clearest i've found! Thank you :)



Thank you! :D

emma longel


my teacher doesnt actually teach anything, she just presumes we learn through 'mind maps' which really is not effective and doesnt stay in my memory at all.

these notes have helped a lot. my exam is next week, ill let you know how these notes helped. thank you.

Esmee Ashforth



Petar Stermsek


This is amazing. Thank you so much!

Paul Dutton


A really useful revision guide, lots of clear information given.



follow me @Emilyball1234



Emily_ball99 add me on snapchat for nudes and revision notes

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