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Conversational maxims

Grice’s (1975) conversational maxims are a constant in linguistic pragmatics, particularly because they have contributed to explaining communicative or conversational implicatures. These are conclusions from statements which are not part of the literal meaning of linguistic signs; instead, they derive from the use of signs in communication and are based on the common background knowledge of the conversational partners. To date they have not been taken note of in intercultural (business) communication; however, familiarity with them can be of some help. We will discuss the content of the Maxim of Manner - whether someone is speaking directly or indirectly, which volume is suitable, etc. - in another context (cf. Section 4.7). The Maxim of Quality, i.e. the requirement to only make true statements, that is those whose truth can be proven, is valid in most cultures provided lies out of politeness and the like are ignored. The Maxim of Relevance, according to which speakers must remain on topic, is significantly more controversial; digressions are common in the German scholarly style, but they are inappropriate in English. The Maxim of Quantity, that is, the amount of information should be sufficient but not too extensive, is largely unexplored. In the analysis of Russian job-interviews it was shown, for example, that Russian applicants have problems choosing the correct amount of detail, talk too much for many interviewers, and are often not precise enough about the topic (Rathmayr 2013: 317-319). The implementation of the individual maxims has not been researched adequately for individual languages, but, of itself, awareness of the various maxims and their validity stimulates intercultural competence.

 
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