• Pragmatic Language

    You have invited your friend over for dinner. Your child sees your friend reach for some cookies and says, "Better not take those, or you'll get even bigger." You're embarrassed that your child could speak so rudely. However, you should consider that your child may may not know how to use language appropriately in social situations and did not mean harm by the comment.

    An individual may say words clearly and use long, complex sentences with correct grammar, but still have a communication problem - if he or she has not mastered the rules for social language known as pragmatics . Adults may also have difficulty with pragmatics, for example, as a result of a brain injury or stroke.

    Pragmatics involve three major communication skills:

    • Using language for different purposes, such as
      • greeting (e.g., hello, goodbye)
      • informing (e.g., I'm going to get a cookie)
      • demanding (e.g., Give me a cookie)
      • promising (e.g., I'm going to get you a cookie)
      • requesting (e.g., I would like a cookie, please)
    • Changing language according to the needs of a listener or situation, such as
      • talking differently to a baby than to an adult
      • giving background information to an unfamiliar listener
      • speaking differently in a classroom than on a playground
    • Following rules for conversations and storytelling, such as
      • taking turns in conversation
      • introducing topics of conversation
      • staying on topic
      • rephrasing when misunderstood
      • how to use verbal and nonverbal signals
      • how close to stand to someone when speaking
      • how to use facial expressions and eye contact

    An individual with pragmatic problems may:

    • say inappropriate or unrelated things during conversations
    • tell stories in a disorganized way
    • have little variety in language use

Last Modified on January 5, 2011