Grice’s Maxims

Maxim of Quality

Be Truthful

  • Do not say what you believe to be false.
  • Do not say that for which you lack adequate evidence.

Maxim of Quantity

Quantity of Information

  • Make your contribution as informative as is required (for the current purposes of the exchange).
  • Do not make your contribution more informative than is required.

Maxim of Relation

Relevance

  • Be relevant.

With respect to this maxim, Grice writes, “Though the maxim itself is terse, its formulation conceals a number of problems that exercise me a good deal: questions about what different kinds and focuses of relevance there may be, how these shift in the course of a talk exchange, how to allow for the fact that subjects of conversations are legitimately changed, and so on. I find the treatment of such questions exceedingly difficult, and I hope to revert to them in later work.” (Grice 1989:27)

Maxim of Manner

Be Clear

  • Avoid obscurity of expression.
  • Avoid ambiguity.
  • Be brief (avoid unnecessary prolixity).
  • Be orderly.
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