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Linguistic Pragmatics

François Cooren

Subject Linguistics
Communication Studies » Language and Social Interaction

People James, William

Key-Topics language

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x


The origin of linguistic pragmatics as a discipline can be traced back to an article titled “How to make our ideas clear,” written by Charles Sanders Peirce in 1878. In this essay, the founder of semiotics, the science of signs, presented a general principle of inquiry, which was later identified by William James as the first formulation of “pragmatism.” Although Peirce did not use the term per se in his original piece, it is in this essay that he presented the thesis according to which the meaning of a concept or statement is to be found in all its possible practical bearings. Although this thesis had a tremendous influence on key philosophers such as William James or John Dewey, creating as a result the American philosophical movement called “pragmatism,” the influence that is of interest to us regarding its linguistic dimension is the one it exerted on Charles W. Morris (1901–1979). Morris proposed three ways of studying signs: syntactic studies, which analyze the relation between a sign and other signs; semantic studies, which investigate the relation between a sign and what it is supposed to refer to; and pragmatic studies, which examine the relation between a sign and its users/interpreters. While Morris's reflection was devoted to the functioning of signs in general, Rudolf Carnap started to use this trichotomy to speak of the different manners of studying natural languages, ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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