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VIETNAM NATIONAL UNIVERSITY, HANOI
UNIVERSITY OF LANGUAGES AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES
FACULTY OF POST-GRADUATE STUDIES

BÙI THỊ THU TRANG

A STUDY ON THE VIOLATION OF CONVERSATIONAL MAXIMS
IN DECEPTION USED BY CHARACTERS IN SOME EPISODES OF
“DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES”

NGHIÊN CỨU VỀ VI PHẠM NGUYÊN TẮC HỘI THOẠI
NHẰM CHE GIẤU SỰ THẬT CỦA CÁC NHÂN VẬT THÔNG QUA
MỘT SỐ TẬP PHIM “NHỮNG BÀ NỘI TRỢ KIỂU MỸ”

M.A. Minor Thesis

Field: English linguistics
Code: 60220201

HANOI - 2017



VIETNAM NATIONAL UNIVERSITY, HANOI
UNIVERSITY OF LANGUAGES AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES
FACULTY OF POST-GRADUATE STUDIES

BÙI THỊ THU TRANG

A STUDY ON THE VIOLATION OF CONVERSATIONAL MAXIMS IN
DECEPTION USED BY CHARACTERS IN SOME EPISODES OF
“DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES”

NGHIÊN CỨU VỀ VI PHẠM NGUYÊN TẮC HỘI THOẠI
NHẰM CHE GIẤU SỰ THẬT CỦA CÁC NHÂN VẬT THÔNG QUA
MỘT SỐ TẬP PHIM “NHỮNG BÀ NỘI TRỢ KIỂU MỸ”

M.A. Minor Thesis

Field: English linguistics
Code: 60220201
Supervisor: Prof. Nguyễn Hòa

HANOI - 2017


CANDIDATE’S STATEMENT
----------*****-------I, the undersigned, hereby certify my authority of the study project report entitled

A STUDY ON THE VIOLATION OF CONVERSATIONAL MAXIMS IN
DECEPTION USED BY CHARACTERS IN SOME EPISODES OF
“DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES”
submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the Master Degree at
University of Languages and International Studies, Vietnam National University,
Hanoi and that this thesis has not been submitted to any degree at any other
universities or institutions. Except where the reference is indicated, no other
person‟s work has been used without due acknowledgement in the text of the thesis.
Hanoi, 2017

Bui Thi Thu Trang

Approved by


SUPERVISOR

Prof. Nguyễn Hòa
Date: ………………

i


ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
On completing this study, I owe a profound indebtedness to many people for
their invaluable help during the conduct of my research.
First of all, I would like to express my greatest gratitude to Prof. Nguyen
Hoa, my supervisor for his useful and critical comments and continual guidance.
My appreciation is also offered to my lecturers and my friends of Postgraduate studies for their valuable lessons and precious helps.
Finally, I would like to express my profound gratitude towards my parents
and my husband for their continual encouragement and immeasurable support.

ii


ABSTRACT
This study aims to explore how American movie series characters violate
Grice‟s conversational maxims by means of rhetorical strategies in their daily
conversation for the purpose of deception. Data were collected from 23 episodes of
Season 6 of “Desperate Housewives”, a famous American movie series. The writer
employed a descriptive qualitative research together with content analysis in
analysing and discussing utterances containing the violation of maxims under the
light of Grice‟s theory of Cooperative Principle.
The findings of this study indicated that for the purpose of deception, mostly
for hiding the truth, all four conversational maxims were violated. Besides, it could
be found that violations of these maxims lead to the usage of rhetorical strategies, in
which the mostly used by the speaker are Understatement, Ellipsis, Repetition,
Topic changed and Overstatement while Rhetorical question, Irony, Ambiguity and
Metaphor are not employed much. Hopefully, this study would contribute to a better
understanding about the realization of conversational maxim violation by means of
rhetorical strategies.

iii


TABLE OF CONTENTS
PART A: INTRODUCTION

1

1. Rationale

1

2. Objective of the Study

2

3. Research Questions

2

4. About “Desperate Housewives”

2

5. Scope of the Study

3

6. Design of the study

4

PART B: DEVELOPMENT

5

CHAPTER 1: THEORETICAL BACKGROUND & LITERATURE REVIEW

5

1.1. Theoretical Background

5

1.1.1. Pragmatics

5

1.1.2.

Grice‟s Theory of Cooperative Principles

7

1.1.3.

Grice‟s Theory of Conversational Maxims

8

1.1.3.1. The Fulfilment of Maxims

8

1.1.3.2. Non-observance of Conversational Maxims

10

1.1.3.2.1. Violating

11

1.1.3.2.2. Flouting

12

1.1.3.2.3. Opting out

14

1.1.3.2.4. Infringing a maxim

14

1.1.3.2.5. Suspending

14

1.1.4. Violation of Conversational Maxims and Rhetorical Strategies

15

1.1.4.1. Characteristics of Conversational Maxims Violation

15

1.1.4.2. Rhetorical Strategies

16

1.1.5. Discussion on Grice‟s Theory

19

1.2. Violation of Conversational Maxims and Deception

20

1.2.1. Definition of Deception

21

1.2.2. Reasons of Deception

21

1.3.

Related Studies

23

iv


CHAPTER 2: METHODOLOGY

27

2.1. Research Hypothesis

27

2.2. Data Source

27

2.3. Research Approach

27

2.4. Data Collection Method

28

2.5. Data Analysis Technique

29

CHAPTER 3: FINDINGS AND DISCUSSION

30

3.1. Realization of Violation of Conversational Maxims

30

3.1.1. Occurrence of Violated Conversational Maxims

30

3.1.2. Distribution of Rhetorical Strategies

32

3.2. Analysis on Situations Which Violate the Conversational Maxims

35

3.2.1. Analysis on Situations Which Violate the Maxim of Quality

35

3.2.2. Analysis on Situations Which Violate the Maxim of Quantity

37

3.2.3. Analysis on Situations Which Violate the Maxim of Manner

39

3.2.4. Analysis on Situations Which Violate the Maxim of Relevance

41

3.3. Discussion

42

PART C: CONCLUSION

43

1. Recapitulation

43

1.1.

Occurrence of Violated Conversational Maxims

43

1.2.

Realization of Rhetorical strategies

43

2. Conclusion

45

3. Implications

45

4. Limitations and Suggestion for Further Research

46

REFERENCES

47

v


LIST OF TABLES AND CHARTS
List of tables

Page

Table 1

Differences between Flouting and Violating Maxims

13

Table 2

Characteristics of Conversational Maxims Violation

15

Table 3
Table 4
Table 5

Violation of Conversational Maxims and Rhetorical
Strategies
Relation of Violated Maxims and Their Reasons
Distribution of Rhetorical Strategies in Violation of
Conversational Maxims
List of charts

28
31
34
Page

Chart 1

Percentage of Violation of Conversational Maxims

30

Chart 2

Percentage of Rhetorical Strategies

33

vi


PART A: INTRODUCTION
1. Rationale
In a conversation, a speaker and a hearer are supposed to respond to each other in
their turn and exchange with the needed information that benefits both of them
(Crowley & Mitchell, 1994, p.140). The speaker and the hearer are said to have
fulfilled the Cooperative Principle (CP) when they manage to achieve a successful
conversation. According to Grice (1975, p. 45), the CP which consists of four
maxims are the suggested principles for the speaker and the hearer to show their
cooperation by giving appropriate contribution in their conversation. Despite Grice's
claims of ideal exchange, he suggests that there are cases when these rules may be
violated. Speakers who violate a maxim cause the hearer not to know the truth and
only understand the surface meaning of the speaker‟s words.
For some purposes, people tend to use deception. In connection with the CP,
deception occurs when people act like they are following the rules of the CP, while
trying to secretly break them. The violation of Grice‟s conversational maxims can
perform different functions such as creating humour or telling lies. This study draws
on a pragmatics approach in which deception is considered as one of the products of
violating Grice‟s conversational maxims.
The violations for deception are well pictured in an American movie series on
television entitled “Desperate Housewives”. The show followed the lives of a
group of women as seen through the eyes of a dead neighbour. They worked
through domestic struggles and family life, facing the secrets, crimes and mysteries.
In their lives, they often deceive each other for different purposes.
For all reasons above, in analysing the scripts of the “Desperate Housewives” from
episode 1 to episode 23 - the whole Season 6, this study aims to unpack the
relationship between deception and the violation of Grice‟s conversational maxims
and to discover what violation of maxims occurs for the purpose of deception and
how the violation of conversational maxims is realized by rhetorical strategies.
1


2. Objective of the Study
Based on the CP, it could be seen that people are naturally directed towards
cooperation. In other words, the CP describes best practices in a conversation in
order to facilitate the process of conversation to be smoother for both the listener
and the speaker. It suggests that a communication can be a failure when maxims are
broken. Nevertheless, in reality, sometimes the purpose of the interlocutors is to fail
the conversation, or to miscommunicate. People could frequently disobey these
maxims in order to achieve certain purposes. In this case, whether the
communication will always breakdown? Thus, this study is carried out specifically
to aims at investigating how the CP really plays out in a specific social context.
3. Research Questions
In accordance with this aim, the research is conducted to find out answers to the
following research questions:
1. What violation of conversational maxims occurs for the purpose of deception
in Desperate Housewives from Episode 1 to Episode 23, Season 6?
2. How is the violation of conversational maxims realized by rhetorical
strategies of characters for the purpose of deception in Desperate
Housewives from Episode 1 to Episode 23, Season 6?
4. About “Desperate Housewives”
For many purposes, many people tend to make deception and violate Grice‟s
Conversational maxims (1975, p. 45) when they communicate. This is apparent in
an American movie series on television entitled “Desperate Housewives”. It is an
interesting film since it combines elements of drama, comedy, mystery, thriller,
farce, soap opera and satire (Desperate Housewives, n.d.). “Desperate Housewives”
was aired for eight seasons on ABC, from October 3, 2004 to May 13, 2012. This
film was well received by both viewers and critics. It won multiple Primetime

2


Emmy, Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Awards and was rated amongst the
top 10 most watched series.
Set on Wisteria Lane, a street in the fictional town of Fairview in the fictional Eagle
State, “Desperate Housewives” follows the lives of a group of women as seen
through the eyes of their late friend and neighbour who committed suicide. The
main characters are four attractive middle-aged women:
 Bree Van de Camp, the perfect housewife and mother who wants everything
under control;
 Lynette Scavo, the mother of four children who had a bright career in the
past;
 Susan Mayer, the single mother who always messes up and depends on her
daughter for everything;
 Gabrielle Solis, an ex-model who dislikes the suburbs and misses the bustle
life of the city.
The women work through domestic struggles and family life, while facing the
secrets, crimes and mysteries hidden behind the doors of their beautiful and
seemingly perfect suburban neighborhood.
5. Scope of the Study
In terms of non-observances of maxims of Grice‟s CP, since it is so broad, this
study only focuses on the art of violating Grice‟s conversational maxims to create
verbal deception.
Furthermore,

the

data

are

only

collected

from

scripts

of

“Desperate Housewives” in the Season 6, from episode 1 to episode 23. This
season is chosen because a great deal of problems, conflicts and deception
happening among the characters appear.
Besides, in the scope of this study, body language, facial expression and

3


intonation of characters in “Desperate Housewives” which may have some effects
on generating deception will not be discussed. This research only focuses on
verbal utterances with linguistics hints.
6. Design of the study
The study is designed with three chapters:
Chapter 1:
Theoretical Background: to provide the background of the study, including
definition of key concepts, theories and review of related studies.
Chapter 2:
Methodology: to describe data collection procedure and data analysing methods.
Chapter 3:
Findings and Discussion: to present, analyse and discuss the findings in order to
answer the research questions.

4


PART B: DEVELOPMENT
CHAPTER 1: THEORETICAL BACKGROUND & LITERATURE REVIEW
This study focuses on the violations of the conversational maxims based on Grice‟s
theory of Cooperative Principle (1975) for the basis of analysis. The first part of this
chapter will provide a theoretical background for this study including the notion of
Pragmatics, Grice‟s Theory of Cooperative Principle and Conversational Maxims.
The second part will shed a light on the definition of deception and the underlying
reasons of deception. The last part is some review of related studies in the similar
topic.
1.1. Theoretical Background
1.1.1. Pragmatics
Human interaction, especially conversation, has been the focus of many researchers.
However, conversation as one of the means of human communication is not always
smooth and the goals to find out how humans manage to communicate has been
existed for a long time. This issue became one of the main goals of pragmatics.
Coming to this point, it is necessary to define what pragmatics is about. According
to Aitchison (2003:104), pragmatics is the branch of linguistics which studies how
speakers use language to achieve their goals and how hearers interpret the meaning
the speaker wishes to convey. In his idea, a conversation depends not only on the
speaker, who is trying to deliver a message, but also on the hearer, who draws a
conclusion from the implication of the utterance, depending on the context in which
it occurs. In contrast to syntax and semantics, pragmatics focuses on human
cooperation and knowledge instead of on linguistic meaning and structure only.
While semantics severally concentrates on the literal meaning of an expression, it
does not consider the context in which it is expressed (Cutting, 2002). Maria (2015)
stated that pragmatics is the study of the relation between the structure of a semiotic
system and its usage in context. Pragmatics is concerned with implicit meaning,
with inference and the unsaid, and the way in which language structure trades on
5


this background of the presumed and the inferred (Thomas 1995:2-8). Sharing the
same idea, Yule (1985) explained pragmatics as a branch of language that focuses
on how participants interpret what they mean. Meaning in pragmatics has a central
role in communication which occurs in social organization; therefore, pragmatics
takes into consideration both the study of meaning and parts of linguistics which
connect language with social, psychological and philosophical aspects of
linguistics.
According to Levinson (1983), one possible definition of pragmatics is "Pragmatics
is the study of deixis, implicature, presupposition, speech acts, and aspects of
discourse structure" (p. 27). Aitchison (1995) emphasizes that in a narrow sense,
pragmatics investigates how listeners get the intended meaning of the speakers,
whereas in a broader sense, it concerns with certain principles followed by
interlocutors when communicating with each other.
H. Paul Grice, a British philosopher of language, made a direct contribution to
pragmatics thorough his famous theory of implicature. Grice (1975) proposes that
conversation is based on a shared principle of cooperation, and his work on the
Cooperative Principle (CP) led to the development of pragmatics as a distinct
discipline within linguistics. Since the major aim of communication in pragmatics is
to give and receive information, people try to adopt a cooperative behavior to
convey their intentions and transfer their utterances implicitly. In this regard, Grice
(1975) points out that communication acts depend on the CP and interlocutors try to
be cooperative with each other in most of the conversational exchanges, and
proposes some principles in order to account for the cooperative behavior of
participants in their conversations.
As for the purpose of this thesis, before coming to focus on the way in which
deception is created with regard to Grice‟s CP, it is important to elaborate on these
theories in order to understand how these principles work and how it is used to
create deception in conversation.

6


1.1.2. Grice’s Theory of Cooperative Principles
H. Paul Grice, the British philosopher, undertook an investigation of how the way
people behave in conversation in the 1960s. In order to have a coherent
conversation, he assumed that all of conversationalists must accept and understand
the meaning of the conversation that is intended necessarily. The main points of the
CP were formulated by Grice in the lectures at Harvard in 1967 and published in his
essay "Logic and Conversation" (1975): "Make your conversational contribution
such as it is required, at the stage at which it occurs, by the accepted purpose or
direction of the talk exchange in which you are engaged" (p. 45). Put more simply,
the CP attempts to make explicit certain rational principles observed by people
when they converse. Grice claims that human beings communicate with each other
in a logical and rational way, and cooperation is embedded into people‟s
conversations. Furthermore he argues that this habit will never be lost because it has
been learned during the childhood. Here, the point is that audience listener
understands the implication of a speaker‟s remarks by drawing on an assumption of
cooperativeness, contextual information and background knowledge.
In his William James Lectures at Harvard and Oxford Universities in 1967, Grice
explicates the CP and he pays attention in order to limit the use of it for describing
talk exchanges presenting the following features: "The participants have some
common immediate aim, the contributions of the participants are dovetailed,
mutually dependent; there is some sort of understanding that, other things being
equal, the transactions should continue in appropriate style unless both parties are
agreeable that it should terminate" (Grice, 1989: 31). Grice (1989, 29) considers
that “Our talk exchanges … are characteristically, to some degree at least,
cooperative efforts and each participant recognize in them … a common purpose or
set of purposes, or at least a mutually accepted direction”. According to Finegan
(2007:287), people in most situations make efforts to understand their utterances,
and be able to cooperate properly in conversation. The reason is that, without cause

7


to expect otherwise, interlocutors normally trust that they and their conversational
partners are accepting the same interpretive conventions.
To sum up, the CP specifies what participants have to do in order to converse in a
maximally efficient, natural, co-operative ways they should speak sincerely,
relevantly and clearly, while providing sufficient information (Levinson, 1983:
102).
In an attempt to describe how the CP works, Grice formulated guidelines for the
efficient and effective use of language in conversation. These guidelines are known
as the four maxims of conversation: the Maxim of Quality, the Maxim of Quantity,
the Maxim of Relevance and the Maxim of Manner (Grice, 1975, p. 45).
1.1.3. Grice’s Theory of Conversational Maxims
In Grice‟s CP, each of four conversational maxims has different uses in giving
contribution to success of communication. Thanks to Grice‟s maxims, we can
interpret and understand the underlying implication of an utterance (Thomas
1995:63).
1.1.3.1. The Fulfilment of Maxims
To make the conversation successful, the speakers should obey the four maxims
which Grice argues when participants follow certain rules and patterns in their
conversations, they are expected to make their utterances informative and relevant.
 Maxim of Quantity
 Super- maxim: Be informative
 Sub-maxims:
1. Make your contribution as informative as required (for the current
purposes of the conversation).
2. Do not make your contribution more informative than is required.
The Maxim of Quantity is a matter of providing the receiver with the right amount
of information. Levinson (1983) in his summary of the maxims of the CP wrote
8


"while providing sufficient information" (p.102), which could be understood as
"providing enough information". In other words, the participants should not make
their contribution more or less informative, because the communication between the
addressers and the addressors will be misunderstanding. The following example
shows that B fulfills the maxim of Quantity.
A: What did you have for breakfast today?
B: I had noodles.

A asked B about what kind of food that B ate in breakfast and B provided enough
information for B‟s enquiry.
 Maxim of Quality
 Super-maxim: Be truthful.
 Sub-maxims:
1. Do not say what you believe to be false.
2. Do not say that for which you lack adequate evidence.
This maxim describes what Levinson (1983) called to speak "sincerely" (p.102). In
Grice‟s (1975) words: "try to make your contribution one that is true" (p. 46). To
put it in other words, the maxim of Quality requires the speaker to provide the right
information which requires the information given is genuine and justified, for
example:
A: Where the director is?
B: She is at her office as I just met her.

In the example above, B provided the truth that B just met the director so the
information corresponded to A‟s question is true and has adequate evidence.
 Maxim of Relevance
The maxim of relation requires the speaker to make his contribution relevant (Grice,
1975, p. 46). It means that the communication messages should be matched and
related to what has gone before. Below is example of maxim of Relevance.

9


A: Where‟s my box of chocolates?
B: It‟s in your room.

(Leech, 1983)
A asked about „where‟, and B answered about the place that is „your room‟. So, B‟s
answer matches A‟s question.
 Maxim of Manner
 Super- maxim: Be perspicuous.
 Sub-maxims:
1. avoid obscurity
2. avoid ambiguity
3. be brief
4. be orderly
This maxim is concerned with the way in which something is said. It implies that
the participants have to be perspicuous and to avoid obscurity of expression,
ambiguity, and unnecessary direction. The utterance of the participant produced
should be brief and orderly.
A: Where was Alfred yesterday?
B: Alfred went to the store and bought some whisky.

(Levinson, 1983, p. 108)
B obeyed the maxim of Manner since he/she gave a clear explanation where Alfred
was.
From the above analysis, it can be seen that the theory of maxims can give benefit
for the speakers and the addressees who are obeying the instruction of the CP.
1.1.3.2. Non-observance of Conversational Maxims
Any failing to observe a maxim may be referred to as “breaking a maxim”.
According to Grundy (1995:41), breaking a maxim “is the prototypical way of
conveying implicit meaning”. When a speaker breaks a maxim, the hearer looks for
the implicature since s/he assumes the CP to be in operation. Grice discussed five
types of not observing a maxim consisting of flouting, violating, opting out,

10


infringing a maxim and suspending. As this study focuses on the violations of
conversational maxims, a detailed analysis about violation will be presented
together with the brief introduction about the other four types.
1.1.3.2.1. Violating
 Violating Maxim of Quality
The maxim of Quality is a matter of giving the right information. The speaker says
nothing that s/he knows to be false or for which s/he lacks sufficient evidence
(Thomas 1995:67).
If a speaker violates maxim of Quality, s/he is not being sincere and giving the
hearer the wrong information, for example:
A: How much did that new dress cost, darling?
B: (see the tag-50 pounds, but says…) Thirty-five pounds.

(Cutting, 2002, p. 40)
 Violating Maxim of Quantity
The first sub-maxim, which requires the speaker to provide the hearer with enough
information, seems to be violated more often than the second sub-maxim of
Quantity. The characters tend to violate this maxim when they do not want to reveal
certain information and try to use it as an escape from uncomfortable situations.
The following example is a conversation between two friends John and Mike:
John: Where have you been? I searched everywhere for you during the past
three months!
Mike: I wasn‟t around. So, what‟s the big deal?

John poses a question, which he needs to be answered by Mike. What Mike says in
return does not lack the truth, however is still insufficient. Therefore, he violated
Quantity maxim (Khosravizadeh & Sadehvandi, 2011:123).
 Violating Maxim of Relevance

11


The maxim of Relevance requires the speaker to be relevant to the context and
situation in which the utterance occurs. For instance, a speaker should not say “I am
on the phone” when someone asks if s/he wants dinner. Here the utterance meaning
is irrelevant and the speaker fails to observe the maxim (Thomas 1995:70).
 Violating Maxim of Manner
The maxim of Manner is a matter of being clear and orderly when conversing. The
speaker describes things in the order in which they occurred and avoids ambiguity
and obscurity (Thomas 1995:64).
In another situation, in answering the question: “How much did that new dress cost,
darling?” the wife could also have violated the maxim of Manner by saying: “A
tiny fraction of my salary, though probably a bigger fraction of the salary of the
woman that sold it to me” (Cutting, 2002, p. 40).
1.1.3.2.2. Flouting
When flouting a maxim, the speaker does not intend to mislead the hearer but wants
the hearer to look for the conversational implicature, that is, the meaning of the
utterance not directly stated in the words uttered. Therefore, when the speaker
intentionally fails to observe a maxim, the purpose may be to effectively
communicate a message (Thomas 1995:65).
Since the concept of Flouting and Violating is sometimes hard to distinguish, it is
necessary to differentiate these two types of maxim non-observance. In contrast to
flouting, when violating a maxim the speaker intends to mislead the hearer. The
speaker speaks the truth but implies what is false (Thomas 1995:72). Violation is
defined as the "quiet" non-observance of a maxim. According to Grice (1975: 49), a
speaker who violates a maxim "will be liable to mislead". Violating a maxim
prevents or discourages the hearer from seeking for implicatures and encourages
taking utterances at face value. Finch (2000:160) also explains that violations are
different from flouting in which violating a maxim involves some elements of
communication failure: providing too little or too much details being irrelevant or
12


too vague. Concerning the process of flouting, Kempson (1977:70) states that the
norms of conversation are deliberately broken in such a way that the speaker knows
and intends that the hearer shall recognize that a maxim has been broken.
Adapted from Marina (2013) and Levinson (1983), the table below makes a
comparison between flouting maxims and violating maxims with some illustrations.
Table 1:
Differences between Flouting and Violating Maxims
Flouting
Quantity
Maxim

Violating

The speaker gives too much or too The speaker does not provide the
little information.

hearer sufficient information.

The speaker says something that does The speaker is not honest and
not represent what he / she thinks

provides wrong information.

Situation: Its finals week and you have 2

Situation: You are chewing gum in class

Quality

finals all due by Friday and you haven't

and are about to get caught so you take it

Maxim

started. Your friend knows this and asks:

out and stick it to the desk.

Friend: How's the work coming?

Teacher: Were you chewing gum in class?

You: Oh, great. I'm all over it.

Student: No.

In answering, you assume they know this.

It involves the absence of clarity and The
transparency

of

says

everything

communicative excepting what the hearer desires to

intentions.

recognize.

E.g.:

Manner

Wife: Darling….. What‟s the story with that

Maxim

new

watch

speaker

on

your

wrist?

Husband: Oh, this watch you‟re talking
about! I knew it… I told my boss that my wife
would be curious when she sees it. Oh, honey
you have no idea how much they„re satisfied
with my performance, lately!

13


Flouting

Violating

It occurs when the response is The speaker endeavours to change
obviously irrelevant to the topic the discussion subject or to deflect
(quick change of topic, overt failure the hearer.
Relevance
Maxim

to address interlocutor‟s purpose in E.g.:
asking a question).

Sarah: Did you enjoy the party last night?
Anna: There was plenty of oriental food on
the table, lots of flowers all over the place,
people hanging around chatting with each
other…

1.1.3.2.3. Opting out
When opting out of a maxim, the speaker is unwilling to cooperate and reveal
more than s/he already has. The speaker chooses not to observe the maxim and
states an unwillingness to do so (Thomas 1995:74).
Context: A doctor who has complete confidentiality regarding his/her patients, is
asked by the police or the press to reveal something about the patient that s/he is
treating, he/she will reply: I am sorry but I can‟t tell you anything.

1.1.3.2.4. Infringing a maxim
When the speaker infringes a maxim, s/he unintentionally deceives or fails to
observe the maxim. The speaker does this with no intention of generating an
implicature (Thomas, 1995:74). Infringing occurs when the speaker does not know
the culture or does not master the language well enough, as when s/he is incapable
of speaking clearly (Mooney 2004:910; Thomas 1995:74), for example:
Japanese customer: Do you have lice?
English seller: What??

The Japanese often pronounces "r" as "l" so he says "lice" instead of "rice", thus
infringing the maxim and causing misunderstandings.
1.1.3.2.5. Suspending
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When one suspends a maxim, it is understood that what is said is not completely
true or that there are things the speaker ought not to say, for example taboo words.
It may be due to cultural differences that a speaker suspends a maxim or to the
nature of certain events or situations (Thomas 1995:77).
Context: The speaker is the daughter of a murdered man and she is talking to an
officer of the Navajo Tribal police:
“Last time you were with that FBI man – asking about the one who got killed,”
she said, respecting the Navajo taboo of not speaking name of the dead. “You
found out who killed that man?” (Thomas 1995:76)

In this case the woman is not observing the maxim of Quantity, since she is
speaking in vague words about the man who got killed, despite the fact that she
knows him very well.
1.1.4. Violation of Conversational Maxims and Rhetorical Strategies
1.1.4.1. Characteristics of Conversational Maxims Violation
The CP is principles of cooperation in any utterance or conversation which have to
be obeyed and fulfilled by the speakers to achieve an effective communication.
However, in a real conversation, there is a tendency that the speaker does not follow
the CP. The reason is that the speaker has certain goals or certain reasons. This
research attempts to analyse the choice of a communication language in accordance
with four conversational maxims. The study of linguistic pragmatics has been
specifically devoted to how people use and understand language in context, with
many scholars seeking to explain speakers‟ particular choice of words in dialogs.
The purpose in this study is to set up the norms in communication in which the
speakers violate the conversational maxims. The norms are built upon Grice's
analogies which "are relevant to what he regards as a fundamental question about
the CP and its attendant maxims" (Grice 47). Characteristics of maxim violation
were set up based on the CP suggested by Grice (1975, p. 45).
Table 2:
Characteristics of Conversational Maxims Violation

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Maxim

Violating
• If the speaker does circumlocution or not to the point
• If the speaker is uninformative

Quantity

• If the speaker talks too short
• If the speaker talks too much
• If the speaker repeats certain words
• If the speaker lies or says something that is believed to be
false

Quality

• If the speaker does irony or makes ironic and sarcastic
statement
• If the speaker denies something
• If the speaker distorts information
• If the speaker makes the conversation unmatched with the topic
• If the speaker changes conversation topic abruptly

Relevance

• If the speaker avoids talking about something
• If the speaker hides something or hides a fact
• If the speaker does the wrong causality
• If the speaker uses ambiguous language
• If the speaker exaggerates thing

Manner

• If the speaker uses slang in front of people who do not understand it
• If the speaker‟s voice is not loud enough

1.1.4.2. Rhetorical Strategies
Guinn and Marder (1987: 1) states that seeking agreement may be human nature. To
achieve agreement in communication, the speaker shall establish the common
ground with the audience or the hearer. In order to do this, the speaker uses words
that the audience or the readers will understand. This kind of words is called
rhetoric. Thus, rhetoric is the verbal means of seeking agreement with others.

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Rhetorical strategy is a major strategy the speaker uses to bring the reader into
agreement.
Turing back to the scope of this thesis, the conversational maxims are violated
usually by means of indirect and contradictory utterances, of figures of speech such
as irony, metaphor, understatement or litotes, hyperbole or overstatement, rhetorical
question, and tautology. These kinds of communication strategy are called
rhetorical strategies (Hartanto, 2013). Grundy (2000: 76) proposes that there are six
rhetorical strategies that violate Grice‟s maxims. According to Brown and Levinson
(1978:220-233), violation of conversational maxims can result in understatement,
overstatement,

tautology/repetition,

irony,

metaphor,

rhetorical

questions,

ambiguity and ellipsis.
 Tautology:
According to Yule (1996: 35), tautology is an apparently meaningless expression in
which one word is defined as itself. In simple words, it is expressing the same thing,
an idea or saying two or more times.
For instance: This is a short summary of...

Its use sometimes is just a needless repetition. Therefore, tautology is often
confused with repetition. While repetition is a literary device that repeats the same
words or phrases a few times, tautology is the repetition not of words but of ideas.
Though there is no clear distinction between these two figures of speech, in this
thesis, if speaker uses the same words then it is regarded as repetition and if speaker
uses words with similar meanings then it is tautology.
 Metaphor:
Guinn and Marder (1987: 35) state that a metaphor is a figure of speech which
makes an implicit, implied or hidden comparison between two things that are
unrelated but share some common characteristics. In other words, a resemblance of

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