[lit-ideas] Griceian Mutual Intelligibilities

  • From: "" <dmarc-noreply@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> (Redacted sender "Jlsperanza" for DMARC)
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  • Date: Wed, 18 Nov 2015 05:38:31 -0500

I loved Sherrie's post where she mentions the breaking of all Grice Maxims!

My invoking Geary was ironic in that I trust him to be provocative in the
right way!

Sherrie's posts reminds me of this brilliant essay -- interlude:

**********INTERLUDE, Honey: Language is Power: the story of Standard
English and its enemies *****
The current liberal orthodoxy in the United Kingdom, the United States, and
elsewhere in the English-speaking world, is against imposing Standard
English on school students. But does this truly protect the underprivileged,
has it inflicted lasting educational damage on a generation of children?
This study argues that Standard English is not merely one variety among
many, but is a much more important and valuable variety than other,
non-standard dialects. The author, who also wrote "Does Accent Matter?",
whether the worldwide teaching of Standard English amounts to "linguistic
imperialism", and examines whether British English will inevitably be
superseded by American English.

Now, Geary's little dialogue with the grammarian I expanded because his
example concerns an interesting beverage: beer, and L. J. Cohen uses an
example about beer, in non-Standard (say, Cockney) English to disproof my
favourite philosopher (yes, Grice!)

i. You won't have no beer here.

Geary's example was slightly different. I approach language and dialect as
a philosopher and as a Griceian philosopher at that; more strictly, I app
roach language and dialect as Grice would!

He possibly never understood his father -- talk of 'mutual

You see, Grice's father was 'old generation' (for Grice, who was old
generation for Grice's son), and the speech he displayed (a long-life
from the Heart of England -- Halborne being VERY AFFLUENT, the modern
equivalent of US. Greenwich in CT!) possibly offended Grice, unless he
On top, Grice's mother was a school teacher, who tend to be 'prescriptive'
in matters of language and dialect.

As it happens, the Grices couldn't afford Grice to go to a preparatory
school so he was educated by his own mother, if that is possible! (I think it
is conceivable: "Grice, get your finger off your nose!", rather than "Son,
get your finger off your nose!").

Breaking Grice Maxims is fun. But Grice is pretty careful. If the breaking
is understood mutually, by A and B, it is a 'flouting', rather as in:

GRICE father (to Grice son): Lovely day for fox hunting, right, son?
[seeing that the weather is foul and Grice father cannot be but ironic).
GRICE son: Yes, sir; foul weather.

Grice Sr is 'breaking' the maxim, "do not say what you believe to be
false", but since he expects his son to realise that, it is a mere flouting --
and it's these floutings that generate the figures of rhetoric (or
'implicatures', as Grice Jr. prefers) such as 'irony' or 'sarcasm'.

Geary's example was different in that he reports a language between someone
who speaks a dialect of English:

A: Please, sir, I don't have no beer.
B: No. You don't have any beer.
A: Right.
B: And until you speak in a manner I can understand you, I won't help you.

(rephrased in a boring way).

B's "no" is meta-linguistic, I trust, in that it corrects not 'what is
said', but HOW what is said is said. And B is lying in that he DOES understand
A -- they are speaking the same lingo, if different dialects, because a
lingo is defined by 'mutual intelligibility'. (Sherrie's 'spadder' example
poses a small problem in that this requirement is not fulfilled initially
until the 'utterer' displays by means other than verbal what he means by

So THESE are *serious* things (for a philosopher).

Language is defined in terms of mutual intelligibility and this
intelligibility has various levels: one is the explicature (what is said);
another is
the implicature (what is implicated). And one has to be careful to include

Honey was criticised in England because the fashion was to teach 'dialect',
and what I thought would be a boring book turned out not so! Honey quotes
from the 1890s -- I treasure one quote from Lancashire, "We wants our kid
to learn the propper English, you know -- not broad Lancashire that he won't
be able to use down in London!"). So Honey is arguing POLITICALLY for
'prescription' in the realm of lingo and dialect. (He thinks language is power
and that by allowing speakers to use their dialects -- rather than the
'standard' (which literally means 'flag') -- the state is fossilising a social
structure that Honey disagrees with.

Trudgill on the other hand is descriptive.

A little anecdote: Grice's favourite student (or 'tutee') was Strawson, and
he recollects that their conversations were so minimal (since they shared
so much common ground -- never mind dialect) that they were totally
UNintelligible to a third party!

Since Geary uses 'correction' and 'grammar', I thought of bringing in
Witters (or Wittgenstein), an author often discussed in this forum, since
Witters is careful to talk of 'depth' grammar, and I don't think he would use
'correct'. Every language and every dialect informs a FORM OF LIFE (as Palma
might testify) and possibly Witters (who spoke perfect Viennese) enjoyed
finding that he could engage in mutual intelligibility with other speakers of



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