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Academic Year: Fall/Winter 2013/2014

Term: 1

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Michael Kliffer


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 521

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23748


Office Hours: Mon, Wed 2:30-3:20

Course Objectives:

Structural linguistics, with its division into phonology, morphology, syntax and semantics, is limited to the code, (alias 'grammar' or 'system') where the outer social and physical world is of little or no importance.  Moreover, the maximum domain of the four divisions is usually taken to be the sentence.  This course will look at phenomena where the boundary between code and context is ill-defined, where social and situational factors interact with grammar, and where the highest unit is the text or discourse rather than the sentence.  Pragmatics, the study of such interactions, is presently an area of concentrated research on the part of syntacticians, semanticists, logicians, and socio-linguists.  The course will introduce students to major pragmatic concepts, including presupposition, speech acts, implicature and relevance theory. By focusing on the gulf between the literal content and the speaker's inferred intention, it will also increase their awareness and understanding of manipulative messages.


Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Thomas, Jenny. 1995. Meaning in Interaction: an Introduction to Pragmatics. New York: Longman.
Course Pack, available at The Print Factory/Copies Plus, 9 Sterling Street. (You can buy a copy at the first class.)


Method of Assessment:

Log     (to be turned in by noon on Dec. 6)                  15%
2 Quizzes (weeks of Sept. 27, Nov. 8)                        20%
Midterm (week of Oct. 18)                                         25%
Final exam (take-home, deadline is noon, Dec. 12)     40%

The final exam is to be delivered to the French Dept. Office, TSH-532. You will lose 5% of the mark per day (weekends will count as one day) for submitting work late. Late penalties will not be waived unless your Faculty/Program Office advises the instructor that you have submitted to that office the appropriate documentation to support your inability to turn in the work by the due date.


Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

This is a self-reporting tool for undergraduate students to report absences DUE TO MINOR MEDICAL SITUATIONS that last up to 5 days and provides the ability to request accommodation for any missed academic work. Please note, this tool cannot be used during any final examination period. You may submit a maximum of 1 Academic Work Missed request per term. It is YOUR responsibility to follow up with your Instructor immediately (NORMALLY WITHIN TWO WORKING DAYS) regarding the nature of the accommodation. If you are absent for reasons other than medical reasons, for more than 5 days, or exceed 1 request per term, you MUST visit your Associate Dean's Office/Faculty Office). You may be required to provide supporting documentation. This form should be filled out immediately when you are about to return to class after your absence.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

Week of


5    Sep










7 Oct








4 Nov








2 Dec


Introduction: Thomas, Ch. 1, What is pragmatics?


Mey, 3-17; Thomas, Ch. 2, Speech Acts; Ch. 4, 93-95


Presupposition: Green, Ch. 4, 72-86


Quiz. Thomas, Ch. 3, Conversational Implicature  


Implicature (cont=d); Thomas, Chapter 4, 87-93


Metaphor: Levinson, 147-162


Midterm. Irony: Sperber & Wilson 1981


Relevance Theory:  Blakemore 1992; Sperber & Wilson 2004


Relevance Theory (cont=d) (No class Nov. 1)


Pragmatics and Syntax: Green, Ch. 6, 133-145


Quiz. Pragmatics and Syntax (cont=d)


Anaphora and Deixis: Green, Ch. 2, 17-27; Goddard, 203-211


Thomas, Ch. 6, Theories of Politeness


Preparation for take-home final

Other Course Information:


The course will alternate between lecture and tutorial format.  The lectures will be accompanied by Powerpoint slides, downloadable at least 2 hours before class from After a lecture introducing each assignment, the students will be expected to do the reading and answer homework questions on it, which will be taken up in the following class.  Each student will also compile a log of examples, preferably ones actually heard or read. For each example you should briefly indicate where you learned of it (or if you made it up) and how it illustrates, calls into question, or contradicts a concept introduced in class or the readings. The log will be turned in at the end of classes but you should provide at least one example for each class and be prepared to volunteer that example for discussion purposes.