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LINGUIST 3P03 Pragmatics

Academic Year: Fall 2016

Term: Fall

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Magda Stroinska


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 501

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 27067


Office Hours: Mon 12:30-1:15; Wed 2:30-3:15

Course Objectives:

Pragmatics is one of the youngest subfields of linguistics, recognized only in the 1960s. It grew out of the feeling that the traditional fields of syntax and semantics did not account for the actual language in use. How is it that we may say one thing but mean something different and the listener is still able to decipher the intended meaning.

This course will look at a variety of phenomena that involve speaker’s meaning, non-literal language use, and other cases where the boundary between linguistic code and situational context is ill-defined. We shall analyse how social and situational factors interact with grammar and see why it makes sense to take the text or discourse as the highest unit of analysis 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. We shall also look at how pragmatic research may shed new light on the communication with and within special groups such as persons with autism or Alzheimer’s disease.



Textbooks, Materials & Fees:


Huang, Yan. 2014. Pragmatics 2nd edition. Oxford University Press.

Avenue to Learn – additional text as well as assignments will be posted on the course website.

Method of Assessment:

The course will have a seminar-like where lectures involve a high degree of interactive discussion. The students will be expected to do the assigned readings from the textbook and will be given a variety of hands-on individual and group assignments. There will be a midterm exam and a final project to be handed in at the end of term.

Marking Scheme:

2 group assignments 2 x 15%           40%

Midterm                                              30%

Final paper                                         30%

Research participation                         2% bonus




Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Penalty for late assignments will be 10% of the total mark within the first 4 days after the deadline. Students who file the MSAF can submit the work within 4 days after the project deadline with no penalty. No MSAF for the midterm will be accepted. Students who miss the midterm exam for documented reasons can write it at an agreed upon time within one week after the original date.



"Students should be aware of the Statement on Academic Ethics included in the Senate Policy Statements booklet which was given to all McMaster students.  Plagiarism and submission of work that is not one's own or for which previous credit has been obtained are examples of academic dishonesty.  Students should go to the Dean of Studies Office (CNH-112) if they require copies of current regulations."

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Integrity

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. It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty.

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. 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:

  • plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  • improper collaboration in group work.
  • copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

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Some courses may use a web-based service ( to reveal authenticity and ownership of student submitted work. For courses using such software, students will be expected to submit their work electronically either directly to or via Avenue to Learn (A2L) plagiarism detection (a service supported by so it can be checked for academic dishonesty.

Students who do not wish to submit their work through A2L and/or must still submit an electronic and/or hardcopy to the instructor. No penalty will be assigned to a student who does not submit work to or A2L. All submitted work is subject to normal verification that standards of academic integrity have been upheld (e.g., on-line search, other software, etc.). To see the Policy, please go to

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It is essential that students be mindful of their interactions online, as the Code remains in effect in virtual learning environments. The Code applies to any interactions that adversely affect, disrupt, or interfere with reasonable participation in University activities. Student disruptions or behaviours that interfere with university functions on online platforms (e.g. use of Avenue 2 Learn, WebEx or Zoom for delivery), will be taken very seriously and will be investigated. Outcomes may include restriction or removal of the involved students' access to these platforms.

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Modification of course outlines

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Request for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work
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".

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances (RISO)

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religious, indigenous or spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the RISO policy. Students should submit their request to their Faculty Office normally within 10 working days of the beginning of term in which they anticipate a need for accommodation or to the Registrar's Office prior to their examinations. Students should also contact their instructors as soon as possible to make alternative arrangements for classes, assignments, and tests.

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Extreme Circumstances

The University reserves the right to change the dates and deadlines for any or all courses in extreme circumstances (e.g., severe weather, labour disruptions, etc.). Changes will be communicated through regular McMaster communication channels, such as McMaster Daily News, A2L and/or McMaster email.

Topics and Readings:

Week 1          Lectures:       Introduction: Course organization; Basic concepts.

Sept 7              Reading:     Chapter 1 in the textbook (Huang, Yan. 2014. Pragmatics 2nd edition.

                                            Oxford University Press)


Week 2           Lectures:       Basic concepts continued

Sept 12-16      Reading:       Chapter 2 (2.1 -2.2) in the textbook.


Week 3          Lectures:       Gricean Theory – Implicature and beyond…

Sept 19-23     Homework:   Group work project 1 for October 3 – See outline on Avenue

                       Reading:       Chapter 2 (2.3 -2.6) in the textbook.


Week 4          Lectures:       Current debates about Implicature

Sept 26-30     Homework:   Group work project  1 for October 3 (on Avenue). Keep working!

                       Reading:       Chapter 3 in the textbook.


Week 5          Lectures:       Presupposition 

Oct 3-7           Homework:   Group Project 1 due on October 3. (dropbox on Avenue).

                       Reading:       Chapter 4 (4.1-4.5) in the textbook.


Week 6          Midterm Recess – No Classes    

Oct 10-14       Homework:   Review the material for the mid-term exam (Oct 26).

                       Group work project 2 for November 9 – See outline on Avenue


Week 7          Lectures:       Speech Act Theory: Performatives….     

Oct 17-21       Homework:   Group work project 2 for November 9 – See outline on Avenue

                       Reading:       Review the material for the mid-term exam.


Week 8          Lectures:       Monday: Review for the mid-term.

Oct 24-28       Wednesday: Mid-term exam!!! (during class time)

                       Homework:   Group work project 2 for November 9 (on Avenue) Keep working!                    

                       Reading:       Chapter 4 (4.6-4.8) in the textbook.


Week 9          Lectures:       Speech Act Theory continued…

Oct 31-Nov 4 Homework:   Group work project 2 due November 9 (in dropbox)

                      Reading:       Chapter 5 (5.1-5.4) in the textbook.


Week 10        Lectures:       Deixis – Personal, Temporal, Spatial, Social, etc. …

Nov 7-11        Homework:   Group work project 2 due November 2 (in dropbox)

                                             Final Project (on Avenue) due December 1.

                       Reading:       Chapter 6 (6.1-6.6) in the textbook.


Week 11        Lectures:       Reference

Nov 14-18      Homework:   Final Project (on Avenue) due December 1. Keep working!

                       Reading:       Chapter 7 in the textbook.


Week 12        Lectures:       Interfaces of Pragmatics I: Cognition - Relevance Theory

Nov 21-25      Homework:   Final Project (on Avenue) due December 1. Keep working!              

                       Reading:       Read Chapter 8 in the textbook.


Week 13        Lectures:       Interfaces of Pragmatics II: Semantics

Nov 28-Dec 2 Homework:   Final Project (on Avenue) due December 1 (in dropbox)

                       Reading:       Read Chapter 9.


Week 14        Monday:        Interfaces of Pragmatics III: Syntax

Dec 5-9                                What can you do with Pragmatics in Real Life?