Grice's Conversational Maxims

Summary: The Gricean maxims

What are Grice's Conversational Maxims?

In 1975, Paul Grice proposed the following conversational maxims in "Logic and Conversation":

Maxims of Quantity:

  1. Make your contribution to the conversation as informative as necessary.
  2. Do not make your contribution to the conversation more informative than necessary.

Maxims of Quality:

  1. Do not say what you believe to be false.
  2. Do not say that for which you lack adequate evidence.

Maxim of Relation:

  1. Be relevant.

Maxims of Manner:

  1. Avoid obscurity of expression.
  2. Avoid ambiguity.
  3. Be brief.
  4. Be orderly.

There have been criticisms of these maxims, both for not reflecting the full range of human communication, including dishonesty, and also for being parochial, not universal in terms of cultural accuracy. However, as guides to politeness or giving due consideration to your listener, they are still worth knowing.

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