Grice Theory Essay.

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Critical Examination of Grice’s Theory of Conversational Implicature.


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Implicatures according Grice theory are a component of what is communicated by a speaker, therefore a portion of what the speaker implies (Grice, 1989, p. 95). Grice differentiate between what a sentence says and what is implied. The latter talks about what is suggested or meant by saying a sentence, while the former talks about the conventional or usual meaning of a sentence. For instance, what a sentence means cannot be determined by what is uttered, this can be explained in the next example: John and Paul are discussing about their friend, Ken, who currently works in a bank. John asks Paul on how Ken is fairing in his current job, Ken replies, ah very well, I believe he relates well with his workmates and he hasn’t been arrested yet. In this conversation, Paul says that Ken, “has not yet been arrested yet” meaning that Ken may be unable to avoid the temptations in his job. By citing this, Grice emphasize that what Paul said is different from what he meant and the former simply implies that Ken has not yet been arrested. In contrast, what is said in a sentence is linked with the normal meaning of the words making up the sentence. Hence, when a person says a sentence, the listener would understand the speaker meaning depending on his English language knowledge and not his familiarity with the speaker circumstances (Carston, 2002, p. 28). A person would understand what the speaker says by assuming that he spoke literally and using Standard English.


In the conversational implicature, Grice talks about for conversation maxims as guiding principles in increasing efficiency when using a language in a conversation. These four maxims work together. As every rule or principle can be broken, there are limitations of Grice maxims. Grice is also critical on his theory and therefore provides the limitations of his maxims and in an outline in which they work.

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