Grice’s Four Maxims

Grice has proposed four maxims for conversation. Firstly, Grice proposes two maxims under the umbrella of quantity. Speakers have to make their contribution as informative as is required and should not make their contribution more informative than is required. These two maxims are clearly related to the amount of information given between the speakers in their conversation or communication. Grice indicates that the amount of information between the speakers is necessary to let the communication goes on. Speakers need to avoid superfluous information through communication. Clearly, these two maxims are implicitly related to each other. A simple example is ” A man stops his vehicle in the middle of the road to briefly ask you for directions. He may ask ”Where is the post office?”, the listener may say ”Not far” or ”Continue on, and make the second left up there. You’ll see it” (Jacob. 2001, 77). Clearly, the second response is more related to the maxim of quantity. Secondly, Grice posits maxim of quality which indicates that “Try to make your contribution one that is true”; but, this is separated into two specific maxims: 1. do not say what you believe to be false. 2. do not say that for which you lack adequate evidence. (Grice 1989, 27). These two maxims seem quite distinct. The former requires speakers to always say true things rather false things while the second requires them to have some adequacy of their responses. For example, a speaker may ask ”Should I buy my son this new sports car?. Speaker B may respond ” I don’t know if that’s such a good idea, his car runs fine or Yeah that sounds like a good idea, his car breaks down all the time” (Jacob. 2001, 77). Next Grice adds another maxim called maxim of relation. Grice refers to this maxim by simply saying that “Be Relevant” (Grice 1989, 27). With respect to this maxim, Grice believes that speakers should add relevant input to the conversation being done. For instance, a speaker may ask ”How are you doing in school?. Speaker B may reply ”What fine weather we’re having lately! Or Not so well, I’m afraid. I’d rather not discuss it” (Jacob. 2001, 77). Unfortunately, this maxim has received considerable criticism. Searle, Wilson and Sperber have all rejected and criticized this maxim. Searle added that ” though it is initially intuitive, it is ultimately problematic (Searle 1992, 14). Lastly, Grice also posits a fourth maxim which indicates that speakers should avoid ambiguity and obscurity of expressions during their communication. They also have to be brief and orderly. A good example is ” Can you take out the trash? Sure, but we need to talk about how we are assigning the chores around here when I get back”. (Jacob 2001, 77). Grice pointed out that maxims of manner may be insufficient and gave it little importance compared to the other maxims. Grice writes that “It is obvious that observance of some of these maxims is a matter of less urgency than is the observance of others; a man who has expressed himself with undue prolixity would, in general, be open to milder comment than would a man who has said something he believes to be false” (Grice 1989, 27). Critics have argued that maxim of ambiguity is the most important one compared to the other maxims because of its direct relation to what is called equivocation. Grice (1989) also suggests that there are other maxims such as social and moral. He also presents four ways in which speakers violate the four maxims. These ways are violation, opting out, a clash and flouting maxims. Guo (2006) presents a simple explanation of these four ways. The explanation comes in order. First, a speaker may opt out of observing the maxim due to his/her unwillingness to cooperate with another speaker in the way maxim requires. Second, a speaker does not observe the four maxims due to the difficulty of conciliating a maxim with another at the same time. Third, a speaker may also fail in observing the maxim because of his/her intention to force the hearer to look for the meaning which is distinct from the expressed meaning. Lastly, a speaker intentionally violates the cooperative principles which results in lying. In short, these four maxims have come as an assumption to effective communication among speakers; however, speakers may violate these maxims which results in ineffective communication as Grice and his proponents have suggested.

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It is said that following the four maxims leads to effective communication. Here, the relationship between the four maxims and communication is discussed. Schoolfield (2007) asserted that Communication is considered the basis of Gricean theory. It is also considered the point of conversation as clear communication can occur by means of a dialogue. Conversation is used to send information from one speaker to another. The efficiency of this sending is determined by communication. Moreover, the similarity between Grice’s four maxims and the communicative goal of conversation, they require the cooperative principle to lead to effective communication. When one approaches conversations in terms of communication, the four maxims must be mentioned. For instance, if a speaker does not give true information during his dialogue while his aim is communication, this seems that he does not act in a cooperatively. Schoolfield (2007) discussed the relationship between the four maxims and communication. He points out the first maxim “Make your contribution as informative as is required,” is necessary in communication. Speakers provide an amount of information to communicate the intended idea while others provide insufficient information as a violation to the maxim so that they will not achieve the goal of communication. Thus, if the person has the goal of communication, he/she must include relevant facts related to the topic of the dialogue. As for “Do not make your contribution more than is required,”, Grice (1989) believes that it is not necessary in communication. Culturally, this is clear in English-speaking countries where people find it desirable not to give excessive information during communication, as Grice notes, a “waste of time” (Grice 1989, 26). Communication requires “do not say what you believe to be false,” as there will be a failure in communication if one is not honest in the information he/she states. Schoolfield (2007) this maxim is far necessary in cooperative information communication so that the information must not express something false. In addition, “Do not say that for which you lack adequate evidence,” is an acceptable rule for communicators. Therefore, Schoolfield (2007) argues that there must be at least some basic level of understanding as to what can count as evidence or they may be very serious breakdowns in communication. Relevance maxim is most desirable in communicative conversations because when we receive certain information, communication requires responses that are relevant to the information given; however, it is sometime irrelevant in achieving the goals of communication. (Hintikka 1986 argued that relevancy is important in cooperative and effective communication; however, many other have reduced the importance of relevance to efficiency. As to manner maxim, as Grice states, “Avoid obscurity of expression”, it is also necessary for effective communication since one must have clear and coherent communication. Schoolfield (2007) believes that if there is not some clarity in communication, then much confusion will arise or increase for the listeners. Likewise, “avoid ambiguity” will be necessary for cooperative communication (Grice 1989, 27). Schoolfield (2007) explained that ambiguity arises due to two interpretations that come from one statement. Thus, the avoidance of ambiguity, with regards to effective communication, must only be followed when it can occur. Next is, “Be brief (avoid unnecessary prolixity),” (Grice 1989, 27). Schoolfield (2007) believes that brevity is a cultural norm and helpful in communication. Thus, while a consideration for avoiding “unnecessary prolixity” is acceptable, any issue of brevity being required for cooperative communication will be only decided within a conventional framework. Lastly, “Be orderly” (Grice 1989, 27). Schoolfield (2007) indicated that this maxim is not necessary in effective communication. Instead, he has given much attention to the speed of giving information rather the orderliness of giving information. The Gricen theory is believed to be true not just for conversation, but also for written communication. Cooper (1982:112) maintained that ”this theory is also common in writing and what Grice says about conversation applies equally to all communication. In conclusion, through this brief discussion of the four maxims and their role in communication, I can say that some of Gricean maxims are not necessary in communication while others are.
Gricen maxims play a crucial role in communication. However, his theory is always argued by many scholars and researchers. First, it’s not clear whether the maxims work in other languages and cultures as some cultures such as Malagasy follow completely different maxims in their communication. In their culture, speakers are not willing to share information. They tend to evade direct questions and reply incomplete answers. Second, they are not a complete listing of the rules we follow in conversation; for example, there are also rules about, say, politeness, which are not addressed in his maxims. Third, the Gricean Maxims, despite their wording, are only meant to describe the commonly accepted traits of successful cooperative communication.

Clyne’s Revisions of Grice’s Maxims


This paper will look at Clyne’s alterations in his paper to the four Grice’s Maxims and to examine whether it is sufficient in, universally accounting for intercultural conversation. To assess if it sufficient and as to why this is important, it is necessary to review the arguments for why Grice’s Maxims is criticised for its highly ethnocentric nature.

The four Grice’s Maxims,

Maxim of quality: defined as “As speaker we have to tell the truth or something that is provable by adequate evidence”

Maxim of quality: defined as “We have to be as informative as required, we should not say more or less”

Maxim of Relation: defined as “Our response has to be relevant to the topic of discussion”.

Maxim of Manner: “We have to avoid ambiguity or obscurity; we should be direct and straightforward” (Grice, 1975).

 These are otherwise known as the “Cooperative Principle” and its applicability in the field of intercultural communication has been highly debated over in the past few decades. Many linguistics have criticised it on the terms of its highly ethnocentric nature, believing its conventions to be based on that of Anglo-Saxon cultures and normalities (Keenan, 1976; Thomas 1984; Wierzbicka, 1985; Clyne, 1994; Bowe & Martin, 2007)


As to why this so-called “Anglo-centric” nature of the original Grice’s Maxims is problematic of its applicability in intercultural communication studies. Many cultural value systems that do not share full resemblance to the Anglo-centric cultures; for instance, some European, Middle Eastern and especially Southeast Asian cultures have a complete divergence from such Anglo-norms. Therefore, leaves the maxims inapplicable in many situations and cultures where ambiguity, respect, discourse, restraint and harmony are a key component to communication (Clyne, 1994). 

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Observing Grice’s cooperative principle on a surface level seems to provide little difficulty in producing a sufficient enough framework for intercultural analysis. The Grice’s principle therefore has an allowance for different objectives and necessities in varying contexts, and dose not entirely exclude the conversational and cultural norms of different speech communities. Intercultural analysis overall was not Grice’s foremost concern however, Grice in fact has given a definition to any discourses that maybe associated with his cooperative principle labelling them as “concerted enterprises”. its purpose is to allow for “a high degree of diversity in the motivations underlying quite meagre common objectives” (Grice, 1989).

Hence, Grice makes no on record claims of the principal having universality in its use but instead refers to his work as simply a ‘first approximation of a general principle’ in intercultural communication (Grice, 1989). Furthermore, Grice was aware as not to overstate the extent of the concept of ‘cooperation’; signifying that “each participant recognizes in them, to some extent, a common purpose, or at least a mutually accepted direction” (1989). Though in saying this one should note that Grice’s maxims depict simple and idealistic context in language use, in truth the practical reality is much different. In certain cultures, being direct, telling the truth or not using forms of discourse in speech when in conversation, can be seen as impolite or outright rude.

There is an abundance of cultural differences that do not follow the Grice principle. Some speech communities and languages often, as mentioned above require their speakers use indirect speech or association in conversation (High context languages). A reoccurring example found in some papers is, Chinese speakers. The example being when Chinese people are first offered a drink, they often say no the first time, expecting the offer to occur another two or so times. This is a sort of phatic form of language communication; rejecting the offer and saying no but not necessarily saying no, essentially politeness through indirectness. Therefore, such contexts akin to this are unable to follow Grice’s maxims of both quantity and manner. If one was to adhere to the Grice’s maxims over such cultural norms, it could be seen as odd, slightly rude or could even cause an intercultural communication breakdown of sorts.

The maxims are of limited relevance to cultures where content and knowledge are of key importance. Another example in Keenan’s paper, regarding those whom speak Malagasy, in which their form of cooperation notably consists of making their contributions as opaque, intricate and ambiguous as possible (Keenan, 1976). Diverging from the Maxim of Quality. This is due to the Melagasy people holding the belief that, new information gives the speaker a prestige of sorts. Therefore, considering social interaction and cultural norms are of utmost importance when analysing conversational implicature.

Lastly, Grice was not wrong in assuming that any culture will have a form of orientation towards the maxims, quality, quantity, relation, and manner. Only that the frame work and how it is articulated is not relevant in such contexts as explained above. Therefore, it is important to understand that languages and cultures as such will have their own alignments to each of the maxims (Bowe & Martin, 2007).

This is where Clyne and the other linguists come in, they mention such examples as above, definitive proof that Grice’s maxims aren’t relevant in many contexts as they ignore even, clash with many non-Anglo cultural systems (Clyne, 1994; Hymes, 1986; Loveday, 1983; Walsh, 2009). These linguists all essentially state that, Grice’s maxims are only applicable to that of the English-speaking part of the Western world. Clyne in particular in his paper published in 1994, Inter-cultural Communication at Work: Cultural Values in Discourse pointed out and focused on this very fact. Thus, to attempt to resolve this paradox and better reflect intercultural conversation, Clyne proposed their own revised iteration of the maxims to make the Cooperative Principles more universal.

In an attempt to give the maxims more universality, Clyne has proposed revisions to Grice’s maxims that consider other cultures and speaker groups norms and expectations. One revision as such is to the maxim of quality. “do not say what you believe to be in opposition to your cultural norms of truth, harmony, charity, and/or respect”. (Clyne, 1994) This modification embraces situations in which the listener may not want to respond truthfully, to preserve face or harmony with the speaker (Lakoff, 1973).

The value of harmony is especially prevalent amongst Chinese and Vietnamese cultures. Communalism and collectivism has made harmony a centrally shared cultural value to Vietnamese people. Due to this emphasis of harmonious relations, Vietnamese frequently utilise opaque and ambiguous speech and behaviours in order to avoid conflict. (Nguyen, 1991). In most cases this would violate one or more of Grice’s maxims. However, thanks to Clyne’s revisions can better account for intercultural conversation with the implementation of cultural parameters such as truth, harmony and face.

Whilst Clyne’s revised maxims do regard communicative behaviours and patterns of non-Anglo cultures. It does not universally meet all the needs of intercultural communication.  Intercultural communication requires a high level of pragmatic competence. This competence is central to the participants performance in a conversation. Thomas points out, that commonly the problem in intercultural conversation is the differences in pragmatic competence. Additionally, it is possible to have a very high level of linguistic proficiency in a language, whilst not having a good socio-pragmatic proficiency. This can result in speakers using a language, which for some reason is deemed inappropriate, incomprehensible or even offensive (Thomas, 1984).

An example, An Australian manager had been reassigned to a Greek branch of a company. There he is subconsciously carrying out his socio-pragmatic norms in the Greek setting, where they violate the expectations of his newly assigned Greek sectary. Each party is defining and acting within the situation differently. As in an Australian workplace, the manager would assign work the sectary work by using conventional indirect requests such as ‘Could you type this letter?’ She eventually complains to a fellow colleague, ‘I wish he would just tell me what to do instead of asking me. After all, he’s the boss and I’m here to do what he wants.’ As seen in the example, there is a discourse of assumptions about the rights and obligations between the two parties of an asymmetrical power distribution. The Australian boss attends to the perceived face wants of his Greek secretary, this is done by attempting to minimize the power distance between the two via the use of politeness strategies through indirect requests. As allowing options or the illusion as such is very central to Western notions of politeness (Thomas 1995).

One can see in this example that two parties have yet to negotiate a shared set of norms. Nor have they noticed it to be a kind of breakdown of intercultural communication with each other. The secretary dose recognizes and accept the power difference between herself and her boss. she accepts that he has the right to tell her to carry out various secretarial duties. Yet since his act of politeness has not been interpreted correctly by the secretary.  To her the Australian boss seems disingenuous when he requests her to do something. This is because in the Greek work place, the power relationship is absolute. Therefore, there are some clear socio-pragmatic differences between the two parties.

Regardless of the discourse, their interactions do have some success: the boss makes requests and the secretary follows them. Though she is unhappy with the boss’s politeness strategies. In this context neither party is completely interculturally competent. Communicating in a culturally competent way requires conversing parties to learn about the ways culture influences communicative utterances of individuals concerned.

What we can find from these examples is that Clyne’s revisions of Grice’s maxims as aforementioned do better reflect cultural variation, however, they do not go as far to universally account for intercultural communication. It ignores the importance of the pragmatic and intercultural factors. Intercultural communication is something that is also negotiated at local level. Agar (1994) puts it best as, one should remember that in any intercultural conversation, ‘it’s persons not cultures that are in contact’.

It can be concluded that Grice’s maxims cannot be taken as absolute rules; this would be neither right nor practicable. Clyne’s revisions still fall short of making the maxims universally applicable in intercultural communication. The maxims overall should be used as reference points for language interchange; over something that is absolute.

Agar, M. (1994). The intercultural frame. In International Journal of Intercultural Relations 18/2:221-237.

Bowe, H. J. & Martin, K. (2007). Communication across cultures: Mutual understanding in a global world. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Clyne, M. (1994). Inter-cultural Communication at Work: Cultural Values in Discourse. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Grice, H. P. (1975). Logic and Conversation. In P. Cole & J. Morgan (Eds.), Syntax and Semantics 3: Speech Acts. New York: Academic Press.

Grice, P. (1989). Studies in the Way of Words. London: Harvard University Press.

Hymes, D. H. (1986). Discourse: Scope without depth. In International Journal of the Sociology of Language.

Keenan, E. O. (1976). On the universality of conversational implicatures.Language in Society.

Lakoff, R. (1973). The logic of politeness or minding your p’s and q’s. In Papers from the Ninth Regional Meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society.

Loveday, L. (1983). Rhetoric patterns in conflict: The sociocultural relativity of discourse organizing processes. In Journal of Pragmatics.

Mey, J. (1994). Pragmatics. An Introduction. Oxford: Blackwell.

Thomas, J. (1984) Cross-cultural discourse as “unequal encounter”: Toward a pragmatic analysis. In Applied Linguistics, 5(2), 226-235. Thomas, J. (1995). Meaning in Interaction. An Introduction to Pragmatics. Harlow /Munich: Longman. Walsh, M. (2009). Some neo-Gricean maxims for aboriginal Australia. Retrieved from (accessed 22/10/2013) Watts, R. J. (1991). Power in family discourse. Berlin: Mouton. Wierzbicka, A. (1991). Cross-Cultural Pragmatics. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter

Wierzbicka, A. (1985). Different cultures, different languages, different speech acts. In Journal of Pragmatics 9.145-78.


Creation of Humour through Non-Observance of Grice Maxims in Quite Interesting TV Show

The Creation of Humour through Non-Observance of Grice Maxims in Quite Interesting TV Show.

Language and pragmatic have always been a really interesting field in which some scholars and linguists have been developed their theories about language, however, the study of these linguistic theories is not perfect, and these theories have different interpretations in order to analyse or investigate some texts, dialogues or transcriptions. These linguistic theories are developed to comprehend the contexts and the background of a conversation or a text, helping us to understand what kind of information is given by the speaker or received by the hearer, and what is the intention of the speaker. Some linguists have developed their theories in order to demonstrate the complexity of language. In this paper, I am going to focus on the development and creation of humoristic resources in one television show called QI (Quite Interesting). Throughout the transcription of this fragment, some linguistic theories are portrayed in the text, and that is what I am going to analyse, focusing on Grice’s Cooperative Principle and the Non-observance of his maxims, in addition, I am going to introduce different interpretations of other linguists such as G. Leeds or J. Thomas, in order to demonstrate how the Non-observance of these maxims creates satirical and humoristic resources and the impact that this Non-Observance of Gricean Maxims has in a comedy show like Quite Interesting.

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About Quite Interesting, is a TV show that started in 2003, produced by John Lloyd and presented by Stephen Fry until 2016, after he’s out, was replaced by Sandi Toksvig. The main goal of the show is getting as more points as possible in order to obtain the victory, however, in the show, there are certain variables to obtain more points, such as the originality of the answer or the creativity. The winner of the panel will be able to participate in the next show. One of the most important characteristics of this TV show is the presence of a big number of humourists, what implies a real use of language elements such as irony, rhetorical questions or sarcasm, giving to the program a big language peculiarity. This TV show is a clear example of the fluctuation or violation of Grice’s Maxims and how through this is possible to create a comedy TV show.

Herbert Paul Grice (1913-1988) was a linguist, philosopher and a scholar that studied the pragmatics elements and is considered one of the most important linguists of the twentieth century. He developed the theory of the Conversational Implicature in 1975. In this theory, he distinguishes four maxims within a speech or conversation. Maxim of Manner, which defends being perspicuous, avoiding obscurity of expression and ambiguity, being brief and orderly. Quality, trying to do the contribution one that is true.  Quantity, which states that the contribution has should be as informative as required, not more informative than required and Relation, which defends the relevance in the statement.

 These maxims are presented in our daily conversations, however, some linguists have argued that Grice’s maxims are not immovable, that could be a variation or rupture of them, which is one of the tools used to create humour or irony in a conversation.

 What the cooperative principle says is that people who are involved in a  conversation are working on the assumption that certain rules control their               operation, i.e., a set of culturally bound rules that vary in different cultures but              are followed by all the participants of a conversation in order for a conversation               to be successful. The main underlying assumption of the cooperative principle is              that people cooperate when they are conversing (Thomas 1995:62).

There are some mechanics by which we can create humour, in addition, breaking the norms of any discourse is acceptable in order to create humour, as some linguists and scholars supported:

“Humour is created by putting things together in an unusual and unexpected way”. (Gruner 1997).

The excerpt that we have selected belongs to QI Season 13 Episode 6 Marriage and Mating, it is a short fragment, but within it, there are interesting elements to analyse during the conversation. The selection of these excerpts is based on the study of Grice’s maxims and how through the violation of them, it is possible to crate humoristic and satirical situations. And it is very interesting how through these resources a panel show could have a comical structure.

Transcription of the fragment.

(Note that the excerpts are structured based on the intervention of the panellists.)

Excerpt 1:


0:03 [Stephen] But what’s the recipe for a disastrous marriage?

0:08 [Jo]  dead vicar?

0:11 [Stephen] it would be it would be your right yep?

0:14 [Greg]   live vicar lovely couple escaped Bengali tiger


0:19 [Bill]  yeah that would be tricky

0:20 [Stephen] you’ve painted a word picture Greg there// let’s think first about budget

0:23 [Bill]            //oh

In this excerpt, Stephen and both respect two Gricean maxims that are presented, manner and quantity, both are fluting throughout his intervention, the Perlocutionary act of Stephen was to obtain the attention of the spectators, whilst, Jo sets up a reaction. Greg interrupted looking for humour and is flouting the maxim of quality, the Perlocutionary act is created using Deictic and metaphor confusion.

Excerpt 2:

0:54 [Stephen] it was economists at Emory University Atlanta who discovered this they found an inverse correlation between money spent and how long it lasts those who spend less than $1,000 dollars which is what? £700 pounds had divorce rates 53% below average while those who spend more than 20000 you were talking about that as a sum divorce rate 46% above average but what about numbers who attend weddings? is that a similar inverse correlation? the more who come the shorter the marriage?

1:21 [Alan]          //I presume so because of the cost //factor

1:25 [Bill]     //expense yeah=   

1:26 [Stephen]      =oddly enough the reverse is true the more people who witness the wedding the longer it lasts haha so you’ve got to have a cheap wedding with lots of people that seem to be the key this is Randy Olson a PhD student at Michigan state he found that couples who marry in front of more than200 people are 92% less  likely to get divorced than those who only have a few witnesses=

1:48 [Alan]        =so really you want to get married in Selfridges on Christmas Eve


1:52 [Stephen] or maybe if you want to have really cheap and cheerful but lots of people maybe somewhere like McDonald’s in Hong Kong


2:00 [Stephen] for $900 you can get 200 guests at a McDonald’s//

2:04 [Alan]                           //McDonald’s // happy marriage

In this fragment, and following a conversational style, a turn-talking conversation between Alan and Stephen, Alan is flouting the maxims of manner and quality, whereas Stephen is not flouting any maxims. In addition, Alan uses wordplay to create a comical situation. Like flouting the maxims, wordplay is also an example of the creation of humoristic situations: “We consider wordplay as a category of jokes. The topic, or the form that the wordplay takes, can constitute a type of bonding against another represented in the words chosen with which to play” (Boxer 1996: 280). 

So, the creation of humour in this extract is not only by flouting the maxims but introducing word plays.

Excerpt 3:

2:17 [Jo]              //yeah but how many burgers do you get?


2:21 [Jo]  come on give us that info I’m thinking about getting remarried there


2:26 [Bill]  it’s a very simple ceremony isn’t it? you point to the bride do you love it? I’m lovin’ it! allright

  [hahahaha] + [applause]

2:38 [Bill]  it’s all over in 5 minutes

2:40 [Alan]  yeah put a ring on it//

2:42 [Greg]              //yeah oh onions lovely


2:45 [Alan]  if you love it put an onion ring on it


There is a turn-talking non-standard, because of interruptions and overlapping, at the beginning Jo doesn’t, flout any Gricean Maxims, however, she is ironizing the situation. The irony is another linguistic resource that was analyzed by Grice and other linguists. According to Jonathan Adler and Lance J. Rips: “the speakers are flexible with the maxims of conversation and indeed often flout them deliberately to create special effects such as metaphor or irony”. (2008: 771). The use of irony exemplifies a way in order to flout the conversational maxims.

In addition, Bill is flouting the maxims of quality and manner, furthermore, he introduces a conceptual metaphor (related to fast food). Greg overlaps Alan by using a wordplay. The conclusion of this excerpt is the use of a wordplay by Alan.

Excerpt 4:


2:48 [Stephen] this is Randy Olson from Michigan state who discovered that we should be//

2:51 [Alan]               //can’t get the picture of an erection with an onion ring on it// out of my head (bangs head as if trying to get the thought out)

2:54 [Stephen]      (with disgusted tone)     //oh!


2:58 [Alan]  how do you get a thought out of your head? (still bangs head)


Presence of introductions (self-selecting) throughout this excerpt, flouting the maxim of relation and dramatization in the TV show. Alan does a visual act in the show and after this, he does a visual act (deictic) that emphasizes the phrase, both are creating a humoristic situation by flouting the maxims and they dramatically acted speech acts.

Excerpt 5:

4:38 [Stephen] Now what’s the longest anyone’s ever gone without sex?

4:40 [Bill] ohh

4:42 [Greg] I went for a whole panel show once!



The last part of this transcription, Greg is flouting the quality maxim to create humour in the final sentence. The previous fragments of the conversation have a similar structure compared to the previous ones, based on the rupture of Gricean maxims to create humour. Greg, for instance, is flouting the quality maxim through his reply and the audience responds with a laugh.

Conclusions about this analysis:

The creation and development of this analysis provided different conclusions, such us the flouting of Gricean Maxims throughout the conversation in the show, which caused the creation and introduction of the irony in the text, as a mechanism to create humour. In addition, the creation of comedy is also based on the introduction of sarcasm, that as the irony, it is a very useful resource in this kind of TV shows.

There are other scholars that considered that Grice’s maxims and comedy are not able to be linked, such as Leeds, that states that Grice’s cooperative principle is not appropriated for comedy: “does not stand up to the evidence of real language use” (1983:80)

The result of this research is not only investigating the rupture of Grice’s maxims but discover which are the alternatives in order to create comedy in this kind of TV shows and in other comedies. The Maxim of Quality is flouted the most in the show. The Relation Maxim is flouted in many responses in the panel, creating the Script Opposition Act. The Maxim of Quantity is violated through the incongruencies of panellist’s answers. In some cases, giving more information than needed or giving less information that is required. And finally, Maxim of Manner is flouted when panellists give answers that are not appropriate or efficient.

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To sum up, the creation of comedy or humoristic situations sometimes depends on the violation or suppression of Grice’s Maxims, which could be substituted by the introduction of elements such as irony, sarcasm or metaphors, so it is inevitable to think that Grice’s Maxims are presented in our daily conversations or speeches, but there are not maxims that are irreplaceable or inviolable and some comical elements require of this violation or flouting Grice’s Maxims.

Works Cited:

Adler, J. E., and Rips, L. J. (2008). Reasoning: Studies of human inference and its foundations. Cambridge University Press.

Boxer, D., & Cortés-Conde, F. (1997). From bonding to biting: Conversational jokingand identity display. Journal of Pragmatics

Grice, H. P. (1975). Logic and conversation.

Gruner, Charles R. (1997) The game of humour: A comprehensive theory of why we laugh: Routledge

Leech, G. (1983) Principles of Pragmatics London: Longman

Thomas, J. (1992) Cooperative Principle. Concise Encyclopedia of Philosophy of Language, Peter V. Lamarque, 1992: Concise Encyclopedia of Philosophy of Language