In Violation of Grice

I only paid 25 pesos for Kopi Luwak’s Cafe Americano! Half the price I pay for coffee when I’m in Sulen or Aruma. I am amazed at how life gives out little joys every now and then, surprising us with its defiance of Gricean maxims that makes life a little more comedic despite the little tragedies. Gricean maxims, if violated, creates humor. This was according to my report last Saturday in Victor Sugbo’s class on Independent study.

He tasked me to discuss Humor, the linguistic elements  and the violation of the Gricean Maxims. A few weeks back, he sent me scholarly articles about humor for me to dissect in relation to my study on Hugot. I chose the journal written by two Iraqi women scholars for my report. They had Shakespeare as the subject for their study, which I found quite inappropriate since I did not see it fitting for their context or for my context for that matter. Sir Sugbo agreed with my remarks after having reported and discussed their study.

What left a mark in me was Grice’s maxims. I heard of this back in undergrad, but I never took it seriously. It was a passing lecture discussed in my linguistics class or philosophy, I cannot remember. It’s funny how many lessons I have probably missed just because I was busy thinking of other things in college. I was sort of “not there” while being there.

Now back to the maxims,

according to Grice, there is this thing called the Cooperative Principle in which one should consider how one can achieve effective communication in social situations. These are the pragmatics of language.

This cooperative principle can be divided into four conversational maxims according to Paul Grice :

  • Maxim of Quality
  • Maxim of Quantity
  • Maxim of Relevance
  • Maxim of Manner

According to the study I have read about Humor, violating these four maxims (or just even one of it), produces the funny. And it’s interesting that we (Filipinos), people of humor, intentionally or unintentionally violate all these maxims. At first, I was quite appalled that people would study and dissect humor. I felt the injustice for “humor-loving people” like me. I have always thought about humor as something that would just occur in our daily lives. For me, there was no need to study it for it will just ruin the whole magic of its jazz.

Still, reading those references made me think about the Gricean maxims I violate every single day for the love of the funny. In a way, I am quite grateful for this nice insight that I could probably utilize into something funny someday.




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