Clinical pragmatics: A field in search of phenomena?

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23 Citations (Scopus)


Since its inception as a branch of linguistic enquiry, pragmatics has been the focus of numerous debates about its scope of study. While such debates have brought about necessary refinement of core concepts, they have also resulted in uncertainty about exactly which linguistic phenomena are pragmatic in nature. This uncertainty has come to characterise the related discipline of clinical pragmatics, with many investigators labelling as 'pragmatic' behaviours that are not pragmatic on any reasonable interpretation of this term. In this paper, I examine a number of clinical studies in which behaviours have been incorrectly characterised as pragmatic. These studies will be classified according to several categories of error. The implications of these erroneous characterisations for the assessment and treatment of pragmatic language disorders will be discussed. Finally, a number of criteria are advanced which, it is expected, will constrain the tendency of clinicians and theorists alike to incorrectly identify behaviours as pragmatic.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)396-432
Number of pages37
JournalLanguage and Communication
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Assessment
  • Autism
  • Clinical pragmatics
  • Implicature
  • Intervention
  • Pragmatic language disorder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Communication
  • Linguistics and Language


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