Grice’s theory of implicature centers on what he has named the “Cooperative Principle,” and how it relates directly to conversational implications that occur in our daily speech. In the implicature section of his essay “Logic and Conversation,” Grice explains that there are common goals of conversation that we try to achieve within our discussions. For example, some of these common goals are that there is a shared aim of the conversation, each person’s contributions to the conversation should be dependent upon each other, and the conversation continues until it is mutually agreed that it is over. In order to preserve these goals, we find it easiest, as cooperative human beings, to stick to the Cooperative Principle, and along with it, the
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These standards, known to Grice as the Cooperation Principle, are further expanded and broken up into four main categories to form a set of maxims that we assume that everyone automatically adheres to: (1) Quantity, (2) Quality, (3) Relation, and (4) Manner. These categories, which are the focus of Grice’s theory of implicature, lay out formally the “rules” of cooperative conversation that we already follow in order to have successful discussions in daily life. Grice believes that during normal conversation, it is to some extent an underlying belief that everyone involved is already abiding by said rules. He says that those who care about the purpose of conversation “must be expected to have an interest in participation in talk exchanges that will be profitable only on the assumption that they are conducted in general accordance with the CP and the maxims” (“Logic and Conversation” pg. 49). Therefore, we can in general assume that people follow these maxims without realizing it because they are interested in conducting a logical and two-way conversation with another person.
The implicature portion of Grice’s theory comes up when any one or more of these four categories are broken intentionally. Grice believes that the Cooperative Principle makes it obvious that these maxims are reasonable expectations for the purpose of conversation. Because of this belief, he thinks that when they are broken with no obvious or immediate explanation, his