Volume 1 (2010) Issue 1 - Article Fakharzadeh / Rasekh
JLLT Volume 1 (2010) Issue 1.pdf

Journal of Linguistics and Language Teaching

Volume 1 (2010) Issue 1 (PDF)

pp. 37 - 73

On the Applicability or Non-Applicability of the Gricean Maxims to Nursery Rhymes

Mehrnoosh Fakharzadeh (Isfahan, Iran) / Abbass Eslami Rasekh (Shiraz, Iran)


The present article reports the findings of a study designed to examine whether the Gricean Maxims, based on his cooperative principle, are observed or flouted in one language activity, nursery rhymes. Examining 30 popular English rhymes and justifying the position of the rhymes on a literary-nonliterary continuum, adapting Halliday's functional framework for non-literary and Cook's cognitive change function for literary discourses, the researchers found that for this language activity to be performed successfully, some modifications are required to be made on the definition of the maxims of quantity and relevance. It has also been revealed that while the maxim of quality might be flouted, the maxim of manner is observed in all the songs. Our analysis of the data suggests that it is not only the assumed cooperation between addresser and addressees which governs the whole discourse, but also that another principle may need to be defined on the basis of some modifications made to the maxims.

Key words: pragmatics, Grice’s Maxims, nursery rhymes, literary texts, non-literary discourse

1 Introduction

Pragmatics, as a viable branch of language studies, represents one of the milestones in the history of linguistics. It basically deals with the study of language in its socio-cultural context, i.e. with the study of language usage, i.e. what people mean by what they say. In every conversation, a lot more is communicated than is actually said. The study of what is said directly by means of words, the coded meaning, is the concern of semantics. The study of what is implied, non-coded meaning, is the concern of pragmatics (Niazi & Gautama 2007). The meaning of the words and sentences taken by themselves, their semantic meaning, does not convey the full communicative intention of the participants involved in a dialogue. The sentences and meanings of a given language represent the coded part of communication. Verbal communication, as Sperber and Wilson (1986: 3) observe, involves a code and an inferential process, a process through which the hearer or reader attempts to capture the intention of the speaker or writer behind what is said or written by the latter.

Grice is mostly associated with the theory of the cooperative principle and its associated maxims which regulate the exchange of information between individuals involved in the interaction. Grice's endeavor has been to establish a set of general principles, with the aim of explaining how language users communicate indirect meanings (so-called conversational implicatures, i.e. implicit meanings which have to be inferred from what is being said explicitly, on the basis of logical deduction). The cooperative principle assumes that language users tacitly agree to cooperate by making their contributions as is required by the current stage of the talk, and people adhere to observance of the four maxims (Grice 1975). Qualitatively they make their contribution truthful. Quantitatively, they provide sufficient information. In terms of relation and manner, they make their contribution relevant and avoid ambiguity.

Thus, with the assumption that people are informative, truthful, relevant and clear in their talks, we interpret what they say. However, we usually do not observe these maxims very strictly, and in fact, no one normally speaks in this way all the time. Thus, the breach of one maxim (or even more than one maxim) in a given utterance can generally be observed. Although we might flout these maxims on the surface of our talks, we actually adhere to them at some deeper level of communication, i.e. the pragmatic level. It is the recognition of this fact that leads the hearer, when faced with an apparently irrelevant utterance, to search for relevance somewhere beyond the surface level. Metaphorical usage of language, for instance, can be described as breaking the maxim of quality, but both the speaker and the hearer probably know that the literal truth is not a relevant factor in such a context.

The way functions of utterances are inferred can be explained with reliance on the pragmatic theories of conversational principles and speech acts (Karpenko 1993). They show how, in the light of encyclopedic knowledge, the receiver can transfer the literal, referential meaning of what is said, to the pragmatic meaning, and induce what the sender is intending to do with his or her words. In brief spoken exchanges, it is quite common to encounter sequences that are almost entirely bare of cohesion. In view of pragmatics, such sequences are coherent through pragmatic inference, connected through the function of discourse.

In the same way, every utterance in literature, like a novel, is used with a set of purposes in order to serve one function or several functions. According to Bakhtin (1986), behind every utterance in a novel, there is a communication goal to be achieved in the dialogic parts of the text. The speech act analysis of individual utterances in a novel, in terms of the contexts in which they are used - immediate context (neighboring utterances), and large context (fictional world) - can offer a wide range of explanatory possibilities about the intentions and purposes of producing those utterances. However, while pragmatics has a tendency to concern itself with function in terms of the sender’s intention rather than with its effect on the receiver, discussions of literary discourse are often concerned with function as effect rather than intention (Cook 1994). Although Cook argues for considering the cooperative principle as suspended for literary texts, he does not exclude all types of literary discourse. What he emphasizes is the distinctive function of literary texts in changing the mental representation of readers, though it may not be within the author’s intention. There are, however, language activities which involve the function of both literary texts and non-literary ones.

One such activity was found to be nursery rhymes. In the case of nursery rhymes, for example, Hassan (1989), in her book on verbal art, refers to the fact that some poems, like the children’s songs, can be brought within the orbit of interpersonal and ideational functions, i.e. they share non-literary functions. She copes with the blatant meaninglessness, though evident attractiveness, of children’s song by regarding them merely as a “preparation for the meaningful use of such codes for ideational and social purposes in adult literature (Hassan 1989: 104).

In the present study, in view of:

- the fact that children’s literature has been pragmatically defined as literature read by and being especially suitable or especially satisfactory to members of the group defined as children, and

- arguing for the cooperative nature of literary and non-literary texts and

- defining the position of nursery rhymes in-between this continuum, functionally sharing characteristics both with daily conversation and literature,

we intend to examine the extent to which the Gricean Maxims are respected, flouted or sufficient for describing the nature of English nursery rhymes.

2 Theoretical Background

2.1 The Gricean Maxims and Non-Literary Discourse

According to speech-act theory, people assumingly cooperate when getting together to talk. Speech-act theory stresses language as an essentially cooperative form of behavior in which participants work together rationally to achieve shared or common goals. These basic tenets emerge most explicitly in Paul Grice's well-known Cooperative Principle and his conversational maxims. The Cooperative Principle, as Grice himself puts it, is "a rough general principle which participants in a speech exchange will be expected to observe" and which says "Make your contribution such as is required, at the stage at which it occurs, by the accepted purpose or direction of the talk-exchange in which you are engaged." (46). Grice (Ibid) elaborates this principle with four maxims:

- the maxim of quantity (say as much and no more than is required)

- the maxim of quality (do not say things you believe are false or for which you lack adequate evidence)

- the maxim of relation (be relevant) and

- the maxim of manner (be clear, unambiguous, orderly, and so on).

There is a clear supposition by Grice that cooperativeness is based on rationality, and that cooperation and rationality are both human nature. To quote Grice

My avowed aim is to see talking as a special case or variety of purposive, indeed rational behavior. I would like to be able to think of the standard type of conversational practice not merely as something which all or most do in fact follow, but as something it is reasonable for us to follow. (Grice 1975: pp. 46)

The ability to realize these imperatives is an important part of a speaker's communicative competence (Bates 1976). The result is that a violation of any of these maxims will be linguistically aberrant, or marked, and literally "remarkable". There are various conditions under which these maxims may be violated or infringed upon. One of these is instrumental to the explanation of how some implicatures are being communicated. For example, if a speaker blatantly and openly says something which appears to be irrelevant, it can be assumed that he or she really intends to communicate something which is relevant, but does so implicitly. Much figurative language deliberately flouts a maxim or two as it seems to express something untrue or unclear, but if the speaker's implied meaning is not understood by the hearer and is obvious in the context of interaction with other participants, then it is inapplicable to refer to these maxims. The speaker might, therefore, flout or exploit a maxim without any problems if he or she implies a clear meaning and the hearer is also able to infer this clear meaning.

2.2 The Gricean Maxims and Literary Discourse

To extend the cooperative principle to literary discourse, we may resort to Cook (1994), who is not much in favor of assuming literature as cooperative, but his ideas about the common ground between the nature of conversation and written literary texts justifies our incentives for the present study. Cook believes that conversation, apparently far removed from writing in its casual haphazardness, shares many features with literature. Both literature and conversation are at once predictable and unpredictable. Conversation may serve the purpose of refreshing and changing schematic knowledge in a way similar to literature (Edwards and Middleton 1987). These features may make some of the observations of conversation analysis as a discourse type pertinent to the analysis of literature. The boundary between conversation and other discourse types, like the one between literary and non-literary discourse, is fuzzy, and there are many intermediate cases. Yet, this resistance to definition is not the only feature conversation shares with literature. It might be argued that the discourse of conversation is fundamentally different from that of a novel, for example, in that it represents the creation of two or more people in interaction, and is, thus, under the control of at least one individual. It might also be observed that discourse represents spoken rather than written language and that there are fundamentally different parameters in discourse typology. The differences between speaking and writing, however, like the related differences between monologue and dialogue and reciprocal and non-reciprocal, are neither as clear-cut nor as fundamental as they might at first appear.

Before discussing the way cooperative maxims might help to understand the nature of children’s songs, we need to know how they are applied to literature. In recent years, the notion that written discourse may be regarded as shaped by an interactive process has gained strength through the theories of the Russian linguist and literary theorist Bakhtin. He argues that all discourse is in a sense dialogic (Bakhtin 1986). Dialogue, in the narrow sense of an alternating talk between two participants, is, of course, only one of the forms of language use. Dialogue can also be understood in a broader sense, meaning not only direct face-to-face, vocalized verbal communication between people, but also written communication in which receiver and sender are not in face.to-face interaction. Monologue discourse, then, can be viewed as a succession of answers to imagined and unspoken questions by the receiver (Widdowson 1978: pp. 25). In this light, all discourse seems to proceed dialogically, even if the interlocutor is only present as a ghost.

The idea of applying the Gricean Maxims to the analysis of literary texts has been developed most fully in van Dijk's Pragmatics and Poetics (1977) and Pratt's Toward a Speech Act Theory of Literary Discourse (1977). Van Dijk states that all Gricean Maxims are violated in literary communication, that the speaker "opts out" from the contextual principles of ordinary conversation and that the cooperative principle does not hold. He proposes the so-called cooperative principle from which the four literary counterparts of the Gricean principle are derived (1976: pp. 46). Pratt (1977) also notes the conspicuous difference in communication on the levels of author-reader. What counts as a lie, a clash, an opting out, or an unintentional failure on the part of a fictional speaker (or writer) counts as flouting on the part of a real-world author. The implicature involved as the result of flouting is that the non-fulfillment is in accord with the purpose of the exchange in which the reader and the author are engaged (Karpenko 1993). However, William Tolhurst (1979 cited in Beardsley 1981: 2) states that a poem is an utterance and its meaning is to be understood in the way proposed by H.P. Grice that understanding the poem is essentially a matter of correctly discerning what the poet intended by it.

2.3 The Position of Nursery Rhymes on the Continuum of Literary and Non-Literary Texts

As Ouliaeinia (2003: 2) declares, linguistically speaking, literary discourse is derived from the same discourse from which all other types of discourse originate. However, it serves a different purpose. Its purpose and use are different from those of daily or non-literary discourses. In daily and scientific conversational discourse, speakers have to be precise and direct in order to communicate the information they mean to transfer as quickly and unambiguously as possible. Therefore, in practical usage of language, ambiguity is not much appreciated whereas in literary discourse, sounding ambiguous and postponing the perception of the total meaning are both considered as virtues, not flaws. Formalists such as Jakobson, Brik, Shkolovsky saw literary language as a set of deviations from the norm, a kind of linguistic violence: Literature, then, is a special type of language, in contrast to ordinary language commonly used. Literature transforms and intensifies ordinary language and deviates systematically from everyday speech. In view of such definitions, it is clear that literature, particularly children's literature, has a great deal to offer to readers. For the purpose of the present study, nursery rhymes will be considered as part of the genre of children's literature.

When casting a look at nursery rhymes, the careful observer will notice that they share aspects of literary and non-literary discourse. They are considered as literary discourse in that they are not meant for the mere conveyance of information to the reader. Our familiarity with various kinds of images and the functions of imagination in the perception of nursery rhymes induces us to consider this type of writing as literary discourse. Taking this into account does, however, not mean that children's literature is pure fun as Van Der Meer says: "Nursery rhymes have a lot more to offer than just entertainment value." (Van Der Meer 1999: 1) On the other hand, the images occurring in nursery rhymes are, to a great extent, tangible and the literary devices they contain are mostly limited to fairly simple ones such as simile, metaphor, personification, and apostrophe. As Marshal (1982: pp. 22) declares "nursery rhyme is aimed at children with a simple plot, style, characterization and vocabulary." The language of these poems must be suitable for children, with simple words and structures, shortened sentences and down-to-earth subject matters accorded with the level of children's understanding and their knowledge of the world. As Ouliaeinia asserts:

Children are not grown emotionally and intellectually yet. But they do have very strong sensory susceptibility which somehow compensates for their want of intellectual complexity. (Ouliaeinia 2003: 23)

Such literature is not supposed to be complicated by the use of some complex poetic devices such as allusion, symbol or irony, which are, in a way, the elements that express ambiguity in literature. Such elements are mainly to add to the literariness of literary discourse; they postpone the reader's perception of the total meaning of the poem in order to increase the beauty of the language of literature, which is remarkably appreciated in adults' literature, not in children's literature. Therefore with respect to what was claimed above, one can conclude that children's literature in general and nursery rhymes in particular represent a borderline discourse; a semi-literary and semi-nonliterary discourse.

Considering the discourse of nursery rhymes neither solely as a literary nor completely as a non-literary one, we will specify the position children’s songs take on the functional continuum of literary and non-literary discourse before examining the way the Gricean Maxims are or are not applicable to literary texts. Before dealing with the Gricean Maxims and Cook's cognitive change, we should first cast a look at the function of language and its classification by Halliday (1976). Halliday specifies three major functions for language:

1) the ideational function which considers language as a means of conveying and interpreting the experience of the natural world and events,

2) the interpersonal function which takes language as a means of conveying and interpreting the social world, and

3) the textual function which reckons language as a means of constructing a coherent text.

Since the first two functions are presented through coherence in the third function of textuality, it is not a matter of discussion in the present research. Therefore, we mostly focus on the first two functions of language in nursery rhymes.

The language of nursery rhymes meets the first function, the ideational one, in that it gives children some information about the natural world around them. In order to have a better understanding of the world, children must learn how to read and spell, and the first step towards this capability is a developed sensitivity to language. As Schickedanz declares, nursery rhymes are a means of teaching reading and spelling to children.

A rhyme's repetition can sensitize the children to the individual units of sound, known as phonemes, which make up words. For example, the line, "Baa, baa black sheep" places three /b/ sounds in a row; later in the verse, the words dame and lane highlight the long /ei/ sound. Nursery rhymes are organized so that similar sounds jump out at you, which does not happen in everyday speech. Having developed sensitivity to language, children are ready, at the age of 5 or 6, to think about the sequence of sounds in a whole word, a skill that is crucial for learning to read and spell. (Schickedanz cited in Van Der Meer 1999: 1).

By the same token, according to Whitebread (2000: 120), the learning of language requires two basic phenomena. The first one is that children deliberately and explicitly memorize information of various kinds, much of it arbitrary (letters of alphabets, phoneme–grapheme correspondences, written numbers) or unrelated to their everyday world. This seems to play an essential role in the way the author of children’s songs commits him/herself to observe a significant principle apart from the cooperative principle which will be discussed later in this study. Secondly, the phenomenon that children understand and develop ideas and concepts accordingly is part of a planned and delivered curriculum rather than arising naturally from their life experience. Therefore, a novice reader will initially have to organize his or her phonemic or lexical knowledge in order to access texts. Another instance of ideational function of rhymes is of relevance when very young children find plenty of territory they can relate to in the brief verses of Mother Goose. Smith (1991) names some of the subjects: falling down, getting lost, fear of spiders, and losing mittens are all close to children’s hearts. These rhymes, according to Smith, have probably lasted as long as they have because they help kids laugh about things that are usually stressful (Smith cited in Van Der Meer 1999).

Rhymes also encompass the interpersonal function of non-literary discourse. According to Opie & Opie (1997), nursery rhymes introduce the idea of listening from beginning to end as the narrative develops, but they are short, so a child does not have to sit still very long. As children get older, the timeline can be stretched, so they can read longer stories with a real plot. Rhymes that invite the children’s participation provide even more learning opportunities. Opie & Opie add that when you play pat-a-cake, for example, “your baby learns to clap his hands and to recognize his own name,” (Opie & Opie cited in Van Der Meer 1999: 1). There are other social benefits to nursery rhymes, “In a way, the parent who plays word games with her child is saying, ‘You can use language to be close to other people,’” says Smith (cited in Van Der Meer 1999: 2). Smith (ibid) notes: "Later, when children recite or sing the rhymes together, they have a very powerful effect. Kids discover they have something in common with other kids, it creates a bond between them” (Smith cited in Van Der Meer 1999: 1). Therefore mother-goose songs can teach children both about people and about ‘things’. As Hassan holds:

Exposure to nursery rhymes and other forms of verbal art is valuable starting point. The humble nursery rhyme is a rich resource for drawing attention to essentially the same characteristic of language that is employed so effectively in literature-namely its ability to construct meaning for us and from the arbitrariness of the signs follows its community based nature, its dependence on social context, its truly creative aspect - namely our social reality. (Hassan 1989: 105).

As for literary discourse, elaborating on Grice's major principles of language – the co-operative and politeness principles - and the four basic maxims of the former one, Guy Cook deduces that though the Gricean Maxims are sufficient for reflecting a universal need to act together and to maintain social relationships, they are inadequate in dealing with literary discourse. Later, he propounds a third principle specific to literary discourse, called cognitive change principle, according to which some discourse is best interpreted when following the maxim "change the receiver" (Cook 1994: 44). This principle refers to the function of changing the receiver's mental representations. Before setting forth his cognitive change principle, Cook argues that schemata are an essential element in establishing coherence: they are needed to help us understand discourse. He also declares, "as well as helping understanding, schemata may also hinder and prevent understanding if they are too inflexible." (Cook 1994: 182). Cook (Ibid) believes human beings need to adapt to new situations, and this need will only be met when schemata are alterable; so, he propounds his theory of schema change. He gets to his theory of 'cognitive change' by asserting that there are three types of discourse:

- schema preserving: leaving existing schemata as they were,

- schema reinforcing: leaving existing schemata stronger than before, and

- schema refreshing: disrupting and changing the existing schemata.

According to Cook, literature falls into the category of the third type of discourse, the refreshing one. As a result of this categorization, many approaches to discourse analysis seem not to be capable of coping with the coherence of literary discourse. When studying the Gricean co-operative and politeness principles and the Hallidayan ideational or interpersonal functions, Cook has found out that the function of schema refreshment comes under neither of the mentioned functions or principles. He claims that literary discourse will best be dealt with pragmatically when being studied in the light of schema change: a change in the schemata of the reader's mind which equals cognitive change. Stories in children’s songs can provide a valuable amount of input for children in order that their schemata of experiences and happenings are not only increased but also refreshed since they help to prepare the children for the possibilities of a whole new world of experiences. Representations of a world filled with fantasy, animals and creatures with such fantastic personalities that range from the ridiculous to the sublime freshen up their schemata (Abdul Hafiz 2002).

2.4 The Universality of the Maxims Under Question

The universality of the cooperative principle has been doubted by many speech-act theoreticians with regard to other cultures and different situations within people’s everyday conversations. Researchers like Pratt and Gazdar dissociate themselves from Grice's formulations either because of their informality or their value-ladenness. It has apparently been "reasonable” to question the Gricean Maxims in relation to other cultures. Gerald Gazdar, in his book on pragmatics and presupposition, writes about some residual issues:

If one could show that there are language communities which do not obey some or all of the maxims, but are nevertheless reasonable and rational, then Grice's strong claim about the nature of the maxims could not be sustained" (Gazdar cited in Pratt 1986: 65-66).

Three years before Gazdar, the anthropologist Elinor Keenan showed the inadequacy of the maxims for explaining the way knowledge circulated in the Madagascar community. Keenan (1976, paper originally circulated in 1973, MLP and cited in Pratt (1986: 65) found out that Malagasy speakers make their contributions as uninformative as possible. For example, if asked where somebody is, they may typically reply with a disjunction even though they know, and are known to know, which disjunct is true. Likewise they normally may use syntactic constructions which delete the agent in order to conceal the identity of the person responsible for the action described. Likewise, they use indefinites or common nouns even to refer to close relatives. This very practice is in direct contravention of a special case of Grice's quantity maxim. Keenan's findings imply that Grice's maxims are only "reasonable" and "rational" relative to a given situation, culture, community, or state of affairs. They cannot be defended as universal principles of conversation in a literary or non-literary interpretation of text:

The astonishing revelation that the maxims are not universal could of course have been reached by examining almost any press conference, board meeting, classroom, or family room in the country, where the exotic and perverse practices are routine. (Pratt 1986:66)

According to Pratt (ibid), when trying to outline what is systematically missing in the Gricean cooperative account, one could start with three factors: affective relations, power relations, and the question of shared goals. For instance, it is not always possible to easily apply the cooperative principle to belligerent interactive discourse or to intimate discourse. In both of these, frequent repletion infringes the quantity maxim, and sudden unexpected topic switches infringe the relevance maxim. The similarity of literary text communication to two extremes suggests that it also suspends social niceties. The literary voice is both the voice of power and the voice of an intimate.

Notwithstanding these controversial issues in literature with regard to the application or non-application of his maxims to different contexts, in his own writings, Grice is careful to point out limitations on his maxims, stressing that they are formulated only to apply to language used for the "maximally efficient exchange of information," and that they would have to be modified so as to be applicable to other situations. Such an elaboration has, however, never taken place, and Grice's formulations now widely function in literature as the norm for non-literary verbal interaction (e.g. Gazdar 1979; Smith 1978). However, in their daily non-literary use of language, people are surrounded all the time by speech events that are in principled ways, not cooperative, not information-exchanging, not efficient, and in which truthfulness, proportion, relevance, and informativeness are systematically absent or mitigated. To deal with many cases to which the standard account of cooperativeness does not fully apply, several maneuvers are available (Pratt 1986).

One is to uphold the standard account and say that all these other instances are violations of it, that quarreling, gossiping, flattery, exaggeration, bargaining, advertising, novels, fictions, poems and so on involve deviant or otherwise non-normal kinds of language use. Most of the speech acts listed as falling outside the cooperativeness analysis are extremely commonplace and conventional. There are good reasons to be dissatisfied with a theory which designates much of what people linguistically do as lying outside the norms of their language. A second option, more compatible with the aim of the current study, is to expand the theory so that it is descriptively adequate to the status quo. In Gricean terms, this could mean adding some new principles of interaction, for example, a Coercive Principle, a Conflictive Principle, a Subversive Principle, and a Submissive Principle.

Considering a pragmatic definition of children’s song as an outcome of intentions and decisions on the part of authors, perceiving the language of songs as child-oriented plots of a distinctive order - active and full of incidents rather than descriptions and introspection - and accepting the functions associated with children’s songs, the present study assumes that pragmatically, nursery rhymes do not exist in a vacuum and therefore require, as any other text and interaction, some principles on whose basis the intention of the writer can be traced back. In finding evidence in literature to reveal how and why some theoreticians dissociated themselves from Grice's formulations, this study intends to answer the following questions:

1. To what extent are the Gricean Maxims applicable to nursery rhymes as a speech event?

2. What modifications and additions, if any, are required to be made in the definition of the maxims?

As can be seen, none of the studies stated above have investigated the adequacy or inadequacy of the maxims for children’s songs. Therefore, in the present study, Grice’s existing formulations and their application to fulfilling the major functions of nursery rhymes are examined.

3 Method

Using a discourse analysis design, a collection of 50 nursery rhymes was taken from online and offline sources mentioned in the bibliography, as data to be analyzed in terms of their cooperative nature and the way Gricean maxims are, in this particular language event, either respected or violated (see Appendix). The rhymes collected were mainly narrative. A native English 8-year old child was consulted for ensuring general familiarity of all the songs among native English children. Since some of the rhymes were downloaded from the Internet, 20 of them were not even heard by the child judge, hence excluded from the collection, leaving 40 songs to be examined.

The article adapts the Gricean Cooperative Principle and the conversational maxims along with functional perspectives on non-literary texts: by Halliday (1976), i.e. interpersonal and ideational, on the one hand, and the literary function proposed by Cook (1994), i.e. cognitive change, on the other. After the identification of the corpus of nursery rhymes, the first concern was to justify the position of this speech event on the literary - non-literary continuum. We justified the position of nursery rhymes on the continuum of literary discourse, considering the common points the songs share both with literary and non-literary discourse (see section 2.2). For our purpose, we will assume that most writers of children's songs have a purpose (or message), the least of which is to entertain children. In many cases, they want to communicate a message to their addressees. In order for the rhymes to operate successfully, they must function based on pragmatical principles and maxims, some of which are compatible and some incompatible with what Grice proposed. In the following sections, we will primarily discuss the relevance the maxims of quantity and manner are treated with in literature. These will be discussed under one heading as the examination of the songs unraveled that they are not normally flouted in this language activity. It also reveals the requirement of quantity and relevance for the maxims to be re-defined, based on the new principle we discovered to be dominant in writing nursery rhymes.

4 Analysis and Discussion

In this section, we will try to analyze the corpus of nursery rhymes in relation to Gricean maxims. We particularly present those songs that vividly reflect the new formulations we hypothesized through examining the rhymes.

4.1 The Maxims of Quantity, Manner and Relevance in Literature

The implications of Grice's model for literary and rhetorical theory have only begun to be explored in last few decades. Pratt (1977) does not specifically discuss it, failing to grasp a literary implicature, but she applies Grice's basic two-person model to the four-person structure of reported speech or fiction (author, reported or fictional speaker, reported or fictional hearer, and reader), and explores the various ways in which the author of a literary text can implicate meaning through what he has his characters say. Cooper (1977) proposes that the occurrence of conversational implicature is a variable feature of literary style which can distinguish one literary genre from another and one literary work from another. She also relates the playwright's devise of dialogic plot-exposition to Grice's second maxim of quantity which is usually violated. Finally, van Dijk (1976: pp. 44) defines literature itself as discourse that systematically subverts Grice's cooperative principle and all its maxims.

For studying the pragmatic aspect of literary and non-literary texts, perhaps the most important of the Gricean maxims is relevance, i.e. the requirement that the statements issued by a speaker or a writer are of importance for the topic and the understanding of what is being communicated. Relevance, however, is a rather protean phenomenon, for what is relevant is often solely dependent upon context. The addressees assume that the information provided by the sender is relevant to their understanding of the text. They also assume that the characters within a given text are being relevant when conversing with one another. The point is that relevance and what writers assume the audience knows both influence a given text and literature as a whole. However, what the author of children’s song assumes the respective audience does not know is abundant; and this is what marks some of the characteristics of nursery rhymes. The knowledge shared in this case is not shared knowledge of the world per se, but rather of the literary tradition of rhymes.

According to Karpenko (1993), it may, at first glance, seem that the maxims of quantity, relation and manner are violated in literary texts: they can be full of reasoning and description, which are not directly connected with the plot, and may be regarded as irrelevant or uninformative. On the other hand, they may appear significant and relevant with respect to the author's general message. The only reasonable way to treat this contradiction is, first, to take into account the presupposition which is implicit in every published literary text, namely, that the author wants to communicate; otherwise his or her work would not appear on paper. Taking for granted that the author observes the cooperative principle we should also take for granted his or her point of view on what he or she considers appropriate, relevant and/or informative for the purpose of communication. The author says as much on the subject as he or she thinks to be sufficient, and we cannot doubt his/her choice since normally, we cannot doubt his/her desire to cooperate. As Karpenko holds, maxims of quantity, relation and manner, especially the third sub-maxim ("Be brief"), as they are related to literary communication, cannot be prescriptive in stating the upper and lower boundaries of informativeness and brevity. So, in his opinion, an author never opts out; he or she cooperates and has evidently proved it by having his or her text published. Nor can we say that the maxims are violated because, as we have stated above, all the deviations are within the author's intention and therefore necessary for the tasks set out by the author in the given literary work. The reader is never misled, which is often the case with the violation of maxims in conversation. It also seems impossible to treat all the deviant cases as flouting, because, for example, a lengthy description of nature in a book does not normally give rise to any implicature. All the apparent contradictions in applying Grice's maxims to literature can be resolved if the starting point of analysis is the purpose of literary communication.

In the following sections, we will first elaborate on what has been found in our examination about the maxims of relevance, quantity and manner, either their observance or their violation, and we will discuss about the ways the Gricean Maxims are modified, held, or flouted on the author's part for the purpose of entertainment in general and for that of edifying or teaching in particular. In a second step, we will argue about the way the maxim of quality is, in comparison to literary discourse, partially violated to present simple yet vivid images compatible with what children fancy.

4.2 The Relevance Maxims and Nursery Rhymes

To assume the rhymes relevant to the main topic, as is required in cooperation between addresser and addressee, we need to view the maxims from a new viewpoint and make modifications. For writing nursery rhymes, the author consciously or unconsciously assumes the song relevant as far as what he or she writes about is within the concern of children in general. The maxim holds that the topic should be that of children's concerns: the games, the things they play with, what they like to eat, things perceived as mysterious to them and the things which scare them. Relevance could have at least two aspects:

1) the kind of content related to a given topic of children’s concern or the song-writer’s intention

2) the kind of content useful in attaining this goal.

The assumption is that the writer of the song employs the relevance maxim, or relevance strategy or precept as Searle envisions, dealing with what children care about. Therefore, this strategy, in the first place, involves the choice of issue on the part of the writer. The second aspect of the maxim rather is the concern of the quantity maxim, elaborated later.

For instance, in the song “There was an old woman”, the most common version of which is quoted below,

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe. She had so many children, she didn't know what to do. She gave them some broth without any bread; Then whipped them all soundly and put them to bed.

our assumption is that children cannot discern the hidden allusion. Therefore, the writer introduces a woman coming from a background of extreme poverty, portraying a topic relevant to children's concern, but grim, i.e. not having anything to eat, in a fantastic way.

The following nursery rhyme is also relevant to children's concern:

Hot cross buns, Hot cross buns

One a penny,

Two a penny

Hot cross buns

If you have no daughters, Give them to your sons

One a penny,

Two a penny,

Hot cross buns

Cross buns, and even better hot cross buns, are loved by nearly all children. Almost all children enjoy having cookies and buns. Now, the topic of the above rhyme is hot buns and buying them for children which provides them with lots of joy and happiness. Not only do children become familiar with the notion of buying things and paying for them in this poem, but they also enjoy the topic of paying for buns and enjoying having them. Therefore, emotionally, very young children find plenty of territories they can relate to in the brief verses of Mother Goose, such subjects as fear of hunger or falling down, getting lost, fear of spider or even the joy in having cross buns (Smith 1991).

4.3 The Maxim of Quantity

Some speech-act theoreticians believe that literary communication is fundamentally different from oral communication in that the addresser and the addressee in literary communication are temporally, locally, and possibly culturally distanced. As a result, literary communication is a one-sided process with no feedback on the part of the addressee. The effect these peculiarities have on communication, are most evident in the case of the maxims of quantity and manner. What was sufficiently informative at the time of writing may not be sufficiently informative centuries later; what is obscure and ambiguous in one historical period may be neither obscure nor ambiguous in another. This and similar cases present an interesting phenomenon of text semantics, the text becoming semantically insufficient with the passing of time. What was famous in the writer's time is now irrecoverably lost, and the maxim of quantity is felt to be violated in text that originally was semantically sufficient (Karpenko 1993). Another case of non-fulfillment of the maxims of quantity and manner is when the text is sufficiently informative for one culture but not for another. Then they are culturally so distant that mutual communication seems impossible (Pratt 1986, Karpenko 1993).

The maxim of quantity requires the speaker to give as much information as the he or she needs, but no more than that. Accordingly, the speaker must have some sense of what the addressee knows and needs to know. The addressee would assume that the speaker is not withholding information and is not saying more than necessary. This maxim introduces some very subtle guidelines into a conversation as the nature of the speaker's response will depend in large part on how much information he or she believes to be appropriate for that point in the conversation. The maxim of quantity can be suspended in order to mislead a conversational partner (Cheng-jun 2008).

When applied to text, complete uninformativeness can be a requirement of the genre - the simplest cases being puzzles, riddles, crosswords. Evidently the major goal here is not to inform but to entertain readers, making them work out the answer. More sophisticated genres, such as detective stories and thrillers, operate on the same principle.

Another instance of violation of quantity can be found in coded texts, passwords or ciphers; the addresser is totally uninformative and really means to conceal information, being motivated by various extra linguistic reasons. Here the addresser wants to cooperate with a very restricted group of people. The maxim is violated with some addressees and observed with others. This non-fulfillment of the maxim is often the result of a clash between the maxim of quantity and that of quality. For example, under certain conditions, the addresser cannot be fully explicit, clear, and truthful at a time. In this case, the addresser has two coexisting major goals: to impart the information to the initiated and, at the same time, to conceal it from the rest. With the readers' presumption of a cooperating author, it will never be mistaken for a breach of the cooperative principle. This piece of text only serves to intrigue readers and make them read on in anticipation of an explanation (Karpenko 1993).

The addresser can be excessively informative on the subject as well. Here what might seem excessively informative to readers may well form part of the addresser's intention, and as a result of this, entail a message in itself. Thus, it can not count as a violation of the maxim of quantity. It is rather a suspension or flouting, accompanied by the suspension of the brevity maxim.

Another reason for the author's being too informative or verbose lies in style or genre (cf. an epic novel and a limerick, for example). In these cases, violation does not occur either (Karpenko 1993). For Cook (1994), the maxim of quantity is difficult to apply to literary discourse. He poses the question “What is the appropriate length for something which has no apparent practical or social function?" By any practical criterion, all works of literature are too long. Conversely, the compression of meaning is also a frequent feature of literature, and often perceived as a virtue. The kind of linguistic inventiveness, so amply detailed in the literature of stylistics, often affects a degree of economy which is implicitly praised. In fact, the implicit claim of any school of literary criticism which devotes its time to explicating the meaning of a text at much greater length than the text does itself implies both the existence of compression and a positive assessment of that compression. This flouting of the quantity maxim in literary texts, however, creates effects quite different from the terseness it might create elsewhere.

Pragmatic analysis of children's songs revealed that “being informative enough” may not hold true if discussed in terms of units of information.

The maxim of quantity for nursery rhymes, however, might be summarized as “be informative", and it involves giving children, new or unpredictable content. Emphasis on unpredictability is both on content, which is the dominant concern of semantics and pragmatics, and the language system like phones and syntax. Being informative enough entails catching attention deliberately in a noticeably non-expected way, through configuration of sound, violation of categorical convention and semantic field. An example of bizarre configuration of sounds and infrequent word selection is evident in the following nursery rhyme:

Incy Wincy Spider Claimed up the spout

Down came the rain and washed poor Incy out.

Out came the sun and dried up all the rain

Incy Wincy spider claimed the spout again.

As was stated above, the maxim of quantity is observed when sounding unexpected. The poet attempts to write an informative poem for children, both in terms of sounds and content. In the above song, the spider is a creature not much favorable to children and its presentation as the main character unexpectedly washed out of a rain pipe is a matter of informativeness. Additionally, the name of the spider, Incy, goes well with the word wincy which follows it. In order to produce the bizarre configuration of the sound /s/, the words incy, wincy, spider, and spout go with each other. Moreover, the word wincy gives a good visual and tactile imagery of a spider to the child since it is associated with the words wincey ("a twilled fabric of wool and cotton") and wince ("making a face indicating disgust"). The poet manages to be informative by giving a picture of a spider washed-out of the drain pipe and then attempting to get back home. Therefore, a short three-line song does what a one-page description of a spider on a rainy day can do, answering questions like what a spider is like, where it lives, why rain takes a spider out of its home, and so forth.

Syntactic structure might also be the focus of unexpectedness, presenting a non-ordinary sequence. The objection that syntactic issues cannot be discussed in pragmatic justification is unacceptable since, although grammar is not an account of performance, it does have a relation to performance whatsoever. On the one hand, grammar is in part an extrapolation from performance. On the other hand, grammar does imply analytical statements about specific utterances. At the very least, it labels them as following the default or not:

Old King Cole was a merry old soul

And a merry old soul was he;

He called for his pipe, and he called for his bowl

And he called for his fiddlers three.

Every fiddler he had a fiddle,

And a very fine fiddle had he;

Oh there's none so rare, as can compare

With King Cole and his fiddlers three.

The underlined lines represent the way diversion from the ordinary grammatical structures adds informativity, here, unexpected structure, to the song.

However, as it can be seen from the foregoing examples and the following songs, the maxim of quantity, modified as “present unpredictable content”, is more strictly applied to contextual and semantic defaults. Quite reasonably, ordinariness of those conventional occurrences, concepts, and processes does not challenge their interest. Events, objects, or occurrences which, at first, appear to be outside the set of more probable options convey more information, and in the case of rhymes for children, they convey more excitement. Hence they require much attention and processing resources, for they create discrepancies, not matching patterns of conventional limited resources of a child. In the following song:

Hey diddle, Diddle, the cat and the fiddle

The caw jumped over the moon

The little dog laughed to see such sport

And the dish ran away with the spoon.

the imagery is exactly what is wanted for the first movements of imagination when experiments are in incongruity. It is full of familiar objects in fantastic conjunction. The child has seen a cow and the moon. But the notion of the one jumping over the other is probably new to him and therefore appears potentially nonsensical. Cats, dogs, dishes and spoons are all his daily companions and even his friends, but it gives him a sort of fresh surprise and happiness to think of their going on such a singular holiday. The appeal arises from the entertaining way in which the nonsensical occurrences in the world of the song create a foolish, yet memorable and interesting scene before little children's eyes. The fact is that it is the observance of the maxim of quantity in its new version, creating unexpected sounds, syntax, and, more essentially, content that makes even "non-sense poems" like Hey Diddle Diddle - and the following one - tolerable:

It is raining, it’s pouring

The old man is snoring

He went to bed and bumped his head

And couldn’t get up in the morning.

While it is the loyal reliance on the maxim of quantity that makes the rhymes unexpected and serves informativeness of the songs for the rhymes to work successfully, the maxim of quantity, as proposed by Grice, should be flouted, since its observance is in clash with the new version of the maxim of quantity proposed here (see section 4.5).

4.4 The Maxim of Manner

The maxim of manner, for Grice, includes several ways to arrange and deliver texts. "Be perspicuous" has been restated as "be such that the intentions you have for what you say are plainly served" (Dressler & Beaugrande 1981: 120). This looks back to Grice's original account of intentional meaning, adding a stipulation of clarity. The maxim of manner includes another injunction, namely to "avoid obscurity of expression". However the text producer might have motives for obscurity, hence flouting the sub-maxim, such as taking the advantages which obscurity can create in preventing a distribution of knowledge. It is very difficult to make a clear-cut distinction between the first two sub-maxims of manner in a literary text, which avoid obscurity of expression. Cases which Karpenko (1993) has pointed are such literary genres as fables and parables. Indirectness of expression and ambiguity are the constituent features of the genres in question. So the first two sub-maxims of manner are, by definition, flouted in these texts, giving raise to implicatures. The message itself becomes a code, a symbolic structure. Genre imposes upon the author the necessity to be ambiguous but in such a way that the message is quickly discerned. The author does not declare the moral message overtly, respecting the genre; he or she conveys it under the guise of a story or anecdote for readers to grasp the moral lesson on their own. Thus, it becomes semantically foregrounded as the result of a cooperative effort made between author and reader. So in fables and parables, flouting of the maxim of manner is in conformity with a major dynamic goal - i.e. to influence the reader.

Yet, children’s literature is, by definition, a kind of writing especially suitable for children, with a simple plot and simple style. What is implied is that the author of children's songs may indirectly wish to familiarize the audience with something intended, but this cannot be done by flouting these two sub-maxims and making a coded implicature to be decoded by the child since young children do not clearly understand the implicatures at the same rate as adults do (Hurewitz et al 2006).

The third part of the maxim of manner is to "avoid ambiguity". Although many natural language expressions could have different senses under different conditions, ambiguity is only obtained when a decision as to the sense which is actually intended cannot be made. This sub-maxim is not normally violated in some texts, including nursery rhymes, since on the one hand, it makes the processing of the multiple senses arduous, and on the other hand, ambiguity has the additional annoyance of expending effort on materials neither intended nor useful for the child. Even the concepts which may first appear ambiguous are disambiguated by relating the concepts taken from the same semantic field, which, for instance, is the case in the following nursery rhyme which can be taken as an example for the maxim of manner and that of quantity (see section 4.3):

Old King Cole was a merry old soul

And a merry old soul was he;

He called for his pipe, and he called for his bowl

And he called for his fiddlers three.

Every fiddler he had a fiddle,

And a very fine fiddle had he;

Oh there's none so rare, as can compare

With King Cole and his fiddlers three.

The word pipe refers to a musical instrument (perhaps a flute or a recorder), supported by the final lyrics of the song "there's none so rare, as can compare / With King Cole and his fiddlers three", which seem to suggest that King Cole and his fiddlers played music together as a group. The term pipe is commonly used as an "informal term for a flute or recorder". The word Cole actually means music in Gaelic, and this may be the origin of the name in the rhyme (Macleod & Dewar 1853).

The final part of the maxim of manner, and which seems strictly related to the intention of the writer of children's songs is “be orderly", i.e. “present your materials in the order in which they are required". Lack of orderliness, as the flouting of the sub-maxim of manner ("be orderly"), apart from the extreme version, is an inevitable feature of innovative style, and has long been known in literature. Changing the order of events and relocating characters to new settings has become a norm of literary texts. The mental exercise of putting the events in the right order and of locating them correctly does not normally seem difficult at all. The partial violation of the sub-maxim of orderliness is conventional in literary texts.

Obvious illustration would be the normal ordering strategy for mentioning events and situations. The violation of this part of the maxim of manner has been abundantly frequent in literary texts, though it is absent in nursery rhymes, for the observance of the ordering strategy reflects the extent to which it makes processing and storage easier for the child: The child's mind does not have to strain itself by searching for an unconventional organizational mode. In the following lullaby:

Rock-a-bye baby, in the treetop,

When the wind blows, the cradle will rock,

When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall,

And down will come baby, cradle and all.

the writer of the poem lets the child observe the way a mother rocked their babies in birch-bark cradles, which were suspended from the branches of trees, allowing the wind to rock the baby to sleep. He does not scramble the order and sequences of events - the wind blows, it rocks the cradle, first the bough breaks and as a consequence, the cradle falls.

4.5 The Maxim of Quality in Literary Texts and Nursery Rhymes

Grice has emphasized that this maxim is valued by speakers much more highly than the others. Its violation amounts to moral offence whereas violation of the others is at worst inconsiderate or rude (Grice 1975: pp. 45). The statements used in conversation should have some factual basis. Questions or requests can not be either true or false. But it is sometimes possible for the speaker's response to flout the maxim of quality so as to create particular effects, for example, humor or irony (Cheng-June 2008).

It is worth noting, however, the rather peculiar relationship which exists between this maxim and literary discourse. Writing commonly recognized as literary ranges from that presented as true (such as Jorge Orwell's account of his Spanish Civil War experiences in Homage to Catalonia) to the fantastic (such as Shakespeare's The Tempest). In between these two extremes, there are many kinds of relationships between fiction and fact: Works which interweave fact and fiction (such as Tolstoy's War and Peace, or Solzhenitsyn's The first Circle) or which are loosely based on fact (such as D.H Lawrence's Sons and Lovers); works which are allegorically factual (Albert Camus' novel La Peste or George Orwell's Animal farm) or those which, though fictional, may be interpreted as a series of events which might have happened (as is the case in any work of realistic fiction) (cf. Cook (1994). Hancher (1977: pp. 1095) makes the further suggestion that much omniscient narration, by flouting the second maxim of quality, implicates that the narration is fictional.

In the case of individual literary utterances, the degree of truth seems singularly irrelevant. To ask whether opening lines like "I was born in the year 1666 in the city of York.” or " I went to the Garden of Love", are true, is quite beside the point. It is the case, nevertheless, that even in the most fantastic literature, the connections of minor constituent details must be perceived as possible in the real world, however fabulous the overall effect may be (Cook 1994).

However, the images of nursery rhymes are to a great extent tangible and the literary devices are mostly limited to fairly simple ones such as personification, apostrophe, and simile. As Marshal (1982: pp. 22) declares the reason is that the "nursery rhyme is aimed at children with a simple plot, style, characterization and vocabulary." The language of these poems must be suitable for children, with simple words and structure, shortened sentences and down-to-earth subject matters accorded with the level of children's understanding and their knowledge of the world. That is why we have considered the violation of the maxim of quality in nursery rhymes as partial. As Ouliaeinia asserts, children are not grown emotionally and intellectually yet. But they do have very strong sensory susceptibility which somehow compensates for their want of intellectual complexity (Ouliaeinia 2003: 23). Therefore, such literature is not supposed to be complicated by the use of some complex poetic devices such as allusion, symbol or irony, which are, in a way, the elements of ambiguity in literature and instances of the flouting of the maxim of quality. Such elements are mainly to add to the literariness of literary discourse. They postpone the reader's perception of the total meaning of the poem in order to increase the beauty of the language of literature, which is remarkably appreciated in adults' literature, not, however, in children's literature.

The following nursery rhyme may serve as an illustrative example:

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,

How I wonder what you are.

Up above the world so high,

Like a diamond in the sky,

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,

How I wonder what you are

This is a typical nursery rhyme, partially flouting the Gricean maxim of quality. The speaker here is a child with his/her little knowledge of the world (i.e. the sky and the celestial bodies). He or she is addressing a star and asking it about its very nature. The partiality of violation is indicated by the unsophisticated creation of literary devices in comparison to literary texts. Since there is an addresser - the child - and an addressee - the star -, there is a good instance of a dialog (cf. Bakhtin 1986). Additionally, when speaking to a star, the child is personifying it, hence flouting the maxim of quality. As was mentioned before, personification is a frequent poetic device in nursery rhymes. Children usually ask numerous questions about various things, but they sometimes prefer turning to these things directly, talking to them like in a dialog, which is the case in the present rhyme. Therefore, all through this poem, we have apostrophe – i.e. addressing a nonhuman. One case of simile applied in our study to the collection of rhymes was found in this poem, in the fourth line when the child compares the little star to a glittering diamond up in the black night sky. The star is like a diamond in that it is shiny, tiny and precious. Through the of the maxim of quality, these visual images all in all present a memorable vivid mental picture of the starry night sky, which in turn makes the song easily memorable.

The flouting of the maxim of quality is also perceived in the following rhyme:

In a cottage in a wood,

A little man at the window stood.

He saw a rabbit running by,

Knocking at the door.

"Help me, help me," the rabbit said,

"Before the hunter shoots me dead!"

"Come little rabbit, come with me.

Happy we shall be.

This nursery rhyme represents another example which, in a sense, flouts the maxim of quality. Though the poem is written in the form of a narration with no particular speakers - but with a third-person narrator -, the receiver is a child. The rhyme is mostly in the form of a dialog between a man and a rabbit, which is only possible in the world of children in which anything improbable is likely to happen through the magic of imagination. The rabbit is personified and is given some human characteristics: the abilities to knock at the door, to ask for help and to converse with human beings. The poet here gives his reader (the child) a picture of a little man's cottage located in a far-off wood: He visualizes the scene through the use of appropriate words and simple images.

5 Conclusion

Our investigation into the way the Gricean Maxims should be respected to serve the cooperative nature of nursery rhymes reveals that some significant modifications are apt to be made in the definition of the maxims of quantity and relevance. The examination of the rhymes suggested that instead of defining the maxim of quantity as giving as much information as is needed, the authors of the rhymes observe a new version of the maxim which dictates them to be informative, i.e. to be unexpected and new to their addressees. The maxim of relevance, on the other hand, is revised as "be within the concern of young children". The maxim of quality is partially violated so that vivid imagery pictures are created, and it serves the unexpected goal of the maxim of quantity. The maxim which is not flouted in nursery rhymes is that of manner in general and the sub-maxim of orderliness in particular to help children follow the songs in spite of their limited memory span.

Recent investigations have consistently revealed that young children do not generate and clearly understand implicatures at the same rate as adults do. This phenomenon has been observed in several languages including English (Hurewitz, Papafragou, Gleitman & Gelman 2006), French (Noveck 2001), Italian (Guasti, Chierchia, Crain, Foppolo, Gualmini & Meroni 2005), and Greek (Papafragou & Musolino 2003; Papafragou & Tantalou 2004). Among the factors which have been found to increase child performance is a minimization of the processing costs of deriving implicatures (Pouscoulous et al. 2007). Reinhart, de Hoop and Hendriks (2006) argue that young children do not lack the pragmatic ability to generate implicatures or understand the implicatures; they rather lack the processing resources to do so.

The findings of the present study show that an author of children's songs never opts out: he or she does cooperate and evidently proves this by having his/her rhymes circulated. Nor can we say that the maxims are violated because, as we have stated above, all the deviations are within the author's intention and necessary for the tasks set out by the author in the given literary work. The child is never misled, which is often the case with the violation of maxims in conversation. It also seems impossible to treat all the deviant cases as flouting, because, for example, lengthy poems do not normally give rise to any implicature, although the only maxim found to be flouted partially is that of quality.

From all that has been found, one may imagine in what way children’s songs are generally designed on the part of the respective author to give addressees the chance to learn them without having to make any conscious effort. Knowing that nursery rhymes are assumed to bring joy by presenting unexpected information, the maxims "be relevant to children's concern" and "be within the mental capacity of the child to process", may suggest that, for justifying the pragmatic aspect of nursery rhymes, another principle be formulated, either as a complementary one or as a replacement of the cooperative principle. The enhancement of children's enjoyment and appreciation is probably the most important characteristic of nursery rhymes: their main purpose is to excite children and retain their interest in the subject by introducing them to some concepts, knowledge, and skills in an enjoyable manner. To this end, nursery rhymes may be considered to be more than cooperative, even committing themselves to observing the stronger, yet supplementary principle of entertainment and edification. We cannot say that the maxims are all violated or flouted in nursery rhymes because, as we have stated above, all the deviations are within the author's intention and therefore necessary for the tasks set out in the given work. Neither is the child misled, nor is an implicature created.

Our detailed examination of the body of children's songs has revealed that the violation or exploitation of some of the maxims, like the maxims of quantity or relevance, originally perceived as Grice formulated them, would not lead into any generation of implicature. Nor can additional meaning be deduced from their exploitation. The apparent contradiction in applying the Gricean Maxims to nursery rhymes can be resolved if the starting point of any analysis is the purpose of the rhymes or the author's intention.


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Ph.D. candidate


MA (University of Isfahan, Iran)

E-mail: me_an-mo@yahoo.com

Abbas Eslami Rasekh, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

English Language Department (Head)

MA (Shiraz University), PhD (Monash, Linguistics Department).

W-mail: abbaseslamirasekh@yahoo.com