spaceCenter for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA)

Introduction to Pragmatics


Welcome to your first unit on learning pragmatics in Spanish!

In this unit, you will start thinking more about general pragmatic features of language. These features are important in your native language and in any other language(s) you are learning. Throughout this website, you will work with examples and content unique to Spanish; however, much of what you learn can be applied to any language.

What does pragmatics mean?

On a very basic level, "pragmatics" refers to the way we convey meaning through communication. This meaning includes verbal and non-verbal elements and varies depending on the context, the relationship between people talking, and many other social factors. Let's look at an example to get an idea of what this means.

Imagine that your roommate, also a close friend, asks you to do something you do not want to do, like cleaning the kitchen instead of going out with another friend.

How do you respond?

mop and broom

  • You might use different verbal strategies such as: "Sorry, I can't right now."


  • You might just use a "look" or a tone, like a glare or a sarcastic response.

Each of these responses conveys meaning. The meaning conveyed also depends on the context (e.g., setting, person you are communicating with, prior experience) and involves both the person talking and the person listening and responding.

List all of the ways you convey or interpret meaning in your own communication. Some examples may include word choice (e.g., hi vs. hello) and structure (e.g., Would you mind?...Can you...?).

What will you learn about pragmatics in this unit?

In this unit you will complete various activities in order to help you answer the following questions. (Hint: Don't worry if you do not understand all of the words below. We will explain what each of them means in this unit and give you examples.)

  • What are communicative acts? Where do communicative acts fit into pragmatics?
  • Why is it important to learn how to perform communicative acts?
  • What types of miscommunication occur due to inappropriate pragmatic action?
  • What specific information do you need in order to perform communicative acts across different varieties of Spanish?
  • What are some strategies for both learning and performing communicative acts as well as other pragmatic features of language? 

Use the links on the left or the button at the bottom of each page to move through each of the activities. You will see links to self-correct your responses throughout. Remember, these are our suggestions to guide you, and not necessarily the way it MUST be done.

For technical help, you may visit our instructional guide for using the website by clicking here.





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