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What types of miscommunication occur due to inappropriate use of pragmatic acts?

The use of inappropriate pragmatic strategies can cause many different types of miscommunication. Examine the list below of common catalysts for miscommunication. Have you encountered any of these miscommunications in your native language? In Spanish?

  • Reflection of an improper relationship between interlocutors (e.g., too formal, too informal)
  • Misinterpretation of a message or an improper message conveyed (e.g., comment vs. request)
  • Meaning is too direct or appears insincere (e.g., expressing gratitude)
  • The topic or action may be socioculturally inappropriate (e.g., asking about someone's salary in the United States)

Each of these miscommunications can occur on various levels ranging from overt violation to more subtle misuse of pragmatic strategies.

Let's Practice!

A full professor and a student are meeting for an advising session. The student is a native speaker of Spanish and has been studying in the United States for two years. Play each of the clips below twice. The first time play each of them in succession and think about the situation as a whole. Was it successful for the professor and the student? (Do you notice any overt pragmatic inappropriateness? How about more subtle occurrences?)

Clip 1

Clip 2

Clip 3

Clip 4

Now play each of the clips more closely. See if you can think of three incorrect pragmatic strategies that actually occurred in the conversation and three other typical miscommunications that were avoided through good pragmatic skills.

Three noticeable missing pragmatic strategies:




Three pragmatic strategies that are used well:




Is there anything else you notice about the advising session? Is it typical of the advising sessions you have had with your advisor?



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