Grice’s maxims of cooperatice communication are fourfold.
His maxim of quantity is to be informative, and has two submaxims:
- Make your contribution as informative as is required (for the current purposes of the exchange).
Do not make your contribution more informative than is required.
Analogy: If I ask for 4 screws, do not provide only 2, and fo not provide 6.
His maxim of quality is to be truthful, and has these submaxims:
- Do not say what you believe is false.
Do not say that for which you lack adequate evidence.
Analogy: Be genuine and not spurious. If I ask for sugar, I do not expect salt. If I ask for a spoon, I do not expect a trick rubber spoon.
His maxim of relation says:
Be relevant — i.e., one should ensure that all the information they provide is relevant to the current exchange; therefore omitting any irrelevant information.
Analogy: I expect a partner’s contribution to be appropriate to the immediate needs at each stage of the transaction. If I am mixing ingredients for a cake, I do not expect to be handed a good book, or even an oven cloth (though this might be an appropriate contribution at a later stage).
His final maxim of manner is to be clear, and has ingrained parody of itself:
- Avoid obscurity of expression — i.e., avoid language that is difficult to understand.
Avoid ambiguity — i.e., avoid language that can be interpreted in multiple ways.
Be brief — i.e., avoid unnecessary prolixity.
Be orderly — i.e., provide information in an order that makes sense, and makes it easy for the recipient to process it.
Flouting a maxim ironically can be used to convey deeper or alternate meaning when context is correct.
Viloating maxims can be used to mislead, or impede communication.