What is Pragmatic Language?
Pragmatic language is the ability to efficiently use words/language and body actions when being social. One uses these skills to engage in a reciprocal interaction with one or more communication partners at the same time recognizing and following socially expected rules.
According to the American –Speech- Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), Pragmatics involves three major communication skills:
1. Using language to comment, for different intentions, for example:
- Greeting ( “hello”, “goodbye”)
- Informing ( “I'm going to get a cookie”)
- Demanding ( “Give me a cookie”)
- Promising ( “I'm going to get you a cookie”)
- Requesting ( “I would like a cookie, please”)
2. Changing language according to the needs of a listener or situation, for example:
- Talking differently to a baby than to an adult
- Giving background information to an unfamiliar listener in regards to the topic at hand
- Speaking differently in a classroom than on a playground (Inside voice vs. Outside voice)
3. Following rules for conversations and storytelling, for example:
- Taking turns in conversation
- Introducing topics of conversation
- Staying on topic
- Rephrasing/changing the message when misunderstood
- Use verbal and nonverbal signals (head nod to show understanding)
- How close to stand to someone when speaking (personal space/boundaries)
- How to use facial expressions and eye contact
How can I tell if my child is having problems with pragmatic language?
He or she may:
- Make inappropriate or unrelated comments during conversations.
- Tell stories in a disorganized way.
- Has little variety in language use.
- Does not provide the expected personal space when with others.
- Little to no awareness of boundaries
- Does not provide appropriate eye contact.
- Does not appear to understand non-literal language
- Is not aware of tone of voice or vocal volume
- Cannot change his or her speech and language for different communication partners/settings
Why is treating my child’s pragmatic (social) language disorder important?
As according to ASHA, pragmatic language disorders often coexist with other language challenges. Pragmatic difficulties can lower a child’s social acceptance. Peers may avoid having conversations with an individual with a pragmatic disorder. This may directly affect ones desire to be social and his or her self-esteem.
PLEASE NOTE: These rules may vary across cultures and within cultures. It is important to understand the rules of your communication partner.