ENG4118 – Relevance Theory: Language, Communication and Cognition

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

Choose semester

Course content

Work in relevance theory attempts to understand and explain human communication as a facet of human cognition. This course sets out the basics of the theory, showing how it relates to:

  1. the ideas of the philosopher Paul Grice about speaker meaning and conversation
  2. modern linguistics and cognitive psychology

The topics covered include the principles of relevance; sentence and utterance meaning; and implicatures and the distinction between explicit and implicit meaning. It will be explained how the theory provides insight into types of language use: for example literal and figurative use, including metaphor and irony.

Learning outcome

After completing this course you will

  • have extensive knowledge of relevance theory's account of communication
  • be familiar with the intellectual background of relevance theory, in particular Grice’s work on meaning and on conversation
  • have deep insight into the distinction between encoded meaning and what is communicated
  • have deep insight into the explicit/implicit distinction in communication
  • have extensive experience in analysing utterances in the terms of relevance theory
  • know how to apply the concepts of the theory to various types of language use such as metaphor and irony
  • be able to set out and discuss arguments and evidence for relevance theory's key claims


Students who are admitted to study programmes at UiO must each semester register which courses and exams they wish to sign up for in Studentweb.

If you are not already enrolled as a student at UiO, please see our information about admission requirements and procedures.


Recommended previous knowledge

It will be useful if students have taken ENG2152 – Varieties of English Texts, ENG4152 – Varieties of English Texts, ENG2157 – Semantics and PragmaticsENG4157 – Semantics and Pragmatics or an equivalent introductory course on semantics/pragmatics.


The course is taught for ten weeks of the semester, with a two hour seminar per week: 20 hours in all.

Obligatory activities:

  • 80% attendance is required (8 out of 10 seminars).
  • The written work for the portfolio exam can be submitted as a draft and will be returned to the student with comments. Students then have the opportunity to revise the work before submitting.
  • Additional absences must be justified to the exam coordinator. Read more about rules concerning valid excuses and how to apply for approved absences or postponements. Please note that absence exceeding 50 % of all seminars may not be approved, regardless of any excuses.


By portfolio: Two pieces of written work of 4-6 standard pages each. A standard page consists of 2,300 characters. The papers must be submitted in Inspera. Read more about submission procedures.

The grade is based on the portfolio as a whole.

Previous exams and assessment guidelines

Use of sources and citation

You should familiarize yourself with the rules that apply to the use of sources and citations. If you violate the rules, you may be suspected of cheating/attempted cheating.

Language of examination

The examination text is given in English, and you submit your response in English.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

Resit an examination

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.

Facts about this course






Spring 2020

This course is taught at irregular intervals. If you are interested in this course, contact the administration.


Spring 2020

Teaching language