ENG4118 – Relevance Theory: Language, Communication and Cognition

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

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Course content

Pragmatics is the attempt to understand how we can communicate with each other. We can (and often do) communicate something different from the meaning of the words that we utter. The founding question of pragmatics is: How is this possible? How can a speaker and her addressee coordinate on a meaning going beyond the linguistic code?

This course explores the most important theories that have been proposed, and shows how they are increasingly being tested in experimental and developmental work.

The topics covered include

  • the distinction between sentence and utterance meaning
  • the distinction between explicit and implicit meaning
  • pragmatic principles
  • the development of pragmatic abilities in children

In the second half of the course we look in depth at how the theory provides insight into one area of language use: for example we might look at figurative use, including metaphor and irony; or at polysemy and lexical modulation.

Learning outcome

After completing this course you will

  • be familiar with the intellectual background of pragmatics, in particular Grice’s work on meaning and on conversation
  • have extensive knowledge of modern pragmatics, in particular relevance theory's account of communication
  • 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 pragmatic theory
  • know how pragmatic theory is tested by experimental and developmental work


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:

  • Spring 2021, attendance is not required, but highly recommended.
  • 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.
  • How to apply for approved postponements. 


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. 

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 2021

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


Spring 2021

Teaching language