Pragmatic Language

What is Pragmatic Language?

Pragmatic (or social) language is the code we use to interact with others. There are three components:

  • Using language for different purposes, such as:
    • greeting (e.g. hello, goodbye)
    • informing (e.g. I'm going to get a cookie)
    • demanding (e.g. Give me a cookie)
    • promising (e.g. I'm going to get you a cookie)
    • requesting (e.g. I would like a cookie, please)
  • Changing language according to the needs of a listener or situation, such as:
    • talking differently to a baby than to an adult
    • giving background information to an unfamiliar listener
    • speaking differently in a classroom than on a playground 
  • Following rules for conversations and storytelling, such as:
    • taking turns in conversation
    • introducing topics of conversation
    • staying on topic
    • rephrasing when misunderstood
    • how to use verbal and nonverbal signals
    • how close to stand to someone when speaking
    • how to use facial expressions and eye contact


ASHA's Pragmatic Language Page
General information on pragmatic (social) language.

Pragmatic Language Tips
A page with suggestions for developing pragmatic language skills