Over the years, pragmatics - the study of the use and meaning of utterances to their situations - has become a more and more important branch of linguistics, as the inadequacies of a purely formalist, abstract approach to the study of language have become more evident. This book presents a rhetorical model of pragmatics: that is, a model which studies linguistic communication in terms of communicative goals and principles of 'good communicative behaviour'. In this respect, Geoffrey Leech argues for a rapprochement between linguistics and the traditional discipline of rhetoric. He does not reject the Chomskvan revolution of linguistics, but rather maintains that the language system in the abstract - i.e. the 'grammar' broadly in Chomsky's sense - must be studied in relation to a fully developed theory of language use. There is therefore a division of labour between grammar and rhetoric, or (in the study of meaning) between semantics and pragmatics. The book's main focus is thus on the development of a model of pragmatics within an overall functional model of language.
In this it builds on the speech avct theory of Austin and Searle, and the theory of conversational implicature of Grice, but at the same time enlarges pragmatics to include politeness, irony, phatic communion, and other social principles of linguistic behaviour.