Archive for the ‘Indirection’ Category

A hypothetical question?

August 9, 2015

The Zits from the 7th:

Jeremy is given to responding to what people say in perfectly literal terms, not taking account of their reasons for framing things the way they do. He’s deliberately no good at Gricean relevance — a tactic that, by his lights, allows him to do nothing at all in situations where people (in particular, his mother) are trying to get him to do something.

As here. Jeremy’s mother asks him a question about his ability, a standard form of indirect request, framed this way out of politeness, so as to avoid issuing a direct command. But Jeremy takes her to be literally asking about his ability, a question asked only in case it might turn out that she wants his help in clearing the table.