Pragmatic Language: An Introduction

Social communication with others requires a complex integration of skills in three areas:blog-pragmatic language-main-landscape

  1. Social interaction
  2. Social cognition
  3. Pragmatic language skills

A social worker often addresses social interaction skills (e.g., understanding social rules, such as how to be polite) and social cognition skills (e.g., understanding the emotions of oneself and others). A speech-language pathologist often targets pragmatic language skills, which are the verbal and nonverbal behaviors used in social interactions.

A social interaction typically requires the ability to understand and use the following pragmatic language skills:

  1. Expression of a variety of communicative functions. Does the child communicate for a variety of reasons, such as attempting to control the actions of others, asking questions, exchanging facts, or expressing feelings?
  2. Use of appropriate frequency of communication. Does the child use an equal number of messages as his or her communication partner?
  3. Discourse (conversation) skills. Can the child initiate conversation, take turns, maintain and shift topics, and repair communication breakdowns?
  4. Flexible modification of language based on the social situation. Can the child switch between informal vs. formal language based on the setting and listeners?
  5. Narrative storytelling. Can the child tell coherent and informative stories?
  6. Nonverbal language. Can the child understand and use body language, gestures, facial expressions, and eye contact?
  7. Nonliteral language skills. Does the child understand figurative language, jokes, words with multiple meanings, and inferences?

A child with a social communication disorder, also known as a pragmatic language impairment, may present with difficulties using language to participate in conversations. Impairments in pragmatic language can impact a child’s ability to make and keep friends. It is important that social language skills are viewed within the context of an individual child’s cultural background. A speech-language pathologist can identify and treat pragmatic language difficulties in children.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

Meet-With-A-Speech-Pathologist