Updated: Jul 8, 2020

SFS Therapies
What Is Pragmatics?

What is pragmatic language? 

Pragmatic language is the use of appropriate communication in social situations (knowing what to say, how to say it, and when to say it). Pragmatic language involves three major skills: 

Using language for different purposes such as: 

• Greeting (Hello. Goodbye. How are you?)  • Informing (I am leaving.)  • Demanding (Say “Good-bye.” Pick up the toy.) • Stating (I am going to the playground.)  • Requesting (Do you want to go along?) 

Changing language according to the listener or the situation, such as: 

• Talking to a teacher, coworker or spouse versus talking to a baby  • Speaking in a classroom versus talking in the cafeteria  • Talking about family to another family member versus a stranger 


Following rules for conversation, such as: 

• Taking turns while talking 

• Introducing new topics 

• Staying on topic 

• Continuing the same topic as the other speaker 

• Re-wording when misunderstood 

• Using and understanding nonverbal signals and body language (facial expression, eye contact, etc.) 

• Respecting personal space

What causes a pragmatic language disorder?

Although a specific cause of a pragmatic language disorder is not known, the problem is related to dysfunction of the language centers of the brain. Difficulty with pragmatic language can exist on its own, in combination with other language problems, or as part of another diagnosis such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or traumatic brain injury (TBI). 

What are the characteristics of a pragmatic language disorder?