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The Infringement of Gricean Maxims In Nasreddin’s Stories

As a human, we have two-side of roles. They are we as an individual and we as the part of a society. In order to interact to the other human in society, we use language as the tool. “Language is a way to communicate ideas comprehensibly from one person to another in such a way that the other will be able to act exactly accordingly. The transportation of such ideas could be acquired by either verbal expression and signing with gestures and images”[1]. The language absolutely should be understood by the members. It is like an agreement which is made to link one and the other. As the result, the members in the society must learn the agreed language to keep their existence. If one of the members can not use the tool, it would kick him out from the society.

Commonly, language is used to exchange a message between at least two people. When someone wants to tell some information, he uses language as the medium. It can be in written or spoken language. According to Kamil Wisnewski, the function of language as communication tool is very important “This function would probably be pointed at by most language users without major consideration. Indeed it is in all likelihood most commonly used language function by majority of speakers. Requesting, apologizing, informing, ordering as well as promising and refusing are all reasons for communicating our ideas”[2]. However, in daily life, language is not used only for the device of communication. People often use language as a kind of technique in carrying a certain implied message. For example, when we come to a room which is very hot, we say “It’s very hot here”. In fact, it’s a request to our friend to open the window or switch on the air conditioner. That’s the other usage of language. We can ask something without point to the object directly.

Moreover, language as the technical is also used in political matter. In Indonesia, we still remember the case of Bibit Slamet Rianto and Candra Muhammad Hamzar. They are two of Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi leaders which are trapped in a bribary case. While most of Indonesians support them to be released from all accusation, it pressure government to stop the case. Finally, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono decide to realse Bibit and Chandra. Instead of command directly the judiciary to realease them, he said in his speech to settle the problem out side the court. Although he didn’t say to release them directly, the effect is absolutely same. In this example, also we can see the language which is used as the technique.

In literature, language is also put as technique. As the product of culture, literature creates as the result of certain society. It contains the characteristic of the society. How they use the language to express something. In literature, also we notice a term called figurative language. This is the language that has second layer meaning. In other words, to catch the meaning implied, we need to dig it deeper. For instance, we can see at an idiom “butterfingers”. This word is not aimed to describe a person who smears his finger with butter; it has meaning a person who often let something fall from his grip. Therefore, it is one of technique in poetic rules to use a language as beautiful as possible.

Moreover, in daily conversation, in order to creating a joke, sometimes people manipulate a language. This reason is used to make something funny or tricky. If the speaker and the listener do not have the same semantic concept, the utterance which is stated by the speaker would deceive the listener completely. In this essay, I would like to analyze the language deviation which is used in the Nasreddin Stories. How the story break the rules which are said by Paul Grice about his 4 Maxims: Maxim of Quality, Maxim of Quantity, Maxim or Relevance, and the Maxim of manner.

Gricean Maxims
In daily conversation, it must be an interaction between at least two people. When somebody asks something, the receiver must answer with an appropriate answer. For instance, when somebody ask “do you feel hungry?”, and we answer “Yes I do”. That example shows the clear and efficient answer which is expected by the speaker. However, let’s compare to this case. Somebody ask “Do you feel hungry?”, and we reply “I’ve not eaten for three days”. In speaker’s mind, he has got the answer that is the hearer feels hungry, but looks at the answer. If we see in the glance, is it appropriate? In fact, the hearer can only reply with “yes” or “yes, I do”. In this case, the hearer answer it exaggerately in order to emphasize his message. The hearer wants to add the additional message that he feels very hungry, not means that he really hasn’t eaten for 3 days. Moreover, let’s we review all the four Grice’s Maxims.

  1. Maxim of Quantity.

    In this maxim, in order to make an appropriate language, we should make our contribution to the conversation as informative as necessary. Also, do not make our contribution to the conversation more informative than necessary[3].

    For example is when somebody asks about direction or the location of certain place. “Where is the cinema?” Normally, as the good person, we give the clear instruction how to go to the place. We can reply “From here, go ahead to the travick light, after that, turn left and you will see the cinema at the left side”. This is an appropriate answer that fulfills the Maxim of Quantity. However, we also meet a person who replies with this answer “Not far”, or “near the post office”. In fact, it is true that the cinema is not far or near the post office, but the information is not enough for somebody who need to find the cinema without a map. To sum it up, we can say that the answer “not far” or “near the post office” is breaking the Maxim of Quantity.

  2. Maxim of Quality.

    In this maxim, the hearer should fulfill two requirements in order to make an appropriate language. In this rule, we should not say what we believe to be false, and also do not say that for which we lack adequate evidence[4].

    For example, this maxim can be seen at the moment when somebody is lying. Most of Jakarta citizens has known that Ragunan zoo is located in south of Jakarta. However, to make a fun, someone trick his friend who come from village by saying that Ragunan zoo is located in west of Jakarta. Indeed, it breaks the Maxim of Quality by saying untrue statement. Moreover, we also can see the deviation to Maxim of Quality when somebody answers a question exaggeratedly. He lies to add moor effect to his answer. Let’s see the following conversation.

    A: “have you gone to Borobudur temple?”
    B: “yes, I’ve visited it for a thousand times”.

    On that example, definitely we see that the hearer is lying. It is impossible for a tourist for visit a place a thousand times. However, his reason for answering the question like that is to add more impression that he really love that place.

  3. Maxim of Relevance.

    In this maxim, we are supposed to answer something relevantly. Between the question and the answer must have a clear link. To follow this maxim, we must make our contribution relevant to the interaction,and indicate any way that it is not connected[5].

    In this case, people often answer one’s question with the unrelevant one. This action is not because of the hearer doesn’t understand to the question, but it must be a certain amin inside. Let’s see the following example.

    “Do you know where is my shoes?”
    “Good night.”

    On that example, we can see obviously the deviation of maxim of relevance. The answer is definitely not relevant with the question. Normally, the answer can be “in the garage”, or “I don’t know”. However, one of the possibilities of doing such thing is because the hearer doesn’t want to help A to finding his shoes.

  4. Maxim of Manner.

    In order to follow this maxim, we should pay attention to several points:

    a. Avoid obscurity of expression.
    b. Avoid ambiguity.
    c. Be brief (avoid unnecessary wordiness).
    d. Be orderly[6].

    The breaking of this kind of maxim is usually aimed to hidden the real reason. Someone uses this technique to avoit the tottaly lying. As long the hearer doesn’t realize to the truth, it is still fine. Let’s see the following example:

    A: “Where is your college?”
    B: “my college is in Depok”
    A: “oh, in Universitas Indonesia?”
    B: yeah, my college is in Depok”.

    From that example, we can see the hearer reply the question with an ambiguous answer. He tells the fact that his college is in Depok, but it is not specifically. As we know, the college in Depok not only Universitas Indonesia, there are also Gunadharma and BSI. However, the hearer uses this technique to hidden the fact that his college is not in Universitas Indonesia.

Nasreddin Stories Analysis
In this part, we will take some Nasreddin Stories as the sample to fine the Maxim deviation. There would be a term “implicature”. However, An implicature is anything that is inferred from an utterance, but that is not a condition for the truth of the utterance[7]. Let’s review the story first, and then find out the the Maxim abuse.

On the Roof[8].>

Nasreddin Hodja's old house had a leaking roof. One day the Hodja decided to fix it. He borrowed a ladder and with great difficulty climbed up to the roof.

Just as he was setting off to work, he heard a knock on the door. He looked down from the edge of the roof and saw a stranger in front of his door.

`I am up here.' Hodja shouted. When the man looked up, `What is it that you want?' he asked him.
`Please come down,' replied the man, `I have something to say to you.'

Hodja precariously descended down the old ladder. Once on the ground he again asked the man what he wanted.

`Alms,' said the man, `could you spare some alms.'

Hodja thought for a second and then told the man to come up to the roof with him. Hodja in front, the beggar behind him, both running short on breath, climbed

up the ladder. Once on the roof top, Hodja turned to the man and said: `I don't have any.'


In the story, Nasreddin break the maxim of manner. In order to revenge the annoying stranger, he do something very ambiguous. At the first, the stranger call Nasreddin to go down because he want to say something to him. In fact, the stranger just wants to ask for an alms. Nasreddin feels annoyed because he had go to the roof difficultly. Then, he ask the stranger to come up with him. At the roof, Nasredin reply his answer by saying “ I don’t have any”.

Implicature: yes.

When Nasreddin ask the stranger to come up with him, the stranger has the conclusion that Nasredding will give him any alms. In the fact, it is an ambiguous statement because Nasreddin didn’t say to give him an alms before. Also, in this case, Nasreddin didn’t lie completely because he definitely didn’t promise the stranger to give him any alms before. Therefore, this story is breaking the maxim of manner.

Gift Rabbit[9].

A few people from another village, mere acquaintances of Nasreddin Hodja, were in Aksehir for some trade business. At the end of the day, they knocked on Hodja's door.

`Hodja Effendi, since we were in town, we thought we should pay you a little visit. And, here is a rabbit as a token of our respect for you.'

Hodja welcomed the guests as is the Turkish tradition and asked them to stay for dinner. Hodja's wife cooked the rabbit and they all made a good meal of it. A few days later, there were people at the door again. Hodja didn't know who they were, so they had to introduce themselves.

`Nasreddin Hodja, we are the relatives of the folks who brought you the rabbit.' they explained. They were passing through Aksehir and they thought they drop by. Nasreddin Hodja and his wife opened their home to them as well. They served soup for dinner.

`It is the broth of the rabbit.' elucidated the Hodja.

Another couple of days passed and there was yet another group of strangers at Hodja's door.

`We come from the neighbour village of the people who brought you the rabbit.' they said. Hodja had no choice but to let them in. When it was dinner time, Hodja brought a large pot full of well water to the table.

`What is this, Hodja Effendi?' inquired the displeased guests.
`It is the broth of the broth of the rabbit.' Hodja snapped.


In the second story, we can see the last dialogue that breaks the maxim of quality. When the guests who come from the neighbor of a group that give Nasreddin a rabit, he bring a large pot that full of well water to the table. When he asked, he said “It is the broth of the broth of the rabit”. Definitely, it is not true by stating the well water is the broth of the broth of the rabbit. In this case, Nasreddin lies to emphasize the point that he doesn’t have the rabbit soup anymore. It is his technique to realize the annoying visitors.

Implicatures: no.

When the visitors see the well water and Nasreddin tells them that is the broth of the broth of the rabbit, they understand that the rabbit soup is no longer available. The Nasreddin last statement has given the clear message that they won’t get the Rabbit soup. Therefore, the Nasreddin dishonesty is aimed to say that he doesn’t have the rabbit soup anymore.

Full House[10].

One of Nasreddin Hodja's neighbours asked the Hodja for some advice on how to manage his large family in his tiny little house.

`Hodja Effendi,' he lamented, `our quarters are so small, we can't all fit in. Me and my wife, my mother-in-law, 3 kids... We are cramped up in our puny cottage. You are a wise man, you would know of a solution, please tell me what to do!'

`How many chickens do you have in the barn?' Hodja asked.
`Why, Hodja Effendi, I have 5 chickens and a rooster.'
`Take them all into the house!'
`Mercy!' the poor peasant protested, `Hodja Effendi, the house is small without the chickens.'
`Try it!' Nasreddin Hodja insisted, `You will be grateful to me.'

The neighbour was not convinced but he didn't dare question the wisdom of the Hodja. He took the chickens and the rooster inside the house. The next morning

he ran to Hodja's house.

`Hodja Effendi, it is worse now. Me, my wife, my mother-in-law, 3 kids, 5 chickens and a rooster! We can't fit in at all!' he bemoaned. However, Nasreddin Hodja was not moved.

`You have a donkey, don't you?'
`Yes, Hodja Effendi, I have one old donkey.' answered the man.
`Take the donkey in!' said the Hodja. No matter how much the neighbour objected, Nasreddin Hodja maintained that it was for his best and the hopeless man did as he was told. The next morning, he ran back to Hodja's house, this time more despairingly than ever.

`Hodja Effendi! It is not possible. The wife, the mother-in-law, the kids, the chickens, the rooster and the donkey! We had a terrible night. There is no room to breathe.'
`If I remember correctly, you had two lambs, did you not?'
`Oh, no! Hodja Effendi, don't tell me to take the lambs in. There is no room!'
`Don't worry, my friend,' the Hodja assured the desperate man, `You will thank me in the end.'

The neighbour, hoping the Hodja knows something that he doesn't, took the two lambs in that night. The next morning he was at Hodja doorstep, wretched.

`Hodja Effendi, what are you doing to us? The house is packed full. My mother-in-law is threatening to kill me, my wife is threatening to leave me. This is not working at all.'

Nasreddin Hodja considered for a moment, then he said:

`Now, take all the live stock out of the house. Chickens, rooster, donkey and lambs; all back to the garden, back to the barn, back to the shed. Take them all out!'

Next morning, the neighbour was once again at Hodja's house.

`Ahh, Hodja Effendi, you are indeed a wise man. You solved my problem. Now, our house is so large, so roomy, so much space for everyone, kids can play, we can sleep, everyone is happy.' he said, `Thank you and may Allah bless you!'


In this story, Nasreddin breaks the maxim of relevance. Indeed, it can be seen when his neighbor ask him for a solution of managing his large family in a small house, Nasredin give the unrelevant answer. Instead of telling the way how to manage the large family, Nasreddin ask the neighbor to add his chicken, donkey, and lambs into the house. In fact, although the neighbour fee;feels it is such an illogic, he keep doing the advice.

Implicature: no.

When the neighbour get the Nasreddin’s answer, actually he didn’t understand with the answer. The answer is not something that he expected. Nasreddin just ask him to do something irrelevant. However, at the end, the neighbour get the result. After he take all his live stock out, the family can feel the meaning of space. Therefore, Nasreddin give the irrelevant answer in order to teach his neighbour.

Pivotal Point[11].

One idle day, the villagers were contemplating philosophical thoughts and deliberating the mysteries of the universe. Since they weren't getting anywhere with their reflections, they decided to solicit the wisdom of Nasreddin Hodja.

`Hodja Effendi,' they said, `you are a learned man, maybe you can shed a light on this puzzle. Where is the centre of the earth?' Nasreddin Hodja didn't skip a beat.
`Right under the left front foot of my donkey.' he said.
`Hodja Effendi,' protested the villagers, `that can't be right!'
`If you don't believe me,' said The Hodja, `measure it for yourself!'


In this story, Nasreddin breaks the maxim of quantity. When answering the villager question, Nasreddin answer is not as informative as that is needed by the villager. Instead of answer the question scientifically, he just reply by saying “right under the front left foot of my donkey”. AS the result, the villager didn’t feel satisfied to the Nasreddin’s answer.

Implicature: no.

In the villager’s mind, he can infer the aim of Nasreddin. According to the Nasreddin answer, it can be seen that Nasreddin doesn’t know where is the centralof the world. He just answer the question whatever it is, and ignore the villager’s question. However, this kind of abuse is used by Nasreddin to hidden his unawareness which the answer should be longer than the Nasreddin answer.

It is very interesting to learn the four type of maxims. We can meet them in our daily life. Perhaps we often use the rules in various occation. Moreover, in the literature, it breaks the maxims sometimes. The Nasreddin Stories is some of the examples. In order to make this story funny, the writer breaks some maxims.

[1] Accesed at December 29th, 2009

[2] accessed at December 29th, 2009.

[3] accessed at December 29th, 2009.

[4] accessed at December 29th, 2009.

[5] accessed at December 29th, 2009.

[6] accessed at December 29th, 2009.

[7] accessed at December 29th, 2009.

[8] accessed at December 29th, 2009.

[9] accessed at December 29, 2009

[10] accessed at December 29th, 2009.

[11] accessed at December 29th, 2009.


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