The skill of pragmatic judgment, as it is commonly known, involves forming appropriate social language responses. In other words it’s saying the right thing at the right time. This is not always easy to measure or even verify. Pragmatic judgment also involves prior knowledge, and knowledge of a conversational partner’s prior knowledge. Sometimes social language involves initiation (e.g. “Hello), while other times the reaction is a response (e.g. “You’re Welcome). At times it is appropriate to not respond in an expected manner. This occurs when conversational maxims are deliberately flouted for reasons such as sarcasm, intentional overstatement or understatement (e.g. Grice, 1975).
Frequency and effectiveness of social response has been shown to significantly affect aspects of life as diverse as interpersonal relationship and occupation (e.g. Swann and Rentfrow, 2001). Pragmatic competency is assessed through such activities as requiring recognition of appropriate topics for conversation; selection of relevant information for directions or requests; initiation of conversation or turn-taking; adjusting communication to situational factors such as age or relationship; using language for expression of gratitude, sorrow, and other feelings; and judgment of the pragmatic appropriateness of the language behavior of others who are engaged in these activities (Carrow-Woolfolk, 1999).
Commonly used assessments with pragmatic judgment include the TOPL and the CASL tests. Informal assessment in natural settings may provide more reliable information regarding pragmatic judgment than formal assessment. Assisting teachers complete pragmatic checklists, such as that provided with the CELF-5, provides information regarding skills specific to the classroom. Read on for a very shortened hierarchy of possible pragmatic judgment goals.