This is the study of the meaning of language in context. It looks at how language is interpreted in particular situations. Its focus is not semantic meaning but contextual meaning, as contained in e.g. setting, the relationship between speakers, and knowledge of the world.
In this dialogue, the response ‘Excellent news’ seems to indicate that the woman is pleased that Helen is sick. Another possible interpretation is that in fact the woman is pleased for another reason – that Helen has finally decided to take days off when she’s ill. Pragmatics would study the situation in which this dialogue took place to explore possible interpretations.
Man: Helen’s sick. She’s having the day off.
Woman: Excellent news – about time too.
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Grundy, P. (2008). Doing Pragmatics. Oxford: Routledge.
Houck, N.R. and Tatsuki, D.H. (eds.) (2011). Pragmatics: Teaching Natural Conversation. Virginia: TESOL.