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Speech Acts

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  1. Speech Acts Direct and indirect speech acts

  2. Speech Acts • Speech Events may also include Speech Acts. J.L Austin observed that ‘many utterances do not communicate information, but are equivalent to actions, e.g. • I apologise…’ • I promise….’ • ‘I will….’ (at a wedding’ • ‘I name this ship….’

  3. Performatives • Austin called such utterances performatives, which he saw as distinct from statements that convey information (constatives). I christen/name this ship The Queen Elisabeth (performative). Maurice Garin won the Tour de France in 1903 (constative) • Performatives cannot be true or false.

  4. Explict vs implicit performatives • Explicit performatives are performative utterances that contain a performative verb that makes explicit what kind of act is being performed. I promise to come to your talk tomorrow afternoon. • implicit performatives are performative utterances in which there is no such verb. I’ll come to your talk tomorrow afternoon.

  5. Common explicit performatives Other common Speech Acts are: • apology, • promise, • agreement • acceptance • advice • suggestion • warning • requests • betting • to second • to vote • to abstain

  6. Searle’s Five Categories of Speech Acts Representatives: the speaker is committed in varying degrees to the truth of a proposition: e.g. ‘affirm’, ‘believe,’ ‘conclude’, ‘report’; I think the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 Directives: the speaker tries to do something e.g. ‘ask’, ‘challenge’, ‘command’, ‘request’. Pass me the towel, will you?

  7. Commissives: the speaker is committed in varying degrees, to a certain course of action, e.g. ‘bet’, ‘guarantee,’ ‘pledge’, ‘promise’ ‘swear’. That’s the last time I’ll waste my money on so- called bargains Expressives: the speaker expresses an attitude about a state of affairs, e.g., ‘apologise’, ‘deplore’, ‘thank’, ‘welcome’- Well done, Elisabeth!

  8. Declarations: the speaker alters the status quo by making the utterance, • e.g., I resign, you’re offside’, ‘I name this child’, ‘you’re nicked’, ‘you’re busted, punk.’

  9. The three stages of a (successful) speech act • the locutionary act or the locution: the act of communication by the production of an utterance; • the illocutionary act or illocution: in other words, that is the message that is transmitted, which may not always correspond to the literal meaning of the words; • the perlocutionary act: that is the particular effect of the utterance, which does not necessarily correspond to the locutionary act.

  10. ‘And that is enough for today…’ • Locutionary act  (and that is enough for today) • Illocutionary act  ( students make preparations to quit the room) • Perloctionary act (you realise that a change has occurred)

  11. Felicity conditions • the person performing the speech act has to have authority to do so – only certain people are authorised to perform certain speech acts; the speech act has to be performed in the appropriate manner (sometimes this involves respecting precise wording), this can also include the demeanour • sincerity conditions have to be present: the speech act must be performed in a sincere manner: verbs such as promise, vow, or guarantee are only valid if they are uttered sincerely. So a speech act like ‘and that is enough for today’ can only be taken as a declaration that the lesson has ended if: • I have the authority to perform the speech act; • If the hearers are in a position to perform the required action; • And if there is sincerity.  • If any of these conditions is lacking, then the hearers will deduce that they have to make a different interpretation of the speech act.

  12. Indirect Speech Acts • For many reasons, perhaps because we are abiding by the politeness principle, for example, and we don’t wish to impose – we may ask for something to be done indirectly. ‘Can you pass the salt?’ is not really a question, but a directive; and answer of ‘yes’, without an attempt to pass it would be totally inappropriate and would violate the maximum of relevance.

  13. Sentence type and illocutionary force • The three basic sentence types (declarative, interrogative, imperative) are typically associated with the three basic illocutionary forces: • Declarative: asserting/ stating; • Interrogative: asking/questioning; • imperative: ordering/requesting.

  14. Difference between direct and indirect speech acts • A direct match between a sentence type and an illocutionary force, equals a direct speech act. • In addition, explicit performatives, which happen to be in the declarative form, are also taken to be direct speech acts, because they have their illocutionary force explicitly named by the performative verb in the main part of the sentence. • If there is no direct relationship between a sentence type and an illocutionary force, it indicates an indirect speech act. • When an explicit performative is used to make a request it functions as a direct speech act; the same is the case when an imperative is employed. By comparison, when an interrogative is used to make a request, we have an indirect speech act.

  15. From Speech Act to Gradation of Indirect Speech Act • Shut the door! • I’d be grateful, if you’d shut the door. • Could you shut the door? • It’d help to have the door shut. • It’s getting cold in here. Shall we keep out the draught? • Now, Jane, what have you forgotten to do? Brrr!