LIN1280 PRAGMATICS I. Speech acts

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1 LIN1280 PRAGMATICS I Speech acts

2 SPEECH AS ACTION I hereby baptise this ship the HMS Pinafore You re fired I m sorry I promise to come to your funeral. These, and many other examples, are more than just statements. In uttering them, the speaker performs an action.

3 SPEECH AS ACTION Even less obvious cases involve actions: You re wonderful! I think you re the bee s knees... Even here, the speaker is performing an action (making a compliment) by virtue of saying what he says.

4 SPEECH ACTS A speech act is an action performed via an utterance. Some speech acts have specific names (because they re quite common), for example: Apologies, requests, compliments, invitations etc Typically: The speaker intends to carry out a particular act The speaker expects her listener to understand that intention There are usually circumstances that help to make that act felicitous.

5 SPEECH ACTS NEEDN T BE DIRECT In particular circumstances, one can perform a speech act which is otherwise not immediately obvious from what one says. The same utterance can be used to perform different acts in different contexts: This tea s cold! On a wintry day, this could be a complaint. On a hot summer s day, with a glass of iced tea, it could be a positive, complimentary remark.

6 AN EXAMPLE SITUATION So did you like the food? You make really good coffee.

7 THE THREE COMPONENTS OF A SPEECH ACT You make really good coffee. 1. The locutionary act, i.e. the actual act of making an utterance in a particular language. Requirements: good command of the language in question. 2. The illocutionary act, i.e. the actual action that the speaker intends to perform via her utterance. The purpose is referred to as the illocutionary force of the utterance. E.g. You make really good coffee might be intended as a compliment, or as a criticism (if it s an answer to the question did you like the food?) 3. The perlocutionary act, i.e. the effect that the utterance is intended to have. E.g. You make good coffee will normally be uttered on the assumption that the listener will recognise the intent of the utterance, and react accordingly.

8 ILLOCUTIONARY FORCE Illocutionary force is considered to be the most important aspect of a speech act. The illocutionary force of an utterance is what the utterance counts as. Example: You ll hear from me. In different circumstances, this can count as: A promise A threat A warning...

9 ILLOCUTIONARY FORCE INDICATING DEVICES (IFIDS) You ll hear from me. There are certain devices in language that make illocutionary force obvious and explicit. The most obvious cases are performative verbs by which we actually perform an action: I warn you that you ll hear from me. I promise you that you ll hear from me. In these cases, the performative verb (warn, promise) make illocutionary force evident.

10 ILLOCUTIONARY FORCE INDICATING DEVICES (IFIDS) You ll hear from me. Other IFIDs are less explicit (but still well understood by a listener) Examples include intonation, stress and word order: It s me you ll hear from You ll hear from me!

11 FELICITY CONDITIONS In order for a speech act to be performed and recognised, the circumstances must be appropriate. E.g. I baptise you Clara will not be appropriate if the speaker is not actually empowered to baptise anyone. In fact, we can subdivide the felicity conditions into several categories.

12 FELICITY CONDITIONS I General conditions: These are just conditions that must obtain for all participants, e.g. That they understand the language being spoken etc. Content conditions: The nature of the speech act imposes constraints on what can be said. E.g. A promise or a warning usually refer to the future. An accusation usually makes reference to a past event.

13 FELICITY CONDITIONS II Preparatory conditions: Conditions that must obtain in advance in order for the speech act to be made. For example, the preparatory conditions for a promise are: That what is promised can t happen by itself (otherwise there s no point in promising) That what is promised is beneficial to the hearer (otherwise, the promise is a threat) Sincerity conditions: Depending on the speech act, the speaker must be sincere. E.g. For a promise, the speaker must genuinely intend to perform the promised act (otherwise, it s an empty promise, it s null and void).

14 FELICITY CONDITIONS III Every speech act also has an essential condition. A speech act often results in a change in the speaker or the listener (or both). E.g. A promise results in a change whereby the speaker, after the promise, is obliged to perform an action which has been promised.

15 PERFORMATIVITY IS PERVASIVE We could think of every utterance as involving a speech act of some kind. Utterances usually are uttered for a purpose, with some illocutionary force and perlocutionary effect. We could take any utterance and make the performative aspect explicit by the use of a perfomative verb: Implicit performative: Clean up your room! Explicit performative: I order you to clean up your room.

16 CLASSIFYING SPEECH ACTS One classification (by John Searle) holds that there are five main types of speech acts. This classification is intended to be very general. 1. Declarations Result in a change in the world. E.g. I now declare you man and wife E.g. You re fired! 2. Representatives These state what the speaker believes to be the case. E.g. That ship belongs to my sister.

17 CLASSIFYING SPEECH ACTS 3. Expressives Express what the speaker feels E.g. It s amazing! E.g. Congratulations! 4. Directives Used to get someone to do something. E.g. Would you please open the door? E.g. Get out!

18 CLASSIFYING SPEECH ACTS 5. Commissives Used to commit the speaker to something. E.g. I ll finish it tomorrow. E.g. I ll get it right next time.

19 SPEECH ACTS AND THE WORLD The five types of speech acts involve different relations between the speaker and the world. Declarations: the speaker causes a situation to arise by virtue of her utterance. The words change the world. Represenatives: the speaker s words fit the world, since they express belief. Expressives: the speaker s words fit the world, since they express what the speaker feels (which is a fact in and of itself). Directives: make the world fit the words. Commissives: make the world fit the words.

20 DIRECT VS INDIRECT A direct speech act is one which involves a transparent relationship between the structure of the utterance and the illocutionary force. You sing. (declarative sentence representative) Sing! (imperative directive) Do you sing? (interrogative request) But often the relationship between structure and function is indirect.

21 INDIRECT SPEECH ACTS Example: a simple declarative sentence It s cold outside. This can be used as a direct speech act, simply to make a statement (representative) about a state of affairs: (I hereby inform you that) it s cold outside. But in other circumstances, it can also indirectly perform other speech acts: I hereby warn you to wear a coat. I hereby request that you close the door.

22 INDIRECT SPEECH ACTS Some ways of performing indirect speech acts are so common, they have become conventionalised. For example, requests are often couched in an interrogative which actually asks about someone s ability to do something, but is intended to get him to do that thing. Could you get the door? Could you pass the salt? The use of such indirect speech acts is a hallmark of politeness in many cultures.

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