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SPEECH ACTS (Part 1): 

SPEECH ACTS (Part 1) LING2022 Pragmatics 4 April 2006 By Dr. Olga Zayts zayts@hkucc.hku.hk

Lecture overview:: 

Lecture overview: J. Austin and “How to do things with words” Types of utterances: constatives vs. performatives Felicity conditions Explicit/implicit performatives Development of Austin’s ideas: locutionary, illocutionary and perlocutionary acts J. Searle, types of speech acts Further development of speech act theory

Before Austin: 

Before Austin Growing frustration within linguistics with truth-conditional semantics (Thomas, 1995), which claimed that unless a sentence can be verified to be true or false, it is meaningless. Common examples from everyday conversations: Example 1 Everybody hates Kelly because she is so popular (cf. showbiz circles). Dear Dr. Watson, I keep on forgetting people’s names all the time (cf. the patient is looking at his palm with the name of the doctor) .

J. L. Austin: 

J. L. Austin People communicate effectively and unproblematically with the language just the way it is.

J. L. Austin: 

J. L. Austin “How to do things with words” (lectures delivered in Harvard in 1955; published posthumously in 1962). Revolutionary ideas? Austin came from the Oxford school “ordinary language philosophers” (Strawson, Grice). Ideas originated from Wittgenstein (1921): logicians have very little to say about many usages of the natural language.

“How to do things with words”: 

“How to do things with words” Austin’s paper: published very timely; clear and accessible reading. Some utterances are used not just to state something but to do things: Example 2 I apologize. I christen this ship “Victoria”. I object to your proposal. I declare the meeting open.

Types of utterances: 

Types of utterances Utterances constatives performatives E.g. say, protest, object, apologize, deny, promise, withdraw, declare, plead, vote, thank Can be felicitous or not (can go wrong) Can be true/false: E.g. I am Russian/ I am Chinese

Test for performatives: 

Test for performatives Example 3 I hereby apologize. I hereby christen this ship "Victory". I hereby object to your proposal. I hereby declare the meeting open.

Felicity conditions: 

Felicity conditions Felicity conditions: make performatives successful: Condition 1: The must be a conventional procedure following a conventional effect: e.g. getting married – proposal should be followed by the conventional ceremony; divorce – different conventional procedures in different countries, The circumstances and the persons must be appropriate: e.g. I cannot marry two people.

Felicity conditions: 

Felicity conditions Condition 2: The procedure must be executed: Correctly: e.g. wedding vows: Those whom God joined together let no one put asunder. /Groom’s name/, You may kiss your bride; Completely: e.g. taking picture well before the wedding in HK. Condition 3: Often: The person must have the requisite thoughts, feelings and intentions, as specified in the procedure: e.g. arranged marriages, Amish communities, remnants of the old tradition in modern superstitions; If consequent conduct is specified, then the relevant parties must do so: e.g. the consequent behavior of the married couple.

Explicit/implicit performatives: 

Explicit/implicit performatives Characteristics of explicit performative utterances (Austin): contain a performative verb; present simple; It may be negative; may be exclamatory; The speaker must be the one responsible for enforcing the action expressed by the utterance

Explicit/implicit performatives: 

Explicit/implicit performatives Example 4 (Levinson 1983: 233) a) I hereby warn you. cf. You are hereby warned. b) I find you guilty of doing it. You did it. Guilty!

Development of Austin’s ideas: 

Development of Austin’s ideas Performatives and constatives are just two subclasses of speech acts; Each speech acts consists of: Locutionary act (the actual words which the speaker is saying); Illocutionary act (the intention of the speaker); Perlocutionary act (the effect of the utterance on the hearer). Example 5 (“The wedding planner”) That marriage of yours is not only going to work, it’s going to last forever.

J. Searle: 

J. Searle Developed Austin’s ideas 4 conditions for differentiating between different speech acts: I will pick you up at three o’ clock. propositional content ( the speaker predicates the future act which will be performed by him); preparatory preconditions (the speaker believes that doing the act is in the hearer’s interest); conditions of sincerity (the speaker intends to do the action) ; and the essential conditions (the speaker undertake an obligation to do the action).

Types of speech acts: 

Types of speech acts 5 types of speech acts: Representatives: the speaker makes a truthful proposition (e.g. asserting, concluding, etc.): Example 6 Pragmatics studies meaning in interaction. Austin lectured in Harvard. Performatives may be implicit. Directives: attempts by the speaker to get the hearer to do something (e.g. acts of requesting or questioning, etc.): Example 7 Please ask your questions during the break. Please submit your final assignments on time. Don’t plagiarize.

Types of speech acts: 

Types of speech acts Commissives: they commit the speaker to some future course of action (e.g. promising, offering, threatening): Example 8 I will reply to your messages as soon as I can. I will give you’re my comments about your final assignments. I will help you with your transcripts.

Types of speech acts: 

Types of speech acts Expressives: express a psychological state (apologizing, welcoming, congratulating, etc.): Example 9 I am sorry I haven’t done it yet. Great news! Congratulations! Declarations: effect the immediate change in the institutional state of affairs and which rely on extra-linguistic institutions (e.g. declaring war, christening, firing, etc.): Example 10 I declare you husband and wife. I christen this ship “Victory”

Types of speech acts: 

Types of speech acts Differentiating between different speech acts: certain verbs are used that indicate the type of the speech act; WO, stress, intonation. (See other examples of speech acts from “Winnie-the-Pooh”)

Further development of speech act theory: 

Further development of speech act theory “Lumpers" (lump together speech acts into large categories); “Splitters" (split up classifications into a great number of classes). (See the comparative table)

Austin vs. Searle’s classifications: 

Austin vs. Searle’s classifications

Recommend Readings: 

Recommend Readings Yule G. Pragmatics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996. (p. 47 - 54). Levinson S. Pragmatics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983. (p. 226 – 246). Jaszczolt K. M. Semantics and pragmatics. (p. 294 – 304). . Mey J. L. Pragmatics: an introduction. Oxford: Blackwell, 1993. ( p. 109 – 129).

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