SPEECH ACTS(Part 1): SPEECH ACTS (Part 1) LING2022 Pragmatics
4 April 2006
By Dr. Olga Zayts
firstname.lastname@example.org Lecture overview:: Lecture overview: J. Austin and “How to do things with words”
Types of utterances: constatives vs. 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:
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).
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:
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:
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.
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;
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).
(“The wedding planner”)
That marriage of yours is not only going to work, it’s going to last
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.):
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.):
Please ask your questions during the break.
Please submit your final assignments on time.
Types of speech acts: Types of speech acts Commissives: they commit the speaker to some future course of action (e.g. promising, offering, threatening):
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.):
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.):
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).