Unwarranted questions and conversation

Journal of Pragmatics 39 (10):1689-1701 (2007)
This paper deals with two distinct topics; unwarranted questions and admittures. The traditional speech act analysis of questions needs revision, since among the felicity conditions of asking a question is believing that the question is warranted. Some questions are unwarranted according to my analysis. A question is unwarranted if the questioner is not standing in the right relation to the addressee, such that he can demand or expect a sincere answer. I use the idea of unwarranted questions to show how conversational admittures can be generated. A conversational admitture is a non-intended admittance by the speaker of some state of affairs being believed by the speaker to be true. Under the assumption that the speaker is rational, the non-intended admittance is something that it is reasonable to credit the speaker with believing as an explanation of the speaker's unwillingness to be cooperative in a given conversation. In the last section I introduce what I call the Principle of Privacy, which tells us that we have a prima facie right to guard some of our thoughts, feelings, personal history, etc. I argue that the Principle of Privacy together with the ideas that there are unwarranted questions and conversational admittures, and the way unwarranted questions can be exploited to generate the latter, endows us with the right to lie in certain contexts. ; ;
Keywords Questions  Speech act analysis  Unwarranted questions  Admitture  Implicature  Conversation  The Principle of Privacy  The right to lie
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