What makes it the case that an utterance constitutes an illocutionary act of a given kind? This is the central question of speech-act theory. Answers to it—i.e., theories of speechacts—have proliferated. Our main goal in this chapter is to clarify the logical space into which these different theories fit. -/- We begin, in Section 1, by dividing theories of speechacts into five families, each distinguished from the others by its account of the key (...) ingredients in illocutionary acts. Are speechacts fundamentally a matter of convention or intention? Or should we instead think of them in terms of the psychological states they express, in terms of the effects that it is their function to produce, or in terms of the norms that govern them? In Section 2, we take up the highly influential idea that speechacts can be understood in terms of their effects on a conversation’s context or “score”. Part of why this idea has been so useful is that it allows speech-act theorists from the five families to engage at a level of abstraction that elides their foundational disagreements. In Section 3, we investigate some of the motivations for the traditional distinction between propositional content and illocutionary force, and some of the ways in which this distinction has been undermined by recent work. In Section 4, we survey some of the ways in which speech-act theory has been applied to issues outside semantics and pragmatics, narrowly construed. (shrink)
The question which this paper examines is that of the correct scope of the claim that extra-linguistic factors (such as gender and social status) can block the proper workings of natural language. The claim that this is possible has been put forward under the apt label of silencing in the context of Austinian speech act theory. The ‘silencing’ label is apt insofar as when one’s ability to exploit the inherent dynamic of language is ‘blocked’ by one’s gender or social (...) status then one might justly be said to be silenced. The notion that factors independent of any person’s linguistic competence might block her ability to exploit the inherent dynamic of language is of considerable social as well as theoretical significance. I shall defend the claim that factors independent of a person’s linguistic competence can indeed block her ability to do things with words but I will show that the cases that have been previously considered to be cases of illocutionary failure are instances of rhetic or locutionary act failure instead. I shall refine the silencing claim as previously advanced in the debate in at least one fundamental respect. I also show that considering the metaphysics of speechacts clarifies many of the issues previously appearing as thorny bones of contention between those who hold that the only notion of silencing that is coherent is that of physically preventing someone from speaking or writing and those who hold the opposite sort of claim sketched above. (shrink)
In the last twenty years, recorded messages and written notes have become a significant test and an intriguing puzzle for the semantics of indexical expressions (see Smith 1989, Predelli 1996, 1998a,1998b, 2002, Corazza et al. 2002, Romdenh-Romluc 2002). In particular, the intention-based approach proposed by Stefano Predelli has proven to bear interesting relations to several major questions in philosophy of language. In a recent paper (Saul 2006), Jennifer Saul draws on the literature on indexicals and recorded messages in order to (...) criticize Rae Langton's claim that works of pornography can be understood as illocutionary acts – in particular acts of subordinating women or acts of silencing women. Saul argues that it does not make sense to understand works of pornography as speechacts, because only utterances in contexts can be speechacts. More precisely, works of pornography such as a film may be seen as recordings that can be used in many different contexts – exactly like a written note or an answering machine message. According to Saul, bringing contexts into the picture undermines Langton's radical thesis – which must be reformulated in much weaker terms. In this paper, I accept Saul's claim that only utterances in contexts can be speechacts, and that therefore only works of pornography in contexts may be seen as illocutionary acts of silencing women. I will, nonetheless, show that Saul's reformulation doesn't undermine Langton's thesis. To this aim, I will use the distinction Predelli proposes in order to account for the semantic behaviour of indexical expressions in recorded messages – namely the distinction between context of utterance and context of interpretation. (shrink)
Over the past decades, there has been an ongoing debate about whether education should aim at the cultivation of emotional wellbeing of self-esteeming personalities or whether it should prioritise literacy and the cognitive development of students. However, it might be the case that the two are not easily distinguished in educational contexts. In this paper I use J.L. Austin's original work on speechacts to emphasise the interconnection between the cognitive and emotional aspects of our utterances, and illustrate (...) how emotional force affects communication in the classroom. (shrink)
The paper reconstructs and discusses three different approaches to the study of speechacts: (i) the intentionalist approach, according to which most illocutionary acts are to be analysed as utterances made with the Gricean communicative intentions, (ii) the institutionalist approach, which is based on the idea of illocutions as institutional acts constituted by systems of collectively accepted rules, and (iii) the interactionalist approach the main tenet of which is to perform illocutionary acts by making conventional (...) moves in accordance with patterns of social interaction. It is claimed that, first, each of the discussed approaches presupposes a different account of the nature and structure of illocutionary acts, and, second, all those approaches result from one-sided interpretations of Austin’s conception of verbal action. The first part of the paper reconstructs Austin's views on the functions and effects of felicitous illocutionary acts. Thesecond part reconstructs and considers three different research developments in the post-Austinian speech act theory—the intentionalist approach, the institutionalist approach, and the interactionalist approach. (shrink)
The goal of this paper is an account of the semantics and pragmatics of exclamation. I focus on two key observations: first, that sentence exclamations like Wow, John bakes delicious desserts! and exclamatives like What delicious desserts John bakes! express that a particular proposition has violated the speaker’s expectations; and second, that exclamatives are semantically restricted in a way that sentence exclamations are not. In my account of these facts, I propose a characterization of illocutionary force of exclamation, a function (...) from propositions to speechacts of exclamation. The difference in meaning between sentence exclamations and exclamatives has consequences for the type of violated expectation. I end with a comparison to some previous approaches and a tentative extension of parts of the analysis to other constructions. (shrink)
Recent research has shown that the superlative quantifiers at least and at most do not have the same type of truth conditions as the comparative quantifiers more than and fewer than. We propose that superlative quantifiers are interpreted at the level of speechacts. We relate them to denegations of speechacts, as in I don’t promise to come, which we analyze as excluding the speech act of a promise to come. Calling such conversational (...) class='Hi'>acts that affect future permissible speechacts “meta-speechacts,” we introduce the meta-speech act of a GRANT of a proposition as a denial to assert the negation of that proposition. Superlative quantifiers are analyzed as quantifiers over GRANTS. Thus, John petted at least three rabbits means that the minimal number n such that the speaker GRANTs the proposition that John petted n rabbits is n = 3. We formalize this interpretation in terms of commitment states and commitment spaces, and show how the truth conditions that are derived from it are partly entailed and partly conversationally implicated. We demonstrate how the theory accounts for a wide variety of distributional phenomena of superlative quantifiers, including the contexts in which they can be embedded. (shrink)
Speech act theory seems to provide a promising avenue for the analysis of the functional organization of argument. The theory, however, might be taken to suggest that arguments are a homogenous class of speech act with a specifiable illocutionary force and a single set of felicity conditions. This suggestion confuses the analysis of the meaning of speech act verbs with the analysis of the pragmatic structure of actual language use. Suggesting that arguments are conveyed through a homogeneous (...) class of linguistic action overlooks the way in which the context of activity and the form of expression organize the argumentative functions performed in using language. An alternative speech act analysis would treat folk terminology as a heuristic entry point into the development of a technical analysis of the myriad argumentative functions and structures to be found in natural language use. This would lead to a thorough-going pragmatic analysis of the rational and functional design of speechacts in argumentation. (shrink)
The book presents a theory of illocutionary acts. It argues that the study of speechacts initiatied by Austin complements the truth theoretic approach to speaker meaning. It is shown that there are aspects of speaker meaning which cannot be explained by truth theoretic approaches. Though the nature of a speech act is partially determined by the semantic type of the the sentence uttered the speaker's intention and context of utterance are important also.
There are certain illocutionary acts (such as hypothesizing, conjecturing, speculating, guessing, and the like) that, contrary to John Searle’s (1969, 1975, 1979) speech act theory, cannot be correctly classified as assertives. Searle’s sincerity and essential conditions on assertives require, plausibly, that we believe our assertions and that we are committed to their truth. Yet it is a commonly accepted scientific practice to propose and investigate an hypothesis without believing it or being at all committed to its truth. Searle’s (...) attempt to accommodate such conjectural acts by claiming that the degree of belief and of commitment expressed by some assertives “may approach or even reach zero” (1979: 13) is unsuccessful, since it evacuates his thesis that these are substantive necessary conditions on assertives of any force. The illocutionary acts in question are central to scientific activity and so cannot be plausibly ignored by a theory of speechacts. The problem is not limited simply to Searle’s theory, since even theories which depart markedly from Searle’s in other respects are often committed to similar characterizations of assertion. (shrink)
In this paper a dialogue game for critical discussion is developed. The dialogue game is a formalisation of the ideal discussion model that is central to the pragma-dialectical theory of argumentation. The formalisation is intended as a preparatory step to facilitate the development of computational tools to support the pragma-dialectical study of argumentation. An important dimension of the pragma-dialectical discussion model is the role played by speechacts. The central issue addressed in this paper is how the (...) class='Hi'>speech act perspective can be accommodated in the formalisation as a dialogue game. The starting point is an existing ‘basic’ dialogue game for critical discussion, in which speechacts are not addressed. The speech act perspective is introduced into the dialogue game by changing the rules that govern the moves that can be made and the commitments that these result in, while the rules for the beginning, for the end, and for the structure of the dialogue game remain unchanged. The revision of the move rules is based on the distribution of speechacts in the pragma-dialectical discussion model. The revision of the commitment rules is based on the felicity conditions that are associated with those speechacts. (shrink)
This innovative collection addresses such themes as: the relation between the concept of truth and the success conditions of assertions and kindred speechacts the linguistic devices of expressing the truth of a proposition the relation ...
Whereas the relationship between truth and propositional content has already been intensively investigated, there are only very few studies devoted to the task of illuminating the relationship between truth and illocutionary acts. This book fills that gap. This innovative collection addresses such themes as: the relation between the concept of truth and the success conditions of assertions and kindred speechacts the linguistic devices of expressing the truth of a proposition the relation between predication and truth.
This volume presents new essays by leading figures in speech-act theory, the interdisciplinary study of things we do with words. They range over formal semantics and pragmatics, foundational issues about the nature of linguistic representation, and issues at the intersection of the philosophy of language, ethics, and political philosophy.
This paper defends a theory of speech act that I call concurrentism. It consists of the following three theses. 1. We believe, ceteris paribus, that other people’s speechacts concur with their beliefs. 2. Our speechacts, ceteris paribus, concur with our beliefs. 3. When our speechacts deviate from our beliefs, we do not, ceteris paribus, declare the deviations to other people. Concurrentism sheds light on what the hearer believes when he hears (...) an indicative sentence, what the speaker believes when he says an indicative sentence, what the speaker does after he says an indicative sentence contrary to what he believes, why Moore’s paradox occurs, why it is puzzling to say some variants of Moorean sentences, and why it is not absurd to say other variants of Moorean sentences. (shrink)
It is now generally recognized that figures such as Reid, Peirce, and Reinach formulated theories of speechacts avant la lettre of Austin and Searle, in Reid and Reinach’s cases under the heading ‘theory of social acts’. Here we address the question as to what conditions would have to be satisfied for such theories to count as ‘theories of speechacts’ in the now familiar sense.
John Searle's SpeechActs made a highly original contribution to work in the philosophy of language. Expression and Meaning is a direct successor, concerned to develop and refine the account presented in Searle's earlier work, and to extend its application to other modes of discourse such as metaphor, fiction, reference, and indirect speech arts. Searle also presents a rational taxonomy of types of speechacts and explores the relation between the meanings of sentences and the (...) contexts of their utterance. The book points forward to a larger theme implicit in these problems - the basis certain features of speech have in the intentionality of mind, and even more generally, the relation of the philosophy of language to the philosophy of mind. (shrink)
Abstract: One oft-cited feature of speechacts is their expressive character: Assertion expresses belief, apology regret, promise intention. Yet expression, or at least sincere expression, is as I argue a form of showing: A sincere expression shows whatever is the state that is the sincerity condition of the expressive act. How, then, can a speech act show a speaker's state of thought or feeling? To answer this question I consider three varieties of showing, and argue that only (...) one of them is suited to help us answer our question. I also argue that concepts from the evolutionary biology of communication provide one source of insight into how speechacts enable one to show, and thereby express, a psychological state. (shrink)
Catharine MacKinnon has claimed that pornography is the subordination of women. Rae Langton has defended the plausibility and coherence of this claim by drawing on speech act theory. I argue that considering the role of context in speechacts poses serious problems for Langton's defence of MacKinnon. Langton's account can be altered in order to accommodate the role of context. Once this is done, however, her defence of MacKinnon no longer looks so plausible. Finally, I argue that (...) the speech act approach (adapted to account for context) offers an appealing way to make sense of disagreements over pornography; but also that this will probably not be so appealing to most proponents of the speechacts approach. (shrink)
In bilateral systems for classical logic, assertion and denial occur as primitive signs on formulas. Such systems lend themselves to an inferentialist story about how truth-conditional content of connectives can be determined by inference rules. In particular, for classical logic there is a bilateral proof system which has a property that Carnap in 1943 called categoricity. We show that categorical systems can be given for any finite many-valued logic using $n$-sided sequent calculus. These systems are understood as a further development (...) of bilateralism—call it multilateralism. The overarching idea is that multilateral proof systems can incorporate the logic of a variety of denial speechacts. So against Frege we say that denial is not the negation of assertion and, with Mark Twain, that denial is more than a river in Egypt. (shrink)
In this paper, we address several puzzles concerning speechacts,particularly indirect speechacts. We show how a formal semantictheory of discourse interpretation can be used to define speech actsand to avoid murky issues concerning the metaphysics of action. Weprovide a formally precise definition of indirect speechacts, includingthe subclass of so-called conventionalized indirect speechacts. Thisanalysis draws heavily on parallels between phenomena at the speechact level and the lexical level. First, we (...) argue that, just as co-predicationshows that some words can behave linguistically as if they're `simultaneously'of incompatible semantic types, certain speechacts behave this way too.Secondly, as Horn and Bayer (1984) and others have suggested, both thelexicon and speechacts are subject to a principle of blocking or ``preemptionby synonymy'': Conventionalized indirect speechacts can block their`paraphrases' from being interpreted as indirect speechacts, even ifthis interpretation is calculable from Gricean-style principles. Weprovide a formal model of this blocking, and compare it withexisting accounts of lexical blocking. (shrink)
In this paper, I will discuss why in some circumstances people express their intentions indirectly: the use of Indirect SpeechActs. Based on Parikh’s games of partial information and Franke’s IBR model, I develop game-theoretic models of ISAs, which are divided into two categories, namely non-conventional ISAs and conventional ISAs. I assume that non-conventional ISAs involve two types of communication situations: communication under certain cooperation and that under uncertain cooperation. I will analyse the cases of ironical request and (...) implicit bribery as typical instances of non-conventional ISAs of each situation type, respectively. I then apply the models to analyse the use of conventional ISAs from an evolutionary perspective, which is inspired by Lewisian convention theory. The models yield the following predictions: the use of non-conventional ISAs under certain cooperation relies on the sympathy between interlocutors, which blocks their evolution towards conventional ISAs; in unc... (shrink)
Speechacts are a staple of everyday communicative life, but only became a topic of sustained investigation, at least in the English-speaking world, in the middle of the Twentieth Century. Since that time “speech act theory” has been influential not only within philosophy, but also in linguistics, psychology, legal theory, artificial intelligence, literary theory and many other scholarly disciplines. Recognition of the importance of speechacts has illuminated the ability of language to do other things (...) than describe reality. In the process the boundaries among the philosophy of language, the philosophy of action, the philosophy of mind and even ethics have become less sharp. In addition, an appreciation of speechacts has helped lay bare an implicit normative structure within linguistic practice, including even that part of this practice concerned with describing reality. Much recent research aims at an accurate characterization of this normative structure underlying linguistic practice. (shrink)
: This paper defends the knowledge rule of informative speechacts. It is argued that Edward Craig's insightful practical explication of the concept of knowledge can be extended to motivate the knowledge rule. A number of problem cases for the knowledge rule are addressed and accommodated.
This paper explores the truism that people think about what they say. It proposes that, to satisfy their own goals, people often plan their speechacts to affect their listeners' beliefs, goals, and emotional states. Such language use can be modelled by viewing speechacts as operators in a planning system, thus allowing both physical and speechacts to be integrated into plans. Methodological issues of how speechacts should be defined in (...) a planbased theory are illustrated by defining operators for requesting and informing. Plans containing those operators are presented and comparisons are drawn with Searle's formulation. The operators are shown to be inadequate since they cannot be composed to form questions (requests to inform) and multiparty requests (requests to request). By refining the operator definitions and by identifying some of the side effects of requesting, compositional adequacy is achieved.The solution leads to a metatheoretical principle for modelling speechacts as planning operators. (shrink)
The superlative quantifiers, at least and at most, are commonly assumed to have the same truth-conditions as the comparative quantifiers more than and fewer than. However, as Geurts & Nouwen have demonstrated, this is wrong, and several theories have been proposed to account for them. In this paper we propose that superlative quantifiers are illocutionary operators; specifically, they modify meta-speechacts.Meta speech-acts are operators that do not express a speech act, but a willingness to make (...) or refrain from making a certain speech act. The classic example is speech act denegation, e.g. I don't promise to come, where the speaker is explicitly refraining from performing the speech act of promising What denegations do is to delimit the future development of conversation, that is, they delimit future admissible speechacts. Hence we call them meta-speechacts. They are not moves in a game, but rather commitments to behave in certain ways in the future. We formalize the notion of meta speechacts as commitment development spaces, which are rooted graphs: The root of the graph describes the commitment development up to the current point in conversation; the continuations from the root describe the admissible future directions.We define and formalize the meta-speech act GRANT, which indicates that the speaker, while not necessarily subscribing to a proposition, refrains from asserting its negation. We propose that superlative quantifiers are quantifiers over GRANTs. Thus, Mary petted at least three rabbits means that the minimal number n such that the speaker GRANTs that Mary petted n rabbits is n = 3. In other words, the speaker denies that Mary petted two, one, or no rabbits, but GRANTs that she petted more.We formalize this interpretation of superlative quantifiers in terms of commitment development spaces, and show how the truth conditions that are derived from it are partly entailed and partly conversationally implicated. We demonstrates how the theory accounts for a wide variety of phenomena regarding the interpretation of superlative quantifiers, their distribution, and the contexts in which they can be embedded. (shrink)
There are two views of the essences of speechacts: according to one view, they are natural kinds; according to the other, they are what I call normative kinds—kinds in the (possibly non-reductive) definition of which some normative term occurs. In this article I show that speechacts can be normative but also natural kinds by deriving Williamson's account of assertion, on which it is an act individuated, and constitutively governed, by a norm (the knowledge rule), (...) from a consideration of the natural characteristics of normal cases of its performance. (shrink)
The theory of speechacts is partly taxonomic and partly explanatory. It must systematically classify types of speechacts and the ways in which they can succeed or fail. It must reckon with the fact that the relationship between the words being used and the force of their utterance is often oblique. For example, the sentence 'This is a pig sty' might be used nonliterally to state that a certain room is messy and filthy and, further, (...) to demand indirectly that it be straightened out and cleaned up. Even when this sentence is used literally and directly, say to describe a certain area of a barnyard, the content of its utterance is not fully determined by its linguistic meaning--in particular, the meaning of the word 'this' does not determine which area is being referred to. A major task for the theory of speechacts is to account for how speakers can succeed in what they do despite the various ways in which linguistic meaning underdetermines use. (shrink)
There are certain illocutionary acts that, contrary to John Searle's speech act theory, cannot be correctly classified as assertives. Searle's sincerity and essential conditions on assertives require, plausibly, that we believe our assertions and that we are committed to their truth. Yet it is a commonly accepted scientific practice to propose and investigate an hypothesis without believing it or being at all committed to its truth. Searle's attempt to accommodate such conjectural acts by claiming that the degree (...) of belief and of commitment expressed by some assertives “may approach or even reach zero“ is unsuccessful, since it evacuates his thesis that these are substantive necessary conditions on assertives of any force. The illocutionary acts in question are central to scientific activity and so cannot be plausibly ignored by a theory of speechacts. The problem is not limited simply to Searle's theory, since even theories which depart markedly from Searle's in other respects are often committed to similar characterizations of assertion. (shrink)
Speechacts have sometimes been considered as unembeddable, for principled reasons. In this paper, I argue that speechacts can be embedded under certain circumstances. In particular, I consider denegation and conjunction of speechacts, quantification into speechacts, conditionalization of speechacts, the embedding of speechacts by verbs like say and wonder, speechact-modifying adverbials like frankly, clauses commenting on speechacts, like certain uses of (...) because-clauses, parentheticals, and appositive relative clauses. A crucial distinction is made between speechacts and speech act potentials, linguistic objects that can be used to perform speechacts when applied in a specific communicative situation. I develop a semantic theory in which speech act potentials are captured as semantic functions that change a world-time index, reflecting the nature of speechacts as events that happen in the world. As index changers, speech act potentials become nearly regular semantic objects, with a proper semantic type on which other semantic objects can operate on. In this way, speechacts (or rather, speech-act potentials) become part of the recursive structure of language. (shrink)
This paper offers a new account of reflective knowledge’s value, building on recent work on the epistemic norms of speechacts. Reflective knowledge is valuable because it licenses us to make guarantees and promises.
This book demonstrates the presence of literature within speech act theory and the utility of speech act theory in reading literary works. Though the founding text of speech act theory, J. L. Austin's _How to Do Things with Words_, repeatedly expels literature from the domain of felicitous speechacts, literature is an indispensable presence within Austin's book. It contains many literary references but also uses as essential tools literary devices of its own: imaginary stories that (...) serve as examples and imaginary dialogues that forestall potential objections. _How to Do Things with Words_ is not the triumphant establishment of a fully elaborated theory of speechacts, but the story of a failure to do that, the story of what Austin calls a "bogging down." After an introductory chapter that explores Austin's book in detail, the two following chapters show how Jacques Derrida and Paul de Man in different ways challenge Austin's speech act theory generally and his expulsion of literature specifically. Derrida shows that literature cannot be expelled from speechacts—rather that what he calls "iterability" means that any speech act may be literature. De Man asserts that speech act theory involves a radical dissociation between the cognitive and positing dimensions of language, what Austin calls language's "constative" and "performative" aspects. Both Derrida and de Man elaborate new speech act theories that form the basis of new notions of responsible and effective politico-ethical decision and action. The fourth chapter explores the role of strong emotion in effective speechacts through a discussion of passages in Derrida, Wittgenstein, and Austin. The final chapter demonstrates, through close readings of three passages in Proust, the way speech act theory can be employed in an illuminating way in the accurate reading of literary works. (shrink)
This article aims to connect Austin's seminal notion of a speech act with developments in philosophy of language over the last forty odd years. It starts by considering how speechacts might be conceived in Austin's general theory. Then it turns to the illocutionary acts with which much philosophical writing on speechacts has been concerned, and finally to the performatives which Austin's own treatment of speech as action took off from.
In this paper, I compile some reasons for resisting Stainton's analysis of sub-sentential speech. My resistance stems from considerations about the intentions and expectations of those who communicate using sub-sentential speech. I challenge Stainton's reasons for thinking that some sub-sentential utterances have the status of full-fledged speechacts and argue that they turn out to be degenerate speechacts. After offering my own analysis of sub-sentential speech, I recommend that by revisiting the divide (...) and conquer strategy Stainton dismisses for handling the alleged cases of genuine sub-sentential speech, we can resist radical forms of contextualism suggested by his analysis. En este texto recopilo algunas razones para oponerse al análisis del habla suboracional que plantea Stainton. Mi oposición surge de consideraciones en torno a las intenciones y expectativas de quienes se comunican usando el habla suboracional. Pongo en duda las razones que aduce Stainton para pensar que algunas proferencias suboracionales tienen el estatus de actos de habla en toda la extensión de la palabra y arguyo que resultan ser actos de habla degenerados. Después de ofrecer mi propio análisis del habla suboracional, recomiendo que, retomando la estrategia "divide y vencerás" que Stainton descarta para manejar los presuntos casos de habla suboracional genuina, podemos oponernos a las formas radicales de contextualismo que su análisis sugiere. (shrink)
The usual treatment of a dinner table utterance of ‘Can you pass the salt?’ is that it involves an indirect request to pass the salt as well as a direct question about the hearer’s ability to do so: an indirect speech act. These are held to involve two illocutionary forces and two illocutionary acts. Rod Bertolet has raised doubts about whether consideration of such examples warrants the postulation of indirect speechacts and illocutionary forces other than (...) the literal ones. In a recent article, Mary Kate McGowan, Shan Shan Tam, and Margaret Hall claim to show that these doubts are unfounded. The purpose of this paper is to show that they have not established this. (shrink)
Suppose a diner says, 'Can you pass the salt?' Although her utterance is literally a question (about the physical abilities of the addressee), most would take it as a request (that the addressee pass the salt). In such a case, the request is performed indirectly by way of directly asking a question. Accordingly this utterance is known as an indirect speech act. On the standard account of such speechacts, a single utterance constitutes two distinct speech (...)acts. On this account then, 'Can you pass the salt?' is both a question and a request. In a provocative essay, Rod Bertolet argues that there are no indirect speechacts. According to Bertolet, 'Can you pass the salt?' is only a question. It is a question that merely functions as a request (without also being one). In this paper we respond to Bertolet's skeptical argument. Appealing to Searle's theory of speechacts and to certain features of linguistic communication, we argue that, despite Bertolet's challenge, there is good reason to countenance indirect speechacts. (shrink)
A common approach to drawing boundary between fiction and non-fiction is by appeal to the kinds of speechacts performed by authors of works of the respective categories. Searle, for example, takes fiction to be the product of illocutionary pretense of various kinds on the part of authors and non-fiction to be the product of genuine illocutionary action.1 Currie, in contrast, takes fiction to be the product of sui generis fictional illocutionary action on the part of authors and (...) non-fiction to be the product of assertion and other familiar kinds of illocutionary action.2 The central thesis of this paper is that the speech act approach to fictionality is simply a non-starter. Now it is, of course, commonplace to note that approaches of this kind run into difficulty accommodating nonliterary fictions3 and uncomposed or authorless fictions. What will be argued here, however, is that speechacts analyses are inadequate even understood narrowly as accounts of composed literary fiction. And the reason is that they fail to adequately attend to the distinction between composition and storytelling. (shrink)
On Pragmatics, Exercitive SpeechActs and Pornography Suppose that a suspect being questioned by the police says, "I think I'd better talk to a lawyer." Whether that suspect has invoked her right to an attorney depends on which particular speech act her utterance is. If she is merely thinking aloud about what she ought to do, then she has not invoked that right. If, on the other hand, she has thereby requested a lawyer, she has. Similarly, suppose (...) that an unhappily married man says "I want my wife dead." Whether he has thereby solicited his wife's murder depends on which particular speech act his utterance is. If he is merely describing his desires, he has committed no crime. If, by contrast, he has thereby hired an assassin, he has. As one can see, experts on speechacts have a lot to say about various issues in the law.I believe that expertise in speech act theory also illuminates various issues regarding free speech. In what follows, we consider how speech act theory may apply to certain arguments regarding the free speech status of pornography. In particular, we consider several speech act accounts of MacKinnon's claim that pornography subordinates women, but, before turning to such accounts, some background is offered. (shrink)
Speechacts and the autonomy of linguistic pragmatics This paper comments on selected problems of the definition of linguistic pragmatics with a focus on notions associated with speech act theory in the tradition of John Langshaw Austin. In more detail it concentrates on the relevance of the use of the Austinian categorisation into locution, illocution, and perlocution in locating a divide in between pragmatics and semantics, and especially the distinction between the locutionary act and the illocutionary act (...) and its implications for the definition of pragmatics and its separation from the semantic theory.The relation between form and meaning is further briefly reviewed against dichotomies including the Gricean and neo-Gricean ‘what is said’ versus ‘what is implicated’ or meant, between what can be ‘locuted’, but not said, and what can be said, but not asserted. These dichotomies are related to the theoretical commitments as to the accepted operative forces in speechacts, primarily convention and intention. It is suggested that, roughly, the development of the speech act theory can be viewed as a process by which the theory moves away from its originally sociolinguistic orientation towards a more psychologistic account, which in turn leads towards diminishing the role of semantics and the subsequent juxtaposition of pragmatics and syntax rather than pragmatics and semantics. (shrink)
Ethicists have long observed that unethical communication may result from texts that contain no overt falsehoods but are nevertheless misleading. Less clear, however, has been the way that context and text work together to create misleading communication. Concepts from linguistics can be used to explain implicature and indirect speechacts, two patterns which, though in themselves not unethical, may allow misinterpretations and, therefore, create potentially unethical communication. Additionally, sociolinguistic theory provides insights into why writers in business and other (...) professions are prone to use these patterns. An analysis of five cases shows that implicature and indirectness are sometimes used intentionally to deceive readers. However, their use may also reflect other motives such as the desire to mitigate negative information or to show deference to an unfamiliar or powerful reader. Although implicature and indirectness are not intended to deceive in these cases, they can lead to a loss of clarity and to subsequent ethical problems when readers misinterpret texts. (shrink)