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History and Orientation

Speech act theory is built on the

foundation laid by Wittgenstein and Austin.
John Searle is most often associated with
the theory. Ludwig Wittgenstein began a
line of thought called ordinary language
philosophy. He taught that the meaning of
language depends on its actual use.
Language, as used in ordinary life, is a
language game because it consists of
rules. In other words, people follow rules to
do things with the language.

Scope and Application

Speech act theory has contributed to the

rules perspective in communication
because it provides a basis for examining
what happens when speakers use
different definition and behavior rules. By
analyzing the rules used by each speaker,
researchers can better understand why
conversational misunderstandings have


A speech act is an utterance that serves a

function in communication. We perform speech
acts when we offer an apology, greeting,
request, complaint, invitation, compliment, or
refusal. A speech act might contain just one
word, as in "Sorry!" to perform an apology, or
several words or sentences: "Im sorry I forgot
your birthday. I just let it slip my mind." Speech
acts includereal-life interactionsand require
not only knowledge of the language but also
appropriate use of that language within a given

Here are some examples of speech acts

we use or hear every day:
Greeting: "Hi, Eric. How are things
Request: "Could you pass me the
mashed potatoes, please?"
Complaint: "Ive already been waiting
three weeks for the computer, and I was
told it would be delivered within a
Invitation: "Were having some
people over Saturday evening and
wanted to know if youd like to join us."
Compliment: "Hey, I really like your
Refusal: "Oh, Id love to see that

Speech acts are difficult to perform in a

second language because learners may
not know the idiomatic expressions or
cultural norms in the second language or
they may transfer their first language
rules and conventions into the second
language, assuming that such rules are
universal. Because the natural tendency
for language learners is to fall back on
what they know to be appropriate in their
first language, it is important that these
learners understand exactly what they do
in that first language in order to be able to
recognize what is transferable to other
languages. Something that works in
English might not transfer in meaning
when translated into the second language.

For example, the following remark

as uttered by a native English
speaker could easily be
misinterpreted by a native
Chinese hearer:
Sarah:"I couldnt agree with you
more. "
Cheng:"Hmmm." (Thinking:
"She couldnt agree with me? I
thought she liked my idea!")

An example of potential misunderstanding for an American

learner of Japanese would be what is said by a dinner
guest in Japan to thank the host. For the invitation and the
meal the guests may well apologize a number of times in
addition to using an expression of gratitude (arigatou
gosaimasu) -- for instance, for the intrusion into the private
home (sumimasen ojama shimasu), the commotion that
they are causing by getting up from the table (shitsurei
shimasu), and also for the fact that they put their host out
since they had to cook the meal, serve it, and will have to
do the dishes once the guests have left (sumimasen).
American guests might think this to be rude or
inappropriate and choose to compliment the host on the
wonderful food and festive atmosphere, or thank the host
for inviting them, unaware of the social conventions
involved in performing such a speech act in Japanese.
Although such compliments or expression of thanks are
also appropriate in Japanese, they are hardly enough for
native speakers of Japanese -- not without a few apologies!

Instructional activities in

Highlighting which speech acts the

learners will need and the linguistic
exponents that can be used to realise

Genre is a term used to classify types of spoken or written
discourse. These are normally classified by content,
language, purpose and form.
Learners analyse an example of a formal letter of
complaint, looking at structure, set phrases, formality and
purpose. They identify the key elements of this genre
then produce their own examples based on this data.
In the classroom
Written genres that learners deal with in class include
reports, news articles, letters of enquiry, stories,
invitations, e-mails and poems. Spoken genres include
presentations, speeches, interviews and informal

Focus of the description

How members of discourse
community typically format texts
in response to communicative
demands in workplace, profesional
or academic contexts.
An Example of an academic genre
is the end of term paper.

Language is seen in terms of a set of
conventionalized text types used by
discourse communities. Altough
conventionalised, genre are understood
to change and develop over time with
new ones emerging in response to
changing demands.

The notion of genre is now an extremely

important one in ESP teaching and research.
Many ESP genre analyses have been based on
Swales' (1981, 1990, 2000) work in this area.
These studies have examined, for example, the
discourse structures and language features of
research articles, masters theses and doctoral
dissertations, job application and sales
promotion letters, legislative documents, the
graduate seminar, academic lectures, poster
session discussions, and the texts that students
need to read in university courses (see Paltridge
1997, 2001, 2007, 2013; Hyland, 2004a, 2007;
Swales 1990, 2004 for reviews of this work).

One model that has had a particular impact in ESP

genre studies is what has come to be known as the
CARS (Create a research space) model. This model
derives from the work of Swales (1981, 1990) and
describes the typical discourse structure of the
opening section of research articles in terms of a
number of moves. Language description in ESP
genre studies draw mostly on what might be called a
pedagogic view of language (see e.g. Celce-Murcia
and Larsen-Freeman, 1999). Sydney School genre
research, by contrast, uses the terms schematic
structure (Martin and Rose 2008) to describe the
discourse structure of texts and works, rather, with a
systemic functional view of language (e.g. Halliday
1985) in its analyses.

Swales has shown how, in research article

introductions, authors establish the territory of their
research by showing that it is important and relevant
in some way (Move 1: Establishing a research
territory). Move 2 (Establishing a niche) then indicates
the gap in previous research that the authors study
aims to address while the third move (Move 3:
Occupying the niche) states the purpose of the
authors research and how it will fill the gap in
research that earlier sections of the Introduction have
indentified. This model has since been applied to the
Introduction section of other genres such as theses
and dissertations (see Bunton 2002; Paltridge 2012;
Paltridge and Starfield 2007). Cross-cultural
examinations of the CARS model are summarized in
Connors (1996) Contrastive Rhetoric and in her (2011)
Intercultural Rhetoric in the Writing Classroom.

Instructional activities in

Familiarising learners with the genres

they will use in their target environments
and helping them understand the values
and explections places on them.

Thank you