You are on page 1of 13

Indirect speech acts

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Primary vs. explicit performatives Performative Hypothesis Sentence type and illocutionary force Conventional speech acts politeness

Primary vs. explicit performatives

Explicit performatives are introduced by a performative verb; primary performatives are not. Primary performatives can be ambiguous as to which illocutionary force they have. Performative verbs can be used to perform acts other than that which they indicate; eg. I promise vs. I promised vs. Ill promise

The Performative Hypothesis

Primary performatives have a performative clause in the underlying structure; Ill come = I promise Ill come The book was written by Chomsky and myself. ?The book was written by Chomsky and herself whats the time, because .. Frankly, I hate this sort of behavior

Counterevidence to PH
Performative utterances need not be in the active voice, nor have a first person subject pronoun; eg. Passengers are hereby warned not Primary performatives and their corresponding explicit ones do not have the same meaning; eg. I state to you that earth is flat vs. earth is flat

Sentence type and illocutionary force

Declaratives, interrogatives and imperatives are assumed to be used basically for statements, queries and commands, respectively. But, commands are usually issued by means of declaratives or questions: can you close the door? I want you to close the door. Often, there is some discrepancy between sentence type and illocutionary force

Sentence type and syntax

Some syntactic phenomena can be captured only by reference to illocutionary force of utterances. please is restricted to requests: please shut the door/you please / can you please .? The question is how to relate illocutionary force to sentence type

Conventional speech acts

There are conventional formulas to perform some speech acts; eg. requests: I want you to /can you / would you /would you mind / etc. Although the request is indirect, the implicature is barely cancelable as the formulas are conventional. How is the illocutionary force of these utterances arrived at?

Idiom theory
One way to deal with conventional indirect speech acts is to consider them idioms in the sense that they are learnt and stored in memory as conventional forms Idioms are not compositional: their meaning is not calculated from the meaning of their constituents They do not have a literal and a non-literal meaning

Inference theory
Another way is to concede that conventional indirect speech acts have a literal meaning and that their illocutionary force is computed on the basis of it In Searles terms, they have a primary and a secondary illocutionary force In order to account for the discrepancy between the primary and the secondary illocutionary acts, the following are needed:

(i) Certain general principles of cooperative conversation, (ii) Mutually shared background information between S and H (iii)An ability on the part of H to make inferences.

Indirect speech acts can be made by: (i) Asking whether or stating that a preparatory condition obtains, (ii) Asking whether or stating that a propositional condition obtains, (iii) Stating that the sincerity condition obtains, etc. The problem is why should speakers speak indirectly?

Leech (1983) postulates a Politeness Principle to account for indirectness The PP has maxims among which are: Tact Maxim (a- minimize cost to other / b- maximize cost to other) Generosity Maxim (a- minimize benefit to self /b- maximize cost to self) Modesty Maxim (a- minimize praise of self /b- maximize dispraise of self)

Brown & Levinson (1987)

A Model Person who is a fluent speaker of a native language and endowed with rationality and face. Rationality is the capacity to reason out the means for certain ends to be achieved. Face is the image that an individual develops for himself in his community Some acts are face-threatening and speakers adopt strategies to reduce their face-threatening potential depending on D, P and R