PRAGMATIC ANALYSIS OF LITERARY TEXTS 2001/2
OF SPEECH ACTS
This is based on two articles from Internet
1) Kent Bach, "Speech Acts"
Pretheoretically, we think of an act of communication, linguistic or otherwise,
as an act of expressing oneself. This rather vague idea can be made more
precise if we get more specific about what is being expressed. Take the
case of an apology. If you utter, '[I'm] sorry I didn't call back' and
intend this as an apology, you are expressing regret for something, in
this case for not returning a phone call. An apology just is the act of
(verbally) expressing regret for, and thereby acknowledging, something
one did that might have harmed or at least bothered the hearer. An apology
is communicative because it is intended to be taken as expressing a certain
attitude, in this case regret. It succeeds as such if it is so taken.
In general, an act of communication succeeds if it is taken as intended.
That is, it must be understood or, in Austin's words, 'produce uptake'.
With an apology, this is a matter of the addressee recognizing the speaker's
intention to be expressing regret for some deed or omission. Using a special
device such as the performative 'I apologize' may of course facilitate
understanding (understanding is correlative with communicating), but in
general this is unnecessary. Communicative success is achieved if the
speaker chooses his words in such a way that the hearer will, under the
circumstances of utterance, recognize his communicative intention. So,
for example, if you spill some beer on someone and say 'Oops' in the right
way, your utterance will be taken as an apology for what you did.
In saying something one generally intends more than just to communicate--getting
oneself understood is intended to produce some effect on the listener.
However, our speech act vocabulary can obscure this fact. When one apologizes,
for example, one may intend not merely to express regret but also to seek
forgiveness. Seeking forgiveness is, strictly speaking, distinct from
apologizing, even though one utterance is the performance of an act of
both types. As an apology, the utterance succeeds if it is taken as expressing
regret for the deed in question; as an act of seeking forgiveness, it
succeeds if forgiveness is thereby obtained. Speech acts, being perlocutionary
as well as illocutionary, generally have some ulterior purpose, but they
are distinguished primarily by their illocutionary type, such as asserting,
requesting, promising and apologizing, which in turn are distinguished
by the type of attitude expressed. The perlocutionary act is a matter
of trying to get the hearer to form some correlative attitude and in some
cases to act in a certain way. For example, a statement expresses a belief
and normally has the further purpose of getting the addressee form the
same belief. A request expresses a desire for the addressee to do a certain
thing and normally aims for the addressee to intend to and, indeed, actually
do that thing. A promise expresses the speaker's firm intention to do
something, together with the belief that by his utterance he is obligated
to do it, and normally aims further for the addressee to expect, and to
feel entitled to expect, the speaker to do it.
Statements, requests, promises and apologies are examples of the four
major categories of communicative illocutionary acts: constatives,
directives, commissives and acknowledgments. This
is the nomenclature used by Kent Bach and Michael Harnish, who develop
a detailed taxonomy in which each type of illocutionary act is individuated
by the type of attitude expressed (in some cases there are constraints
on the content as well). There is no generally accepted terminology here,
and Bach and Harnish borrow the terms 'constative' and 'commissive' from
Austin and 'directive' from Searle. They adopt the term 'acknowledgment',
over Austin's 'behabitive' and Searle's 'expressive', for apologies, greetings,
congratulations etc., which express an attitude regarding the hearer that
is occasioned by some event that is thereby being acknowledged, often
in satisfaction of a social expectation. Here are assorted examples of
Constatives: affirming, alleging, announcing, answering, attributing,
claiming, classifying, concurring, confirming, conjecturing, denying,
disagreeing, disclosing, disputing, identifying, informing, insisting,
predicting, ranking, reporting, stating, stipulating
Directives: advising, admonishing, asking, begging, dismissing,
excusing, forbidding, instructing, ordering, permitting, requesting, requiring,
suggesting, urging, warning
Commissives: agreeing, guaranteeing, inviting, offering, promising,
Acknowledgments: apologizing, condoling, congratulating, greeting,
thanking, accepting (acknowledging an acknowledgment)
Bach and Harnish spell out the correlation between type of illocutionary
act and type of expressed attitude. In many cases, such as answering,
disputing, excusing and agreeing, as well as all types of acknowledgment,
the act and the attitude it expresses presuppose a specific conversational
or other social circumstance.
2) Keith Allan, "Meaning
and Speech Acts"
Searle 1975a lists 12 differences between speech acts that can serve as
bases for classification, but he uses only four of them to establish five
classes of speech acts.
(a) ILLOCUTIONARY POINT (see the quote at the head of this paper). For
instance, a request attempts to get Hearer to do something; an assertive
is a representation of how something is; a promise is the undertaking
of an obligation that Speaker do something.
(b) DIRECTION OF FIT between the words uttered and the world they relate
to: e.g. statements have a words-to-world fit because truth value is assigned
on the basis of whether or not the words describe things as they are in
the world spoken of; requests have a world-to-words fit because the world
must be changed to fulfill Speaker's request.
(c) THE EXPRESSED PSYCHOLOGICAL STATE: e.g. a statement that p expresses
Speaker's belief that p; a promise expresses Speaker's intention to do
something; a request expresses Speaker's desire that Hearer should do
(d) PROPOSITIONAL CONTENT: e.g. Hearer to do A (i.e. perform some act)
for a request; Speaker to do A for a promise. The five kinds of speech
act Searle recognizes are:
Assertives (called representatives in Searle 1975a) have
a truth value, show words-to-world fit, and express Speaker's belief that
Directives are attempts to get Hearer to do something, therefore
they show world-to-words fit, and express Speaker's wish or desire that
Hearer do A.
Commissives commit Speaker to some future course of action, so
they show world-to-words fit, and Speaker expresses the intention that
Speaker do A.
Expressives express Speaker's attitude to a certain state of affairs
specified (if at all) in the propositional content (e.g. the bolded portion
of I apologize for stepping on your toe). There is no direction of fit;
a variety of different psychological states; and propositional content
must be related to Speaker or Hearer (1975a:357f).
Declarations bring about correspondence between the propositional
content and the world; thus direction of fit is both words-to-world and
world-to-words. Searle recognizes no psychological state for declarations.
state (that), affirm (Searle 1969:67). Given the conditions described,
Searle says that the utterance of p constitutes an assertion, statement
or affirmation (on the distinctive characteristics of each see Wierzbicka
198 7:321, 329, 323).
S has evidence (reasons etc.) for the truth of p
2. It is not obvious to both S and H that H knows (does not need to
be reminded of, etc.) p
as an undertaking to the effect that p represents an actual state
Searle's 'propositional content'
is the complement of the speech act verb and excludes its meaning -- unlike
the 'description' ascribed to other scholars. Searle's term for 'illocutionary
intention' is 'essential condition'.
(Bach and Harnish 1979:42)
uttering U, S asserts that p if S expresses
the belief that p and
the intention that H believe that p
By 'intention' they mean a
(Edmondson 1981:145; his paragraph (iii) is a comment, and is omitted
leaves this to be inferred]
S wishes H to believe that S believes that [p, i.e.] the information
contained in the locution by means of which the Claim is made is true.
In making a Claim, S may be held to believe that S's doing so is in
the interests of H. In making a Claim S commits S to believing what
is entailed by the content of that Claim.
(Levinson 1983:277 following Gazdar 1981)
assertion that p
intention (1st part)
a function from a context where S is not committed to p (and perhaps,
on a strong theory for assertion, where H does not know that p into
a context in which S is committed to
justified true belief
intention (2nd part)
p (and, on the strong version, into one in which H does know that
(update on Allan 1986 II:193)
asserts that p.
is reason for Speaker to believe that p.
reflexively intends that U be recognized as a reason for Hearer to
believe that (Speaker believes that) p.
imagine some people would say this is not true
I can say that this is true
assume that people will have to think that it is true
say this because I want to say what I know is true