Function of Speech Acts

Topics: Pragmatics, Philosophy of language, Speech act Pages: 6 (1620 words) Published: January 31, 2011
Functions of Speech Acts in a Dialogue


The dialogue analyzed in this paper is about two foreign students who have lunch in a restaurant. They sit next to each other at a counter and wait to be served. They do not know each other, but because the wait is too long they get bored. So, the older student, Maria, who is 19-year-old and comes from Venezuela, turns over the person sitting next to her and starts a conversation with a younger 18-year-old student, Ali, who comes from Saudi Arabia to study English. I will analyze this dialogue whit paying most of my attention on the functions taken by the Speech Acts. It is a usual conversation between two individuals while introducing themselves to each other and trying to establish contact or friendship. The sentences are marked with ‘u’ and a number for each every one of them, this being put in brackets.

Function of Speech Acts

The Speech Act Theory was developed from the belief that language is used to perform actions. The speaker who produces these kind of utterances, expects that the hearer will perform some kind of action, which he recognizes from the utterance (the Hearer recognizes the Speaker’s intentions). The Speaker and Hearer are helped by the context, by the so called speech events.

Declarations and Declaratives are ritualistic utterances, which carry no information about the world outside the language, they refer only to themselves. (SAYING=DOING)

1. Explicit performatives: I order you to clean the window.

2. Implicit performatives: Clean your window!

For an utterance to perform a certain act, there need to be some conditions fulfilled. These are the Felicity Conditions.

Felicity conditions for the act of ordering:

1. The sender believes the action should be done.

2. The receiver has the ability to do the action.

3. The receiver has the obligation to do the action.

4. The sender has the right to tell the receiver to do the action.

Taxonomy of Speech Acts:

1. Declarations: Speech Acts that change the world by their utterances.

2. Representatives: The speaker makes words that fit (his) world (of belief). There are of three types: statements of fact, assertion and description.

3. Expressive: Expresses the speakers psychological state (the state, mood of the speaker)

4. Directives: The speaker uses Speech Acts to get someone to do something.

5. Commissives: Speech Acts that the speaker uses to commit themselves to some future actions.

Underlying Force:

1. Locutionary Acts: Basic act of utterance that produces a meaningfull linguistic expression.

2. Illocutionary Act/Force: Performed by the communicative force of an utterance, the function that we have in mind when we produce the utterance.

3. Prelocutionary Act/Effect: The effect the speakers intends to have with the utterance on the hearer.

Direct and Indirect Speech Acts

The three basic sentence types: declarative, imperative and interrrogative.

The three communicative functions of the three sentence types: statement, command/request and question.

Functions of the Utterances in a Dialogue

Maria and Ali are two foreign students sitting at the counter in a restaurant. None of them knows the other one, but after a while, to spend the time untill the waiter arrives to take the order, Maria utters to the person sitting next to her (to Ali), makes a statement, a complaint about the service in the restaurant(u1). Than gives an explanation for the statement just said, why she thinks the service is slow (u2). These two utterances have a prelocutionary effect, to make the hearer talk to her. It has as function the starting of a conversation. The speaker (Maria) succeds and the hearer engages into a conversation with her. As a response, he makes an expressive utterance (u3) which shows that he hopes that the waiter comes soon. After the utterance he gives an...
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