Speech Acts and Conversation (2023)

  • Language in Use

    Having described various kinds of syntactic structures and what they mean we see that people often don't seem to say what they mean. They use languages differently from its apparent meaning; it has functions are different from the apparent structure.

    Example: Could I get you to open that window?

    How'd you like to hand me that wrench?

    Would it be too much trouble for me to ask you tohand me that wrench?

    I know this is an imposition, but could you possibllyopen the window?

    instead of

    (Video) Speech acts and conversational maxims

    Open the window, Hand me the wrench, etc.

  • Sentence Structure and the Function of utterances

    We are `used to' having questions being used to ask for information, declarative sentences to state something, and imperative sentences to give orders. But the following may also occur:

    1. [Form: request:] Can I ask you to please refrain from smoking?
      [Function: command:} (= Please stop smoking!)
    2. [Form: Statement:] We ask that you extinguish your cigarettes at this time, and bring your tray tables and seatbacks to an upright position.
      [Function: command:] (= Stop smoking and sit up straight!)
    3. [Form: question] Well, would you listen to that!
      [Function: exclamation] (= That's really something to listen to.)
  • Speech Acts

    Speech acts are verbal actions that accomplish something: we greet, insult, compliment, plead, flirt, supply information, and get work done.

    • Types of Speech Acts
      • Representatives: assertions, statements, claims, hypotheses, descriptions, suggestions.
      • Commissives: promises, oaths, pledges, threats, vows.
      • Directives: commands, requests, challenges, invitations, orders, summons, entreaties, dares.
      • Declarations: blessings, firings, baptisms, arrests, marrying, juridial speech acts such as sentencings, declaring a mistrial, declaring s.o.out of order, etc.
      • Expressives: Speech acts that make assessments of psychological states or attitudes: greetings, apologies, congratulations, condolences, thanksgivings...
      • Verdictives: rankings, assessments, appraising, condoning (combinations such as representational declarations: You're out!)

      Locutions and Illocutions

      • Locutions: the utterance act. Sentences have a grammatical structure and a literal linguistic meaning; the bald, literal force of the act: what did the person say? (Not, what did the person mean?)
      • Illocution: the speaker's intention of what is to be accomplished by the speech act.
      Compare: How'd you like to hand me that wrench? (locution: a question) has the illocutionary force of a command:
      namely: Hand me the wrench!

      Can I get you to open the window? has a structure (locutionary force) and a linguistic meaning (`will I be able to be successful in getting your cooperation in opening the window?') but its illocutionary force is different: it has the force of a polite imperative : Please open the window!

      Every sentence has both a locutionary force and an illocutionary force .

      (Video) SEM141 - Speech Acts - An Overview

    • Distinguishing among speech acts

      How do we know what the force of a speech act is? By the context or the setting and by using their judgement and background knowledge of the language and the culture. If the Queen of Hearts (in Alice in Wonderland ) says `Off with their Heads!' it has a different force than if someone else says it in another setting.

    • Appropriateness conditions and Successful Declarations

      There are conventions that tell us that a particular locution probably has a particular force. People don't use language inappropriately, or they get into trouble, or the act may be interpreted as invalid.

      • utterance must be conventionally associated with the speech act: The preacher or officiating judge says:

        I now pronounce you husband and wife

        instead of

        Heybobareebob, you is hitched!

      • Context must be conventionally recognized

        The above declaration must be in a setting that is appropriate, like in a church or place of religious worship, etc. with people gathered for that purpose, perhaps even dressed for the part. Weddings (e.g.) don't happen spontaneously during, e.g., a baptism or a bar mitzvah.

        (Video) A Brief Introduction to Speech Acts: Locution Illocution Perlocution

      • Speaker must be sincere:

        Person pronouncing the words must believe what s/he issaying

      • Involved parties intend to create a marriage bond; the essential condition
      • Successful Promises: (commissive): must be recognized as a promise, must be sincere, essential; speaker must state the intention of helping. Preparatory condition: speaker and hearer are sane and responsible, speakers wishes to help, hearer wishes to be helped, etc. (Speaker cannot have fingers crossed behind her back...)
  • The Cooperative Principle

    there is unspoken agreement that people will cooperate in communicating with each other, and speakers rely on this agreement.

    Grice: Make your conversational contribution such as is required, at the stage at which it occurs, by the accepted purpose or direction of the talk exchange in which you are engaged.

    • Maxim of Quantity

      Give as much information as is necessary, but not more. (Don't overdo it.)

      • [Mary:] Hi, John, how are ya?
      • [John:] Oh, not so good, Mary. I just had a tooth out, then last week I had an epidural injection in my spine, followed by restorative surgery on my little toe; you should have seen it, it was horrible, and you wouldn't believe what the surgeon charged, I just got the bill! Our health care system is outrageous, and the traffic on the way to work today! Unbelievable! (etc. etc. etc.)
    • Maxim of Relevance

      Be relevant; don't overload the conversation with superfluous or irrelevant material (as in the previous exchange). This requires speakers to organize their utterances so that they are relevant to the ongoing context: Be relevant at the time of the utterance.

    • Maxim of Manner

      Be orderly and clear; avoid ambiguity and obscurity.

      (Video) A Speech-Act Theory Adventure

    • Maxim of Quality

      Be truthful and provide evidence for statements:

      • [A:] Looks like it might rain!
      • [B:] Oh, yes, it's going to be ten inches of rain, followed by snow, at least 20 inches, then hail; then a plague of locusts, and the sun will shine from midnight until 2 a.m. Then there will be silence in heaven for about a half an hour, and when the seventh seal is opened...
      • [A:] Where do you get your information?
  • Violations of the Cooperative Principles

    • Indirect Speech Acts and shared knowledge.
      • A: Did Pamela pay you back the money?
      • B: Is the Pope catholic?
      • A: She's honest as the day is long!
  • Politeness conventions

    • Positive Politeness

      Making utterances that are conventionally polite, flattering, being very cooperative, etc.

    • Negative Politeness

      Avoiding saying things that are inappropriate, avoiding excessive intrusion, interruption, or inquisitiveness; using appropriate body language; avoiding particulargazes. No words are used, but politeness is maintained.

      • [A:] I'm a vegetarian, and I don't believe in killing any animals for any purpose!
      • (B looks at her feet to see if she's wearing shoes made of leather.)
  • Speech Events

    There are various kinds of events at which speech typically takes place: political rally, debate, classroom lecture, religious service (sermon, prayer, welcoming, singing); government hearing; courtroom trial; all involve particular kinds of speech events that are appropriate to that setting. Could also be informal: telephone conversation, purchasing a ticket, a newspaper, ordering a meal.

  • The Organization of Conversation

    There is a covert structure of conversations, involving a number of different elements. Conversations are a series of speech acts: greetings, inquiries, congratulations, comments, invitations, requests, accusations...Mixing them up or failing to observe them makes for uncooperative speech acts, confusion, other problems. Violates the maxim of cooperation

    • Turn taking and pausing

      People usually don't all talk at once; they signal that they are done by using certain phrases, e.g. ya know? Or somethin'; I dunno; isn't it? Whatever...

      (Video) Speech Act Theory | Pragmatics | Discourse Analysis


    • Adjacency PairsTypically, certain kinds of turns have specific follow-ups: a question is typically followed by an answer; a invitation by an acceptance or an explanation of why it can't be accepted; an assessment is followed by agreement or disagreement; an apology is followed by acknowledgement of the apology:
      1. A: Sorry about last night!
      2. B: No problem; we were all pretty tired.

        but not:

      3. B: *Where'd you get those shoes?
    • Opening Sequences People ordinarily begin in conventional ways: greetings, general questions or comments about the weather, sports, etc.
    • Closing Sequences People conventionally prepare to end a conversations by summing up, using other locutions (Okay, all right then; well, that's about it; so umh; fine, then; ) followed by several repetitions of farewells: okay, goodbye then; okay bye; nice talkin' to you; see ya soon; thanks for calling/dropping by; good to see you! take care! alright(y).
    • Conversational RoutinesOpenings and closings are more conventionalized than are other parts of the conversation, but there may be some other conventional things:
    • Repairs When people don't say what they intended to, or need to edit a previous statement, or misspeak themselves, or say something backwards, they then need to fix the utterance, i.e. they make repairs
    • Politeness: an organizational force in conversationThe overriding force in conversations is politeness which means that there are conventionalized ways of doing all of the speech that we recognize as appropriate and polite; this differs from culture to culture and subculture to subculture. It may involve various kinds of illocutionary acts, titles and address forms, special honorific suffixes, the passive voice, circumlocutions, or any other kinds of locutions.
  • Cross-Cultural Communication

    Politeness and all of the other speech act formulae vary from culture to culture; what is polite in one may be considered brusque or rude, or on the other hand too evasive, too formal, too obsequious in another. In American telephone conversations, people immediately begin to chat and visit. In French telephone conversations, people first apologize:
    • J'espere que je vous derange pas?
    • I hope I'm not disturbing you?

    In Indonesian, the passive voice is more polite and deferential; the active voice is grammatical, but sounds brusque and blunt, and not as deferential as the passive:

    • (Sign in a furniture store, on a chair:)jangan diduduki! ( Not to be sat upon ) instead of
    • jangan duduk di sini ( Do not sit here! )
    The second form is grammatical, but notconsidered as polite, or sufficiently deferential.
    • Summary
  • FAQs

    How does speech act affect the conversation? ›

    Through speech acts, the speaker can convey physical action merely through words and phrases. The conveyed utterances are paramount to the actions performed.

    What is a speech act communication? ›

    What is a Speech Act? 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.

    What are the 7 functions of speech act? ›

    Speech acts serve their function once they are said or communicated. These are commonly taken to include acts such as apologizing, promising, ordering, answering, requesting, complaining, warning, inviting, refusing, and congratulating.

    What are the 3 types of speech acts? ›

    There are three types of force typically cited in Speech Act Theory: Locutionary force—referential value (meaning of code) Illocutionary force—performative function (implication of speaker) Perlocutionary force—perceived effect (inference by addressee)

    Why speech act is an important part of communication? ›

    In general, speech acts are acts of communication. To communicate is to express a certain attitude, and the type of speech act being performed corresponds to the type of attitude being expressed. For example, a statement expresses a belief, a request expresses a desire, and an apology expresses a regret.

    Why is it important to understand speech acts? ›

    Research has found that classroom instruction on speech acts can help learners to improve their performance of speech acts and thus their interactions with native speakers.

    What are the types of speech acts and what are their examples? ›

    Types of Speech Acts

    Directives: commands, requests, challenges, invitations, orders, summons, entreaties, dares. Declarations: blessings, firings, baptisms, arrests, marrying, juridial speech acts such as sentencings, declaring a mistrial, declaring s.o.out of order, etc.

    What is the main focus of speech act? ›

    Speech act theory is a subfield of pragmatics that studies how words are used not only to present information but also to carry out actions. The speech act theory was introduced by Oxford philosopher J.L. Austin in How to Do Things With Words and further developed by American philosopher J.R. Searle.

    What are the 5 functions of speech act? ›

    Speech acts have at least five functions, which are representative, directive, commissive, expressive, and declarative (Searle, 1979).

    What are the 5 Classification of speech act? ›

    As described in Yule's theory in his book Pragmatics: Speech Act Classification (1996), generally classification system lists five kinds of general functions performed by speech acts: declarations, representatives, expressives, directives, and commissives.

    What are the 7 components of the speech communication process? ›

    The seven elements in the communication process that apply to speech are: 1) speaker, 2) listener, 3) message, 4) channel, 5) interference, 6) feedback, and 7) situation.

    What are the 6 functions of speech act? ›

    Jakobson's model of the functions of language distinguishes six elements, or factors of communication, that are necessary for communication to occur: (1) context, (2) addresser (sender), (3) addressee (receiver), (4) contact, (5) common code and (6) message.

    What are the three characteristics of speech act? ›

    Speech act is a unity of the following components: 1) locutionary act - the utterance of the message; 2) illocutionary act - an action in the process of pronouncing and 3) perlocutionary act - the exercise of influence on the addressee. Making a speech act, the speaker simultaneously performs actions.

    What is the classification for speech acts? ›

    There are 5 classifications of speech act which are mentioned by Searle: representative, directive, commissive, expressive, and declarative.

    Why is it important to learn speech and oral communication? ›

    One of the benefits of developing oral communication skills is that students can develop competency in something that is very pervasive in their lives — to reflect on it, to practice it, to get feedback on it so that they can become better at accomplishing their goals.

    In what way is speech act significant to you as a student? ›

    Speech acts are an important marker of the communicative competence of our students because they represent key moments of linguistic and non-verbal expression when the speaker's intention must be communicated properly within a cultural context.

    How can we effectively respond to speech act? ›

    In responding in a speech act, a good response must be logical and precise to the topic that has been discussed or performed. We need the following act or words to response appropriately and effectively: - By nodding - Short verbal prompts - Eye contact - By asking questions - Good and positive body position.

    What is another example of speech act? ›

    When we talk, we do such things as greet, promise, warn, order, invite, congratulate, advise, thank, insult, and these are known as speech acts.

    What are the types of speech communication? ›

    The four basic types of speeches are: to inform, to instruct, to entertain, and to persuade. These are not mutually exclusive of one another. You may have several purposes in mind when giving your presentation.

    Which of the following are conversational acts? ›

    Conversational Acts
    • If you "utter" or "enunciate" or "say" or "spit out", then you perform a linguistic act.
    • If you "state" or "question" or "command" or "apologize", you perform a speech act.
    • If you "inform" or "frighten" or "persuade", then you perform a conversational act.

    What is the most important aspect of speech? ›

    Introduction. The introduction of the speech establishes the first, crucial contact between the speaker and the audience. For most classroom speeches, the introduction should last less than a minute.

    What is the most important element of speech? ›

    Clarity. The first important element of language is clarityThe use of language to make sure a speaker's ideas are understood by an audience, mirroring a speaker's intent., or the use of language to make sure the audience understands a speaker's ideas in the way the speaker intended.

    What is purpose of speech? ›

    There are three general purposes that all speeches fall into: to inform, to persuade, and to entertain.

    What are the two main types of speech acts? ›

    Two types of locutionary act are utterance acts, where something is said (or a sound is made) and which may not have any meaning, and propositional acts, where a particular reference is made. (note: acts are sometimes also called utterances - thus a perlocutionary act is the same a perlocutionary utterance).

    What are the 7 types of speeches? ›

    Basic Types of Speeches
    • Entertaining Speech. ...
    • Informative Speech. ...
    • Demonstrative Speech. ...
    • Persuasive Speech. ...
    • Motivational Speech. ...
    • Impromptu Speech. ...
    • Oratorical Speech. ...
    • Debate Speech.

    What are the 13 types of speeches? ›

    Types of speeches
    • Informative speech. Informative speeches aim to educate an audience on a particular topic or message. ...
    • Entertaining speech. Entertaining speeches aim to amuse a crowd of people. ...
    • Demonstrative speech. ...
    • Persuasive speech. ...
    • Oratorical speech. ...
    • Debate speech. ...
    • Special occasion speech. ...
    • Pitch speech.

    What are the 15 types of speech? ›

    So let's get into the details of the 15 types of figures of speech with examples so you know exactly when to use each of them.
    • Personification.
    • Metaphor.
    • Simile.
    • Alliteration.
    • Onomatopoeia.
    • Hyperbole.
    • Euphemism.
    • Irony.
    17 Aug 2022

    What are the 8 basic elements of communication? ›

    The communication process involves understanding, sharing, and meaning, and it consists of eight essential elements: source, message, channel, receiver, feedback, environment, context, and interference.

    What are the 10 components of communication? ›

    1) Sender; 2) Objective; 3) Message; 4) Dispatching; 5) Time-Place Factor; 6) Medium; 7) Reception; 8) Receiver; 9) Understanding; and 10) Response.

    What are the 12 parts of speeches? ›

    Commonly listed English parts of speech are noun, verb, adjective, adverb, pronoun, preposition, conjunction, interjection, numeral, article, and determiner.

    What are the 4 principles of an effective speech? ›

    Audiences are moved by the power of human communication. That means great use of voice, diction, breathing and body language.

    What is the 7 vocal components? ›

    Voice, or vocal sound, is made when controlled air being exhaled from the lungs, passes over the vocal cords causing a controlled vibration.
    • Articulation. ...
    • Pronunciation. ...
    • Accent, Dialect, and Regionalisms. ...
    • Vocal Quality. ...
    • Pitch and Inflection. ...
    • Rate of Speaking. ...
    • Pauses Versus Vocalized Pauses. ...
    • Vocal Projection.
    8 Jun 2020

    How will you differentiate the 3 aspects of speech acts? ›

    It considers three levels or components of utterances: locutionary acts (the making of a meaningful statement, saying something that a hearer understands), illocutionary acts (saying something with a purpose, such as to inform), and perlocutionary acts (saying something that causes someone to act).

    How does speech acts affect your daily living? ›

    We are attuned in everyday conversation not primarily to the sentences we utter to one another, but to the speech acts that those utterances are used to perform: requests, warnings, invitations, promises, apologies, predictions, and the like.

    How does a speech impediment affect communication? ›

    Children with severe speech impairments may not development normal communication skills (psychosocial disorder). Adults and children alike may feel shame, embarrassment, frustration, anger, and depression as a result of speech impairments. Speech impairments can be very isolating if you let them be.

    How does voice affect the audience? ›

    A strong voice conveys confidence. Speaking too softly, mumbling, or trailing off at the ends of sentences can suggest uncertainty or timidity and will undercut the strength of a presentation. If you're not sure a word or phrase is worth saying, don't say it. If it is worth saying, say it like you mean it.

    What are the factors affecting speech? ›

    The ability to speak is influenced by several factors, namely biological, cognitive, and emotional factors, age, sex, as well as environmental factors.

    Why is it important to respond appropriately and effectively to a speech act? ›

    Responding appropriately and effectively to a speech act will help us to have good communication and connection. This will play a vital part in our life. We must consider the things or factors that can affect the existence of poor communication.

    Why is figure of speech important in our daily interaction with the community? ›

    Figures of speech are a very important method of communication in our society. They specify between different shades of meaning and give more accurate descriptions. Some examples of common figures of speech include the simile, metaphor, pun, personification, hyperbole, understatement, paradox and oxymoron.

    What type of speech act is it when someone makes a promise? ›

    Promising is a commissive speech act whose illocutionary force is that the speaker promises to do a future action to the benefit of a hearer by expressing its proposition (e.g., a promise) to the hearer (Searle, 1969). By promising, the speaker commits to doing this future action.

    What are the 5 communication disorders? ›

    They are:
    • Mixed receptive-expressive language disorder. A child has developmental delays and problems understanding spoken language and speaking.
    • Expressive language disorder. A child has developmental delays and problems speaking.
    • Speech-sound disorders. ...
    • Childhood-onset fluency disorder. ...
    • Social communication disorder.

    What causes difficulty in talking? ›

    Dysarthria means difficulty speaking. It can be caused by brain damage or by brain changes occurring in some conditions affecting the nervous system, or related to ageing. It can affect people of all ages. If dysarthria occurs suddenly, call 999, it may be being caused by a stroke.

    What can cause communication issues? ›

    What Causes Communication Disorders?
    • abnormal brain development.
    • exposure to substance abuse or toxins before birth.
    • cleft lip or palate.
    • genetic factors.
    • traumatic brain injuries.
    • neurological disorders.
    • strokes.
    • tumors in the area used for communication.

    What qualities of voice affect communication? ›

    Vocal qualities include volume, pace, pitch, rate, rhythm, fluency, articulation, pronunciation, enunciation, tone, to name a few. These qualities make your presentation interesting, engaging, and pleasant to listen to. They keep the listeners attuned to your content.

    Why effective voice is important? ›

    Our voice is important to consider when delivering our speech for two main reasons. First, vocal delivery can help us engage and interest the audience. Second, vocal delivery helps ensure that our ideas are communicated clearly.

    Why is voice quality important? ›

    Several research studies have shown that as much as 87% of the opinions people have about us are based on vocal quality and 13% on the words spoken. From the moment we are born, and before we learn language as a communication tool, we are making connections. These connections are based largely on what we hear.

    What are the 7 elements of speech? ›

    The seven elements in the communication process that apply to speech are: 1) speaker, 2) listener, 3) message, 4) channel, 5) interference, 6) feedback, and 7) situation.

    What is the most important factor when speaking? ›

    In order to really communicate to people through speech, you need to have passion about your subject. Without passion, your speech is meaningless. You need to exude a level of sincerity in your emotion when communicating to your audience if you want them to be moved by your presentation.

    What is one of the main causes of speech anxiety? ›

    • Large Audiences.
    • Lack of Preparation.
    • Fear of Failure / Being Evaluated.
    • Higher Status Audience.
    • Hostile Audience.
    • Unfamiliar Surroundings.
    • Lack of Opportunity to Build Speaking Skills.


    1. Speech acts: Constative and performative - Colleen Glenney Boggs
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    3. Leveraging Speech Acts for Conversational AI | Cisco
    4. Gender & Speech Act Theory
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    5. Analyzing spoken conversation
    (Martin Hilpert)
    6. Speech Act in Conversational Analysis
    (Sajjad Ahmed)
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