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Acting and Conversing. Drs. Liliek Soepriatmadji, M.Pd. speech acts theory. Focuses on knowledge of underlying conditions for production and interpretation of acts through words Basic insight: Language is used to describe the world and to perform actions

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Acting and conversing

Acting and Conversing

Drs. Liliek Soepriatmadji, M.Pd.

Speech acts theory
speech acts theory

  • Focuses on knowledge of underlying conditions for production and interpretation of acts through words

  • Basic insight:

    • Language is used to describe the world and to perform actions

      • I promise to be there tomorrow (utterance & perform the act of promising)

      • The grass is green (utterance & perform the act of asserting)

      • Can you pass the salt? (utterance & perform the act of questioning: physical ability and requesting: dinner table talk)

Basic belief in speech acts theory
Basic belief in Speech Acts Theory

  • Basic belief: language is used to perform actions (Austin and Searle)

    • Meaning & action are related to language

      • Get away from my face!

        • Meaning: commanding (S commands H)

        • Action: H does something for S

    • An utterance may perform more than one speech act

      • Can you spell your name?

        • SA of questioning

        • SA of commanding

Defining speech acts theory
Defining Speech Acts Theory

  • (Austin) Speech Act Theory: How to do things with words

  • Evidence:

    • Statement may lack of the necessary property of a statement

      • Saying something

  • Thus:

    • Constatives: Declaratives whose truth and falsity can be judged (I had a busy day today)

    • Phatic: ethical proposition and can be true or false, but its purpose is to serve as a guide to behavior or to channel communication (Your dinner is ready. Nice day. )

    • Performatives: Declaratives that do an action (meeting contextual condition/ felicity conditions: Rights, Position and Textual conditions: First Person, Simple Present)

      • I do take this woman to be my lawful wedded wife

      • I name this ship the Queen Elizabeth

      • I give and bequeath my watch to my brother

      • I bet you sixpence it will rain tomorrow

      • I sentence you five years in jail.

Performative utterance
performative utterance

  • Verdictives: giving verdict, estimate, grade, appraisal

    • We find the accused guilty

  • Executives: exercising power, rights, influences (appointing, warning, advising)

    • I pronounce you husband and wife

  • Commissives: promising, undertaking, committing to do something or announcing an intention, espousing a cause.

    • I hereby bequeath

  • Behabitives: apologizing, congratulating, blessing, cursing, challenging

    • I apologize

  • Expositives: arguing, exposing

    • I argue, I reply, I assume

The issuing of an utterance
The issuing of an utterance

  • All utterances perform speech acts that are:

    • Locutionary

      • the act of producing a linguistically well-formed, and thus meaningful, expression

      • That’s a snake

      • Nothing but to state that that’s a snake

    • Illocutionary

      • the act of saying an utterance with communicative purpose in the speaker’s mind

      • That’s a snake

      • You left the door open

      • Stating that’s a snake with the unspoken force “You have to be careful”

    • Perlocutionary

      • the act of saying un utterance with an effect which refers to the hearer’s recognition of and response to the illocutionary act

      • That’s a snake

      • Could you please pass me the salt?

      • Stating that’s a snake with a certain expected effect of H

Searle s taxonomies of acts
Searle’s Taxonomies of acts

  • 5 classes of speech acts:

    • Representative (asserting, boasting). Speaker’s interest

    • Directive (requesting, ordering, challenging, daring, insisting, suggesting, stating, concluding, proposing, inviting). The psychological state is want. Speaker’s interest. Attempts by S to have H do A

    • Commissives (promising, vowing, believing, swearing, guessing, offering). The psychological state is intention. Commitments from S to do A for H

    • Expressives (thanking, congratulating). Hearer’s interest

    • Declaration (appointing). Speech acts in which declarative statements are successfully performed and no psychological state is expressed (e.g. an excommunication).

Sample analysis 1
Sample Analysis (1)

  • Henry (a) Y’want a piece of candy?

  • Irene (b) No

  • Zelda (c) She’s on a diet

  • Debby (d) Who’s not on [a diet

  • Irene (e) [I’m on.. I’m on a diet (f) and my mother: [buys.=

  • Zelda (g) [You’re not!

  • Irene (h) =my [mother buys these mints.=

  • Debby (i) [Oh yes I amhhhh!

  • Zelda (j) Oh yeh.

  • Irene (k) The Russell Stouffer mints. (l) I said, “I don’t want any Mom.” (m) “well, I don’t wanna eat the whole thing.” (n) She gives me a little tiny piece, (o) I eat it. (p) Then she gives me an[nother,=

  • Henry (q) [Was =

Sample analysis 2
Sample Analysis (2)

  • Irene (r) =so I threw it out the window=

  • Henry =there a lot of people?=

  • Irene (s) =I didn’t [tell her. =

  • Henry (t) [Was there=

  • Irene (u) =She’d kill me.

  • Henry =a lot of people at the house?

  • Zelda (v) All: the teach[ers.

  • Irene (w) [A lot of teachers will… probably will all be there till


  • Henry (x) Je:sus Christ.

  • Zelda (y) All: the teachers.

  • Henry (z) What a heartache.

Identifying utterances as sa question
Identifying Utterances as SA: Question

  • Y’want a piece of candy?

  • Question: speaker intent and desired outcome

  • Rules for Question:

    • Propositional content: (any proposition or propositional function)

    • Preparatory: (a) S does not know the answer (b) It is not obvious to both S and H that H will provide the information at that time without being asked

    • Sincerity: (S wants this information)

    • Essential: (Counts as an attempt to elicit this information from H)

Identifying utterances as sa request
Identifying Utterances as SA: Request

  • Y’want a piece of candy?

  • Request: directive, imperative, performative verb (request, order, warn, tell)

  • Rules for Request:

    • Propositional content: (future act A of H)

    • Preparatory: (a) H is able to do A or S believes H is able to do A (b) It is not obvious to both S and H that H will do A in the normal course of event of his own accord

    • Sincerity: (S wants H to do A)

    • Essential: (Counts as an attempt to get H to do A)

Identifying utterances as sa offer
Identifying Utterances as SA: Offer

  • Y’want a piece of candy?

  • Offer: commissive (S proposes a future A for H)

  • Rules for Offer:

    • Propositional content: (future act A of S)

    • Preparatory: S doesn’t know if H wants A

    • Sincerity: (S is committed to do A for H)

    • Essential: (Counts as a commitment of S to do A)


  • Act 1 : “S give H candy”

    • Offer : S intends act 1

    • Question: S does not know if H wants act 1

    • Request : S wants H to do act 2: tell S if H wants act 1

  • Y’want a piece of candy

  • Paraphrase: I intend to give you candy if you want it. (offer)

Identifying speech acts sequences
Identifying Speech Acts Sequences

  • Role in Exchange

    • Statement >< Acknowledge / Contradict

    • Question >< Answer / Disclaim

    • Request/Command >< Comply / Refuse

    • Offer >< Accept / Reject

Exercise 1
Exercise (1)

  • Presented below are different examples of interactions. Each utterance in the interactions can be interpreted as doing more than one speech act. Identify the speech acts that are being performed in the target utterances and how sequences of speech acts occur.

  • Prof A: (a) Would you like to call me back?

  • Prof B: (b) No that’s okay, I don’t have that much more to say.

  • Prof A: (c) No, I meant use university money instead of mine!

  • (d) I have some things I have to ask you.

Exercise 2
Exercise (2)

  • Customer: (a) Coffee to go?

  • Server: (b) Cream and sugar?

  • Customer: (c) Just cream

  • Server: (d) /provides coffee/

  • Customer: (e) /pays/