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An Introduction to Speech Act Theory by Mind Map: An Introduction to
Speech Act Theory
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An Introduction to Speech Act Theory

Formulated 1962 by philosopher John L. Austin. A speech act can be defined as "the action performed by a speaker with an utterance".



Function: Question


Function: Command / Request


Function: Statement

Direct vs. Indirect Speech Acts

If structure is used to perform function other than its designated one, the result is an indirect speech act.

Direct speech act often feature performative verbs

e.g. promise

e.g. claim

e.g. warn

Indirect speech acts require the hearer to infer the illocutionary act from context, on basis of operative principle, background knowledge etc.

Locution, Illocution, Perlocution


refers to the linguistic form of a speech act

Locutionary act = what we say


refers to the communicative intention

Illocutionary force = what we mean by it


refers to the effect produced on the hearer

Perlocutionary effect = the effect it has


Locution: "What a gorgeous dress!"

Illocution: "Mom, can I have it?" / "Can I borrow it?" / Compliment

Perlocution: Your mom buys the dress for you / Your friend hands it over to you / "Thank you for the compliment"

Classification by John R. Searle


To change an existing state of affairs by declaring something

e.g. to fire

e.g. to baptize

e.g. to arrest


To represent or assert a state of affairs as it is viewed by the speaker assert

e.g. to claim

e.g. to complain


To express feelings and speakers' inner states

e.g. to compliment

e.g. to thank

e.g. to congratulate


To direct hearers to do something

e.g. to ask

e.g. to order

e.g. to permit


The speaker commits himself to a certain action in the future

e.g. to promise

e.g. to vow

e.g. to swear


Some speech acts can't be assigned to one particular type, but are combinations of two different types

e.g. "One more step, and I'll call the police!"

Grice's cooperative principle

Paul Grice = American philosopher Stated that we all communicate under the assumption that our partner wants to cooperate and vice versa. We assume that everyone sticks to his maxims.

Maxim of Quantity

Say neither more nor less than required.

Maxim of Quality

Do not lie or state for which you lack adequate evidence.

Maxim of Relation

Be relevant.

Maxim of Manner

Be clear, brief and orderly.

If a speaker doesn't stick to the maxims, we say that he is "violating" the maxims.

If a speaker is cooperating and communication proceeds smoothly, we say the speaker is "observing" the maxims.