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Have you ever thought about why we all have different views? How do we differentiate between something we know to be true and something we know to be false?
You may be wondering what this has to do with the English language, but don’t worry! In this explanation, we will be exploring how we can express what is true through the language we use. Our particular focus will be on assertive speech acts and why they are used. We will also look at examples of the different types of assertive.
A speech act is an utterance that has a purpose in communication. Whenever we speak, we are also carrying out an action. These actions are called illocutionary acts, and are broken down into five categories: assertive, directive, commissive, expressive and declarative.
An assertive speech act (also known as assertiveness) is an utterance in which the speaker confidently expresses a point of view or statement of fact.
Some examples of assertives include:
Let’s take a look at these in more detail.
Asserting is the act of confidently and directly stating something. Asserting can either be positive or negative.
“I’ve spent a lot of time straightening my hair today.”
“This song is definitely one of my favourites.”
“I’ve always hated wearing high heels.”
Stating means to make a clear declaration of something that is either true or false. Making a statement does not always require proof, but it depends on what is being said and the knowledge that the speaker and listener already have about the topic.
So when do we know if a statement is true without the need for evidence? In philosophical terms, there are two types of statements: analytic and synthetic.
Analytic refers to statements that are true or false because of the definition of the words themselves. We do not need proof that these statements are true, as the truth is in the subject of the sentence itself.
“All squares have four sides.”
“Cats are animals.”
“Earth is a planet.”
Synthetic refers to statements in which the truth is not contained in the meaning of the words, but instead through experiences in the world. They often require proof that what is being said is true, as not everyone shares the same experiences or knowledge of the same events.
“It rains a lot in England.”
“My kitchen walls are grey.”
“There is a bird in the tree.”
By suggesting something, you are putting forward the idea that something may be true; you are inviting the listener to consider your suggestion. A suggestion does not explicitly state anything, it instead implies something, which leaves room for the listener to either agree or disagree with the speaker.
“That other hat may fit you better.”
“The ending of this chapter suggests that the book will not have a happy ending.”
“If I could make a suggestion, I think we should work together as we are a good team.”
Boasting is the act of showing off about something you have done or said. It is a way for the speaker to feel good about themselves and what they have done. Boasting may also be used as a way of comparing what you have done to the actions of others.
“I’m the best at baking cupcakes.”
“I won the art competition, I’m so proud of myself.”
“I beat Jess at a game of tennis.”
The act of complaining means to convey unhappiness or annoyance with something. This may be because of something someone has said/done, or because of an event that happened. There may be a need to provide proof, but it is not always necessary.
“I had an awful day.”
“Kevin was being really loud on the bus, it was so annoying.”
“The steak is not cooked enough.”
By claiming something, you are professing that it is true, although you likely do not have significant evidence and cannot prove that it is a complete fact.
“She claims to have been bitten by a spider.”
“I challenged the claim that all women are sensitive.”
“They always claim that they don’t have enough money.”
Reporting refers to documenting and announcing something you have done or seen.
“I saw a fox running across the road at 7 pm last night.”
“She reported that she found a cat in the tree.”
“I reported to the police that there was a robbery.”
The act of concluding means making a deduction about something being the case after you have looked at significant evidence or proof.
“The film had a satisfying ending.”
“My dad is taller than Sarah’s dad.”
“After reading a variety of genres of books, I have come to the conclusion that thrillers are my favourite.”
To believe something means to have the opinion that something is/is not the case without concrete evidence of the truth.
“You'll win the race, I just know it!”
“I think that there is life on other planets.”
“I believe there is a God.”
The act of explaining refers to a speaker describing something in detail with relevant facts to make it clearer to a listener.
Instead of simply saying “My dad doesn’t have a job”, you could elaborate by explaining “My dad doesn’t have a job because he was made redundant.”
Instead of “I’m upset”, saying “My date didn’t show up last night so now I’m upset.”
Instead of “She is in the hospital”, saying “She is in the hospital as she broke her leg.”
In conclusion, all of the above utterances are used to assert different things; from a fact or a suggestion, to a complaint or a belief.
Assertive language refers to language that confidently states something you believe to be true.
To write an assertive statement, you express what you think in a direct and confident way. Stand up for what you believe in or feel! Don't forget, a statement ends with a full stop.
An assertion is a confident statement of the truth or a belief.
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