Speech Acts

'Language describes the world around us'. That's the common view. A sentence (for example, 'it's cold in here, isn't it?') describes a situation. But is there more going on than that? When we speak, are we only ever describing the world around us? Or are we also somehow 'acting within it'. 

Speech Acts Speech Acts

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Table of contents
    Frequently Asked Questions about Speech Acts

    What is a speech act?

    A speech act is an action that is performed in saying something. We perform speech acts all of the time! For example, when we offer an apology, extend an invitation, make a complaint, or give a compliment.

    What is speech act theory?

    Speech act theory is concerned with the way words can be used to not only give information but also to perform certain actions. The theory, created by J. L Austin and further developed by J. R Searle, is an important subfield of pragmatics. 

    What are the types of speech acts?

    Searle classified the purpose of different speech acts under the following 5 categories: Declarations, Assertives, Expressives, Directives, and Commissives

    What is a direct speech act?

    In the case of pragmatics, direct speech refers to a speech act that has a direct relationship between the type of sentence and the function.

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    According to Searle's 5 speech acts, how would you classify wedding vows?

    We carry out actions when we speak. What are these actions?

    How many categories of illocutionary acts are there?

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