First, a distinction is drawn between Propositional Content and Illocutionary Force. The distinction is between the proposition that the utterance involves, such as that John sits down, and the kind of speech act that it involves, such as stating, questioning or ordering, which are signalled by the declarative, interrogative and imperative constructions "John sits down," "does John sit down?," "sit down, John!." But, because we are no longer dealing with logical meaning alone, but are considering the world-representations of speaker and hearer as well, the concept of illocutionary force alone is not enough. Consider what happens if S utters the sentence ``You are going to London on Tuesday?'' as a question, as one may in English, but H mistakes it for a statement, and indignantly disagrees. What was the speech-act -- a question, or a statement? Clearly in some sense it was both. From S's end it was intended to provoke the answer Yes or No from H -- it just didn't work. From H's end it feels like S intended to make H think something which he happens to know is false. For this reason, a distinction is drawn between illocutionary force -- the speech-act that S actually intends -- and illocutionary uptake -- the speech act that H thinks S intends. Even when illocutionary force and uptake are in line with each other, as when S utters the statement ``Your shoelace is undone'' with the IF or intention of making H believe that fAct, and H correctly takes up or recognises that speech act, H may still not believe S. That is, the speech act may not have the intended effect on H. We refer to this effect as the perlocutionary effect of the utterance -- the effect that actually results in H's mind.
Austin, (19XX), who invented the term Speech Act, distinguished a considerable variety of kinds of speech act. Since that time there have been several taxonomies, or proposals to express this considerable variety in terms of a smaller number of ``primitive'' speech acts or classes of speech act. (For example, Promising, Naming, and the like are all rather like statements or ``informatives'', whereas Ordering, Forbidding, Questioning and Requesting are more like orders, or ``directives''.) The details of these taxonomies (whether there are three primitive speech-acts, or nineteen, or one) matter less than the fact that all analyses of speech acts involve the recognition by H of an intention on the part of S.
Certain speech acts are explicitly marked using special words and constructions. These speech acts are ``conventional''. For example, it is a convention of the English language that the tag ``please'' marks requesting and that subject-auxilliary inversion (sometimes) marks questioning, just as it is a convention of the English language that the word ``frog'' identifies frogs, and of Dutch that the unrelated word ``kikker'' identifies the same. But (and this is the most interesting thing about speech acts) many, if not most, speech acts are not conventionally conveyed at all, but arise from what Grice calls ``conversational implicatures''. That is, to use Searle's (1975) term, they are ``indirect''.
Conversational implicatures are like a kind of invisible glue or scaffolding that sticks individual utterances together into coherent conversation -- cf Searle's 1975 analysis (p61-63) of the exchange:
For Grice, the Cooperative Principle subsumes four ``Maxims'' of conversation as corrolaries or consequences. He calls them Quantity, Quality, Relation and Manner. They amount to the maxims ``Give an appropriate amount of information'', ``Be truthful and do not mislead'', ``be relevant'', and ``be clear''. We might paraphrase them a little more formally as folows:
For example, if someone who has been done an injury says to their injuror ``You're a fine friend'' (Grice, p53), the utterance has its effect, according to Grice, precisely because the hearer knows that the speaker cannot mean what they say, and must therefore mean the opposite. (Why the opposite though?)
Metaphorical utterances like ``You are the cream in my coffee'' (Grice, p53) also have their effect by virtue of the fact that the hearer recognises that the speaker cannot literally mean what they say, and therefore looks for another meaning. (but how does H know H isnt faced with irony, as in the last example?). Other examples, such as meiosis (rhetorical understatement) and hyperbole (rhetorical overstatement) are in Grice.
Similarly, the utterance ``Lovely weather we are having'' as a response to a tactless remark might be thought of as achieving an act of admonishment by flouting Relation.
(9) #query(P) -> request(P) (10) #"Can you pass the salt?"
-> "Please pass the salt"
1. X has asked if I am able to pass the salt
2. I am able to pass the salt
3. X must know this already
4. X must have an ulterior motive.
5. being able to P is an ``enabling condition' for actually P-ing.
6. X has a plan involving my actually passing the salt.
7. My passing the salt is a method for causing X to have the salt.
8. X's goal is to have the salt
9. This is a request to pass the salt.
Exercise: Do a Searle analysis for ``I want you to pass the salt'' and ``Why not pass the salt''. How many ways of indirectly requesting the salt are there?
A ``puzzle'': Why arent any of the following ways of indirectly
requesting the salt?
1. # You want to pass the salt.
2. # Do I want you to pass the salt?
(Because they are dysfunctional as direct speech acts.)
A Generalization: You can only make an indirect Speech act by first making a suc- cessful ``direct'' speech act. Understanding proceeds via literal meaning or sense- semantics. It is not an independent parallel process.
First, it is always unclear whether certain components of the theory are mere descrip- tions of what happens, or principles of the language understanding process itself. One example is the maxims themselves. At times Grice (and Searle) talk as if, when faced with ``You're a fine friend'' we match it up against the maxims, note that it violates Quality, and use that as the clue to look for the hidden meaning accordingly. But that isnt necessarily the way it works. On the reasonable assumption that we match all other peoples statements against what we already know, and in view of the fact that we already know that we haven't behaved like a friend, the utterance could achieve its effect of making us think of our guilt without the maxim of Quality ever being referred to.
Similarly, one often feels that the speech acts themselves are merely descriptions of what the conversation does, rather than being things that the hearer has to identify. For example, by step 7 of the ``Let's go to the movies'' exchange, the crucial point, that B cant go to the movie has been got across. What further good does it do A to work out that this is the same effect that would have been achieved by the speech act of refusing? Similarly, in Searles ``Can you pass the salt'' example, by step 7, Y has worked out the crucial fact that X wants the salt. What further purpose is fulfilled by going on to work out that this is what would have resulted from a request? Ones doubts are brought to a head by the ``Problems'' for Speech act theory that are courageously revealed by Searle on p75-79, and in particuar by the fact that it is a problem for this analysis that, while you can do indirect requesting by questioning a p``preparatory condition'', such as willingness (do you want to pass the salt?), or by stating a ``sincerity condition'' (I want you to pass the salt ), but not vice versa (*Do I want you to pass the salt? *You want to pass the salt.) That such elementary predictions are ``problems'' suggests that simething is wrong. In particular, it suggests that ideas like ``speech act'', and ``request'' have got too far separate from their realisation and the knowledge of speaker and hearer that they are bound up with. Clearly , those latter are not effective indirect requests because they are not effective direct speech acts, and so can have no side effects at all, let alone those which accomplish the effects of requesting.
How does the hearer of Grice's example of metaphor know that it's metaphor, and not, for example, irony?
In real conversation, is there such a thing as a purely direct speech act?
What is the relation of Grice's Maxims to the Cooperative Principle. Why are there four? Would three do? How would you react to a proposal to add a fifth, such as the Maxim of Entertainment (``Be amusing'')?
(from Power 1979)
The Universe of Discourse consists of John and Mary on opposite sides of a closed door.
1. JOHN is OUT, MARY is IN, the DOOR is SHUT.
2. JOHN can see, MARY cannot.
3. JOHN BELIEVES that if you move, nothing changes. MARY BELIEVES that if you move, and the door is open, you change position.
4. JOHN has the goal of getting IN. MARY has no goals.
1. JOHN: Mary.
2. MARY: YES.
3. JOHN: I want to suggest a Goal.
4. MARY: GO AHEAD.
5. JOHN: Will you help me get in?
6. MARY: BY ALL MEANS.
7. JOHN: Shall we make a plan?
8. MARY: JOHN.
9. JOHN: Yes.
10. MARY: MAY I ASK YOU SOMETHING?
11. JOHN: Go ahead.
12. MARY: ARE YOU IN?
13. JOHN: No.
14. MARY: SHALL WE MAKE A PLAN?
15. JOHN: OK.
16. MARY: JOHN
17. JOHN: Yes.
18. MARY: MAY I ASK YOU SOMETHING?
19. JOHN: Go ahead.
20. MARY: CAN YOU MOVE?
21. JOHN: Yes
22. MARY: JOHN.
23. JOHN: Yes.
24. MARY: MAY I ASK YOU SOMETHING?
25. JOHN: Go ahead.
26. MARY: IS THE DOOR OPEN?
27. JOHN: No
28. MARY: I SUGGEST THAT WE GET THE DOOR OPEN AND THEN YOU MOVE.
Note the non-hierarchical nature of the dialogue. Johns initial plan gets interrupted by Mary and is never reactivated. It is the goal of the conversation that persists and keeps it on track.
1. JOHN: Mary
2. MARY: YES
3. JOHN: I want to explain something.
4. MARY: GO AHEAD.
5. JOHN: If you move, nothing happens.
6. MARY: I DISAGREE. IF YOU MOVE, WHEN THE DOOR IS OPEN, YOU CHANGE POSITION.
7. JOHN: I see.
8. MARY: I SUGGEST THAT WE GET THE DOOR OPEN AND THEN YOU MOVE.
After further planning in order to find a way of getting the door open, they construct a plan and John changes position to IN by moving. But its not that simple...
1. JOHN: Mary.
2. MARY: YES.
3. JOHN: I want to tell you something.
4. MARY: GO AHEAD.
5. JOHN: I have moved.
6. MARY: I SEE.
7. JOHN: Lets assess the result of my action.
8. MARY: OK.
9. JOHN: I have changed position.
10. MARY: JOHN
11. JOHN: Yes
12. MARY: I WANT TO TELL YOU SOMETHING.
13. JOHN: Go ahead.
14. MARY: YOU ARE OUT.
15. JOHN: I disagree. I have changed position.
16. MARY: YES
17. JOHN: I am now in.
18. MARY: RIGHT.
Power in 1979 Linguistics gives a complete commentary on this example. Further work: Houghton and Isard 1984. Cassell et al 1994.
H&S break the task up into three levels characterized by different
kinds of planning, kinds of goals and knowledge sources.
Example: The situation is as before, except that there are three differently coloured doors. This is because other issues of reference (``in'', ``the door'') are also being addressed.