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Re-Assessing the Speech Act Schema: Twenty-First Century Reflections

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Bach and Harnish’s (1979) Speech Act Schema (SAS) breaks down into a series of inferential steps the process involved in understanding an utterance as a particular kind of speech act. At the heart of the SAS lies the notion of illocutionary intention, a special kind of reflexive intention whose fulfilment consists in its recognition. This article re-assesses Bach and Harnish’s Speech Act Schema in two ways. First, I discuss three types of indirect speech acts—acts exchanged between intimates, alerts, and ritual indirectness—arguing that in all three cases, a perlocutionary effect of re-affirming or testing the degree of sharedness between speaker and addressee is also achieved, making all three types of acts overt collateral acts in Bach and Harnish’s terminology. Second, I consider cases when the speaker’s illocutionary intention exists in only a rudimentary form, such as children’s early directives and metaphorical utterances expressing feelings. In such cases, the hearer is called upon to play a more active role, by constructing (rather than recognizing) an understanding based on the linguistic material provided by the speaker. The need to account for this second set of acts challenges the centrality of the speaker’s illocutionary intention as the ultimate arbitrator of communicative outcomes and forces us to accord at least equal weight to the contribution of the hearer. The end result is a novel emphasis on the intersubjective aspects of linguistic communication, which were given less prominence in more traditional models, such as the SAS.

Affiliations: 1: University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, USA mt217@illinois.edu

10.1163/18773109-13050203
/content/journals/10.1163/18773109-13050203
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/content/journals/10.1163/18773109-13050203
2013-01-01
2016-12-08

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