Indirect speech acts

Synthese 128 (1-2):183 - 228 (2001)
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Abstract

In this paper, we address several puzzles concerning speech acts, particularly indirect speech acts. We show how a formal semantictheory of discourse interpretation can be used to define speech acts and to avoid murky issues concerning the metaphysics of action. We provide a formally precise definition of indirect speech acts, including the subclass of so-called conventionalized indirect speech acts. This analysis draws heavily on parallels between phenomena at the speech act level and the lexical level. First, we argue that, just as co-predication shows that some words can behave linguistically as if they're `simultaneously' of incompatible semantic types, certain speech acts behave this way too. Secondly, as Horn and Bayer (1984) and others have suggested, both the lexicon and speech acts are subject to a principle of blocking or "preemption by synonymy": Conventionalized indirect speech acts can block their `paraphrases' from being interpreted as indirect speech acts, even if this interpretation is calculable from Gricean-style principles. We provide a formal model of this blocking, and compare it with existing accounts of lexical blocking.

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Nicholas Asher
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique

Citations of this work

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References found in this work

How to do things with words.John Langshaw Austin - 1962 - Oxford [Eng.]: Clarendon Press. Edited by Marina Sbisá & J. O. Urmson.
Convention: A Philosophical Study.David Kellogg Lewis - 1969 - Cambridge, MA, USA: Wiley-Blackwell.
Logic and Conversation.H. P. Grice - 1975 - In Donald Davidson & Gilbert Harman (eds.), The Logic of Grammar. Encino, CA: pp. 64-75.

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