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Literal and Nonliteral Locutionary Acts

A locutionary act can be either literal or nonliteral, depending upon whether the speaker actually means what is said or not. Nonliteral locutionary acts are those for which a literal interpretation is either impossible or absurd within the context of the utterance.




In communication speakers assume that certain information is already known by their listeners. Because it is treated as known, .as part of what is communicated but not said. The technical term presupposition and entailment are used to describe two different aspects of information.

A presuppositionis something the speaker assumes to be the case prior to making an utterance. Speakers, not sentences, have presuppositions.

In the analysis of how speakers’ assumptions are typically expressed, presupposition has been associated with the use of a large number of words, phrases, and structures. These linguistic forms are indicators of potential presuppositions, which can only become actual presuppositions in contexts with speakers. The possessive construction in English is associated with a presupposition of existence. The existential presupposition is not only assumed to be present in possessive constructions, but more generally in any definite noun phrase.

lexical presuppositions, the use of one form with its asserted meaning is conventionally interpreted with the presupposition that another (non-asserted) meaning is understood.

In addition to presuppositions which are asociated with the use of certain words and phrases, there also structural presuppositions. In this case, certain sentence structures have been analyzed as conventionally and regularly presupposing that part of the structure is already assumed to be true.

A non-factive presupposition is one that is assumed not to be true.

A counter-factual presupposition means that what is presupposed is not only true, but is the opposite of what is true.




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The genres that appear in the classical literature on rhetoric, from Aristotle to modern day rhetoricians, are those of narrative, descriptive, procedural, and suasive discourse. Language teachers have long followed these classifi­cations, providing model essays that demonstrate the structure of each genre. Shaughnessy (1977) writes about five basic goals or types of rhe­torical organization:

1.This is what happened (narrative, temporal organization).

2. This is the look/sound/smell of something (description).

3.This is like/unlike this (comparison/contrast).

4.This (may have, probably, certainly) caused this (causal and evaluative).

5.This is what ought to be done (problem solving including effects, causes, possible solutions, the assessment of solutions, the prediction of side effects, and the suggestion of one or some combination of elements as the best solution).

Linguists, too, have found rhetorical analysis of interest, although this inter­est has a much stronger focus on the link between rhetorical form and syntax.

This chapter discusses text genre and also briefly acquaints you with work on rhetorical structure from a process standpoint. In this first section on genre, we will look at narrative, descriptive, procedural, and argumentative text genres, which are (along with comparison and contrast) the types most frequently presented in language arts and foreign language textbooks. Each genre has a slightly different structure, which can be described; in addition, each genre gives writers and speakers considerable flexibility in structuring text. To express their intent, writers and speakers typically employ certain syntactic structures. The identification of such structure has led to interesting work on the connection between the description of discourse and syntax.



19B Classification of Illocutionary Acts

Speech Act Functions and Subfunctions

Linguists and philosophers ( J. Austin, J.R. Searle, R. Ohmann, Bach K.) have given much attention to differences among illocutionary speech acts and proposed various typologies to classify them. Austin was the first to delineate illocutionary acts distinguishing five general classes – verdicatives, exercitives, commissives, behabitives, expositives – the most prominent taxonomy belongs to J.R. Searle. His classification is the following :

1. Representatives are utterances used to describe some state of affairs. This class includes statements of facts, assertions, conclusions, descriptions, predictions, denials, admissions, notifications, etc .Eg.: It’s an interesting book.

2. Directives are utterances used to try to get the hearer to do smth. They express what the speaker wants. They include two subcategories:

a) attempts by the speaker to get the hearer to do smth. They are acts of commands, ordering, requesting, suggesting, insisting, recommending, warning, advising, etc. Eg.: Close the door.

b) questions are used to get the hearer to provide information.This class includes acts of asking, inquiring, etc.

3. Commissives are utterances used to commit the speaker (in varying degree) to some future course of action. They express what the speaker intends. They are acts of promising, vowing, volunteering, offering, guaranteeing, pledging, betting, refusing, threatening, etc. these acts can be performed by the speaker alone, or by the speaker as a member of a group.Eg.: I’ll never do that again.

4. Expressives are utterances used to express the emotional/ psychological state of the speaker toward a particular state of affairs. This class includes act of apologizing, thanking, congratulating, condoling, welcoming, deploring, objecting, statements of pleasure, pain, likes, dislikes, joy, sorrow, etc. these acts can be caused by smth the speaker does or the hearer does, but they are about the speaker’s experience Eg.: I’m so sorry.

6. Declarations are utterances used to change the status of some entity. They bring about the correspondence between the propositional content and reality. This class includes acts of appointing, naming, resigning, baptizing, surrendering, excommunicating, arresting, etc. E. g. I name this ship King Edward

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