2.1. The cooperative principle.7

2.2. The theory of politeness ...8



3.1. The inference theory...10

3.2. Indirect speech acts as idioms?...12

3.3. Other approaches to the problem13







6.1. Fiction18

6.2. Publicism20

6.3. Advertising.21

6.4. Anecdotes...21







A great deal can be said in the study of

language without studying speech acts,

but any such purely formal theory is

necessarily incomplete. It would be as if

baseball were studied only as a formal

system of rules and not as a game.

John Rogers Searle

In the late 1950s, the Oxford philosopher John Austin gave

some lectures on how speakers do things with words and so

invented a theory of speech acts [10, 40] which now occupies

the central place in pragmatics (pragmatics is the study of how

we use language to communicate in a particular context). Austin

highlighted the initial contrast between the constative and the

performative. While constatives describe a state of affairs,

performatives (explicit and implicit) have the potential to bring

about a change in some state of affairs. Classical examples of

performatives include the naming of a ship, the joining of two

persons in marriage, and the sentencing of a criminal by an

authorised person. Austin distinguished between the locution of a

speech act (the words uttered), its illocution (the intention of

the speaker in making the utterance) and its perlocution (its

effects, intended or otherwise). Whereas constatives typically

have truth conditions to comply with, speech acts must satisfy

certain felicity conditions in order to count as an action:

there must be a conventional procedure; the circumstances and

people must be appropriate; the procedure must be executed

correctly and completely; often, the persons must have the

requisite thoughts, feelings, etc.

John Austins theory of speech acts was generalized to

cover all utterances by a student of Austin's, John Rogers Searle

[43, 69]. Searle showed that we perform speech acts every time we

speak. For example, asking What's the time? we are performing

the speech act of making a request. Turning an erstwhile

constative into an explicit performative looks like this: It is

now ten oclock means I hereby pronounce that it is ten o

clock in the morning.

In such a situation, the original constative versus

performative distinction becomes untenable: all speech is

performative. The important distinction is not between the

performative and the constative, but between the different kinds

of speech acts being performed, that is between direct and

indirect speech acts. Searle's hypothesis was that in indirect

speech acts, the speaker communicates the non-literal as well as

the literal meaning to the hearer. This new pragmatic trend was

named intentionalism because it takes into account the initial

intention of the speaker and its interpretation by the hearer.

Actuality of research:

The problem of indirect speech acts has got a great

theoretical meaning for analysis of the form/function relation in

language: the same form performs more than one function. To

generate an indirect speech act, the speaker has to use

qualitatively different types of knowledge, both linguistic and

extralinguistic (interactive and encyclopaedic), as well as the

ability to reason [45, 97]. A number of theories try to explain

why we make indirect speech acts and how we understand their non-

literal meaning, but the research is still far from being


The practical value of research lies in the fact that it is

impossible to reach a high level of linguistic competence without

understanding the nature of indirect speech acts and knowing

typical indirect speech acts of a particular language.

The tasks of research:

analysis of the theories on indirect speech acts;

finding out why interlocutors generate indirect speech acts

instead of saying exactly what they mean;

comparing typical indirect speech acts in English and in


providing examples of indirect speech acts in various

communicational situations.

The object of research is a speech act as a communicational

action that speakers perform by saying things in a certain way in

a certain context.

The subject of research is an indirect speech act as the

main way in which the semantic content of a sentence can fail to

determine the full force and content of the illocutionary act

being performed in using the sentence.

Methods of research include critical analysis of scientific

works on the subject, analysis of speech of native English

speakers in various communicational situations, analysis of

speech behavior of literary personages created by modern British

and American writers.


Communication is successful not when

hearers recognize the linguistic meaning of the

utterance, but when they infer the speaker's

meaning from it.

Dan Sperber and Deidre Wilson

Most of what human beings say is aimed at success of

perlocutionary acts, but because perlocutionary effects are

behavioural, cognitive, or emotional responses they are not

linguistic objects. What linguists can properly look at, however,

are the intentions of speakers to bring about certain

perlocutionary effects which are called illocutionary intentions.

The basis of a speech act is the speakers intention to

influence the hearer in a desired way. The intention can be

manifested and latent. According to O.G. Pocheptsov [13,74],

latent intentions cannot be linguistically analyzed while

manifested intentions can be divided into evident and inferable.

The illocutinary intention of indirect speech acts is inferable.

Three broad illocutionary categories are normally

identified a statement, a question and a command/request -

having typical realisations in declarative, interrogative and

imperative verb forms. But sometimes the syntactic form of a

sentence is not a good guide to the act it is performing. In

indirect speech acts the agreement between the intended function

and the realised form breaks down, and the outward (locutionary)

form of an utterance does not correspond with the intended

illocutionary force of the speech act which it performs [37,

263]. In indirection a single utterance is the performance of one

illocutionary act by way of performing another. Indirect speech

acts have two illocutionary forces [45, 195].

Searles classical example of an indirect speech act is the

utterance Can you pass the salt? Without breaking any

linguistic norms we can regard it as a general question and give

a yes/no answer. But most often hearers interpret it as a

request. Likewise, the utterance There's a fly in your soup

may be a simple assertion but, in a context, a warning not to

drink the soup. The question What's the time? might, when one

is looking for an excuse to get rid of an unwelcome guest, be

intended as a suggestion that the guest should leave.

Analogously, the statement I wouldn't do this if I were you has

the congruent force of an imperative: Don't do it!

In his works Searle gives other interesting examples of

indirect speech acts: Why dont you be quiet? It would be a good

idea if you gave me the money now. How many times have I told you

(must I tell you) not to eat with your fingers? I would

appreciate it if you could make less noise. In some contexts

these utterances combine two illocutionary forces and sound

idiomatic, even though they are not idioms in the proper sense of

the term. Each utterance contains an imperative (secondary

illocution) realized by means of a question or a statement

(primary illocution).

Paul Grice illustrates indirectness by the following

utterances [4, 22]: There is a garage around the corner used to

tell someone where to get petrol, and Mr. X's command of English

is excellent, and his attendance has been regular, giving the

high points in a letter of recommendation. A simple example of an

indirect speech act gives B.Russel: When parents say Puddle!

to their child, what they mean is Dont step into it! [41,

195]. These are examples in which what is meant is not

determined by what is said.

We can make a request or give permission by way of making

a statement, e.g. by uttering I am getting thirsty. or It

doesn't matter to me. We can make a statement or give an order

by way of asking a question, such as Will the sun rise

tomorrow? or Can you clean up your room? When an illocutionary

act is performed indirectly, it is performed by way of performing

some other one directly.

It has been found that indirect expressives, directives and

representatives compose the most numerous group of indirect

speech acts [11, 23].

The study of indirect speech acts has mostly dealt with

requests in various guises. Jerrold M. Sadock identified some

exotic species: whimperatives - indirect requests in the form

of a question, e.g. Can't you (please) do something? and Do

something, will you?; queclaratives - the speaker directly

questions and indirectly makes an assertion: Does anyone do A

any more? meaning "Nobody does A any more"; requestions are

quiz questions to which the speaker knows the answer, e.g.

Columbus discovered America in ...? [42, 168].

Summarizing, we can say that indirection is the main way in

which the semantic content of a sentence can fail to determine

the full force and content of the illocutionary act being

performed in using the sentence.


Everything that is worded too directly nowadays


the risk of being socially condemned.

Ye. Klyuev

2.1. The cooperative principle

An insight into indirectness is based on the

Cooperative Principle developed by Paul Grice [4, 14-76]:

language users tacitly agree to cooperate by making their

contributions to the conversation to further it in the desired

direction. Grice endeavoured to establish a set of general

principles explaining how language users convey indirect meanings

(so-called conversational implicatures, i.e. implicit meanings

which have to be inferred from what is being said explicitly, on

the basis of logical deduction). Adherence to this principle

entails that speakers simultaneously observe 4 maxims:

1) Maxim of Quality:

- Do not say what you believe to be false.

- Do not say that for which you lack adequate evidence.

2) Maxim of Relevance:

- Be relevant.

3) Maxim of Quantity:

- Make your contribution as informative as required.

- Do not make your contribution more informative than

is required.

4) Maxim of Manner:

- Avoid obscurity of expression.

- Avoid ambiguity.

- Be brief.

- Be orderly.

This general description of the normal expectations we have

in conversations helps to explain a number of regular features in

the way people say things. For instance, the common expressions

"Well, to make a long story short" or "I won't bore you with the

details" indicate an awareness of the maxims of quantity and

manner. Because we assume that other speakers are following these

maxims, we often draw inferences based on this assumption.

At one level, cooperative behaviour between the

interactants means that the conversational maxims are being

followed; but at another and more important level, cooperative

behaviour still operates even if the conversational maxims are

apparently broken. For instance, when the speaker blatantly and

openly says something which appears to be irrelevant and

ambiguous (flouts the maxims of relevance and manner), it can be

assumed that s/he really intends to communicate something which

is relevant and unambiguous, but does so implicitly:

- I don't suppose you could manage tomorrow evening?

- How do you like to eat?

- Actually I rather enjoy cooking myself. [J.


The second remark, instead of being a direct answer (a

statement), is a question formally not connected with the first

remark. The maxims of relevance and manner are flouted. The

inferable implicature is: Yes, I can.Analogously, the

implication of the third remark is inferred: I invite you to

have dinner at my place.

If we were forced to draw only logical inferences, life

would be a lot more difficult. Conversations would take longer

since we would have to say things which reasonable language-users

currently infer.

Searle adds one more conversational maxim [45, 126]: Speak

idiomatically unless you have a reason not to. He exemplifies

this maxim like this: if we say archaically Knowest thou him who

calleth himself Richard Nixon? (not idiomatically), the

utterance will not be perceived as a usual question Do you know

Richard Nixon?

An important difference between implicatures and what is

said directly is that the speaker can always renounce the

implicatures s/he hinted at. For example, in Love and

friendship by A.Lourie the protagonist answers to a lady asking

him to keep her secret: A gentleman never talks of such things.

Later the lady finds out that he did let out her secret, and the

protagonist justifies himself saying: I never said I was a


Implicatures put a question of insincerity and hypocrisy

people resort to by means of a language (it is not by chance that

George Orwell introduced the word to double speak in his novel

1984). No doubt, implicatures are always present in human

communication. V.Bogdanov notes that numerous implicatures

raise the speakers and the hearers status in each others eyes:

the speaker sounds intelligent and knowledgeable about the

nuances of communication, and the hearer realizes that the

speaker relies on his shrewdness. Communication on the

implicature level is a prestigious type of verbal communication.

It is widely used by educated people: to understand

implicatures, the hearer must have a proper intellectual level.

( 1990:21).

The ancient rhetorician Demetrius declared the following:

People who understand what you do not literally say are not just

your audience. They are your witnesses, and well-wishing

witnesses at that. You gave them an occasion to show their wit,

and they think they are shrewd and quick-witted. But if you chew

over your every thought, your hearers will decide your opinion

of their intellect is rather low. ( 1973:273).

2.2. The theory of politeness

Another line of explanation of indirectness is provided by

a sociolinguistic theory of politeness developed in the late

1970s. Its founder Geoffrey Leech introduced the politeness

principle: people should minimize the expression of impolite

beliefs and maximize the expression of polite beliefs [36, 102].

According to the politeness theory, speakers avoid threats to the

face of the hearers by various forms of indirectness, and

thereby implicate their meanings rather than assert them

directly. The politeness theory is based on the notion that

participants are rational beings with two kinds of face wants

connected with their public self-image [26, 215]:

positive face - a desire to be appreciated and valued by

others; desire for approval;

negative face - concern for certain personal rights and

freedoms, such as autonomy to choose actions, claims on

territory, and so on; desire to be unimpeded.

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