Speech act theory, discourse structure and indirect speech
Speech Act Theory is concerned with the ways in which language can be used. It originated with Austin, but was developed by Searle. The theories of Austin and Searle are described and several problem areas are identified. If it is to be a viable theory of language usage, speech act theory must be able to integrate with a theory of discourse structure, because if speech acts are identifiable as units of language, then it must be possible include them in a model of discourse. The second chapter examines discourse structure, examining two rival theories: the discourse analysis approach and the conversational analysis approach. Discourse analysis is broadly sympathetic to speech act theory, whereas, conversational analysis is not. The claims of conversational analysis are examined and are found to be wanting in several respects. Speech Act Theory is then discussed with a particular emphasis on the problem of relating speech acts to each other within a larger unit of discourse. It is noted that Austin, by including the expositive class of speech acts, allows for the possibility of relations between speech acts, whereas Searle's description of speech acts effectively rules out any relations between speech acts. The third chapter develops speech acts in terms of a schematic model consisting of cognitive states, a presumed effect of the speech act and an action. The cognitive states are represented using modal and deontic operators on the proposition within epistemic logic. This idea of the description of a speech act in terms of cognitive states is developed in Chapter Four. In Chapter Four, speech acts are related using a communicated cognitive state to pair two speech acts together into a primary and secondary speech act. It is noted that the idea of a primary and secondary speech act is present within the discourse analysis model of discourse (in the form of the initiation-response cycle of exchanges) and also in the conversational analysis approach to discourse (in the form of the adjacency pair). The conclusion from this is that the two approaches are perhaps not so incompatible as might first appear. Chapter Five deals with grammatical sentence types and their possible use in communicating cognitive states. It also examines modal auxiliary verbs and their possible relationship to the modal and deontic operators used in the cognitive state model. In Chapter Six, theories of indirect speech acts are described. An explanation of indirect speech acts is developed using pragmatic maxims and cognitive states to explain why certain indirect forms are chosen. This leads to a theory of linguistic politeness and a use model of speech acts.