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Spoken english: speech event.

Lecture notes

Course: Spoken English

Lecturer: Keith Richards

Topic: The Speech Event

These notes are extracts only and do not include the arguments developed in the lectures. Neither do they include handouts or workshop activities. They are an additional resource designed primarily for those who attended the relevant lectures.

Important note

The subject of these notes is the speech event rather than the ethnography of communication, which is the broader field of which it is a part. My choice has been determined partly by considerations of time and practicality but also by a consideration of the place that the speech event plays in the ethnography of communication. It is generally accepted as the central concept and in my view represents the best introduction to the field. Duranti sums up the situation succinctly:

For many researchers, the speech event still represents a level of analysis that has the advantage of preserving information about the social system as a whole while at the same time allowing the researcher to get into details of the personal acts

Duranti 1988:219

In view of this, I strongly advise you to follow up the lecture and workshop by reading either Saville-Troike’s excellent brief introduction to the broader field in the McKay collection (1996) or her earlier book (1989) dedicated to the subject. Alternatively, or in addition, you could read Keating (2001).

Review and introduction

In the first week we looked at aspects of communicative competence at the broadest level. This week we’ll move on to attempt to identify appropriate models for describing specific instances of language in use. Just by way of a general reminder and as an indication of the task ahead, here is one attempt to capture the range of relevant components:

Components of communication

1 Linguistic knowledge

(a) Verbal elements

(b) Nonverbal elements

(c) Patterns of possible variants (in all elements and their organization)

(e) Meanings of variants in particular situations

2 Interaction skills

(a) Perception of salient features in communicative situations

(b) Selection and interpretation of forms appropriate to specific situations, roles, and relationships (rules for the use of speech)

(c) Discourse organization and processes

(d) Norms of interaction and interpretation

(e) Strategies for achieving goals

3 Cultural knowledge

(a) Social structure

(b) Values and attitudes

(c) Cognitive maps/schemata

(d) Enculturation processes (transmission of knowledge and skills)

(Saville-Troike 1989: 24)

If we listen to the way people speak, it soon becomes apparent that there are certain activities where interaction seems to be organised in recognisable ways, with rules about what can and cannot be said. We know, for example, that there are accepted ways of issuing and accepting invitations, of making a toast, of making introductions, and so on. This is what lies behind the idea of a speech event, the subject of this week’s sessions.

Speech events in everyday talk

In fact, we use terms which refer to speech events all the time, and these carry a useful semantic load; for example, each of the following utterances refers to a specific speech events. Decide what the relevant interactional rules are:

‘I was late for her lecture .’

‘We had a wonderful chat .’

‘Did you hear the announcement? ’

Sometimes we take for granted that others know the relevant rules and therefore leave them unstated. If I say, W didn’t have much of a conversation — all he wanted to talk about was his model soldiers,’ I take it as understood that topics of conversation are normally negotiated by participants and that as a result they usually cover different subjects.

The interesting thing about speech events is that they bring together social and linguistic aspects, as Hymes noted:

A general theory of the interaction of language and social life must encompass the multiple relations between linguistic means and social meaning. The relations within a particular community or personal repertoire are an empirical problem, calling for a mode of description that is jointly ethnographic and linguistic.

Hymes 1986:39

Towards a definition

Various definitions of speech events have been offered, and the following discussion is based on those taken from core texts. We begin with three that, taken together, provide a reasonable overview:

The basic unit for the analysis of verbal interaction in speech communities is the speech event ... The speech event is to the analysis of verbal interaction what the sentence is to grammar. When compared with the sentence it represents an extension in size of the basic analytical unit from single utterances to stretches of utterances, as well as a shift in focus from emphasis on text to emphasis on interaction. Speech event analysis focuses on the exchange between speakers

Gumperz 1986: 16-17

At the level of ethnographic description, verbal behavior in all societies can be categorized in terms of speech events: units of verbal behavior bounded in time and space. Events vary in the degree to which they are isolable. They range from ritual situations where behavior is largely predetermined to casual everyday talk. Yet all verbal behavior is governed by social norms specifying participant roles, rights and duties vis-?-vis each other, permissible topics, appropriate ways of speaking and ways of introducing information. Such norms are context and network specific, so that the psycholinguistic notion of individuals relying on their own personal knowledge of the world to make sense of talk in context is an oversimplification which does not account for the very real interactive constraints that govern everyday verbal behavior.

Gumperz 1982: 164-5

A single event is defined by a unified set of components throughout, beginning with the same general purpose of communication, the same general topic, and involving the same participants, generally using the same language variety, maintaining the same tone or key and the same rules for interaction, in the same setting.

Saville-Troike 1989: 27

Gumperz’s comment on the way in which social norms govern verbal behaviour is particularly important, since this is the relationship upon which the concept is based. It is also the reason why the analysis of speech events has played such a central role in the ethnography of communication. Notice, too, his emphasis on the interactive nature of such events within what is a very wide range, from the entirely predictable (ritual) to the more or less open (casual talk). Valuable as these insights are, however, when we look for a definition of the speech event, Gumperz is able to offer nothing more specific than, ‘units of verbal behavior bounded in time and space.’ Taken with the proviso that such events may not be isolable, this leaves the issue of definition pretty much in the air. For a more positive formulation we need to turn to Saville-Troike, whose repetition of the term ‘same’ makes her definition nothing if not consistent. Even so, working from this definition alone, I’m not sure that it would be easy to provide examples of speech events.

Duranti’s comments are worth noting because of their reminder that speech is central to so many of the social activities we engage in, to the extent that some are actually constituted through talk:

The basic assumption of a speech-event analysis of language use is that an understanding of the form and content of everyday talk in its various manifestations implies an understanding of the social activities in which speaking takes place ... Such activities, however, are not simply ‘accompanied’ by verbal interaction they are also shaped by it: there are many ways, that is, in which speech has a role in the constitution of a social event. The most obvious cases are perhaps gossip sessions and telephone conversations, neither of which could take place if talk were not exchanged. But even the most physically oriented activities such as sport events or hunting expeditions rely heavily on verbal communication for the participants' successful coordination around some common task.

Duranti 1988: 218.

Although it does not mention this issue, one of the questions this raises is that of definition because while some of the activities we engage in are very easy to label and to describe, others are more problematic. The same might be said of speech events.

I’ve chosen the following because I found it amusing when I first read it and because it raises the interesting question of how precise our labels need to be. It could just be categorised as ‘small talk’, but in this case it’s clear that certain extra rules are in play that apply to talking to royalty, so I suppose we might characterise it as ‘making small talk with the reigning monarch’. Try to work out the rules yourself and compare your conclusions with mine.

01 Q: Have you been riding today, Mr Greville?

02 G: No, Madam, I have not.

03 Q: It was a fine day.

04 G: Yes, Ma’am, a very fine day.

05 Q: It was rather cold though.

06 G: ( Like Polonius ) It was rather cold, Madam.

07 Q: Your sister, Lady Francis Egerton, rides, I think, does she not?

08 G: She does ride sometimes, Madam.

09 ( A pause, when I took the lead, though adhering to the same

10 same topic .)

11 G: Has your Majesty been riding to-day?

12 Q: ( With animation ) Oh, yes, a very long ride.

13 G: Has your Majesty got a nice horse?

14 Q: Oh, a very nice horse.

Brett, S. (ed). 1987. The Faber Book of Diaries . London: Faber & Faber.

One way of checking the rules you’ve identified is to find an example where they’re broken and see what the interactional consequences of this are. The following is just such a case, and you might like to see which of the rules you’ve identified are being violated here.

The exchange in question took place in 1960s in England and involved a very popular comedian, Tommy Cooper. Traditionally, the monarch would attend a number of ‘important’ national events, including the Royal Variety Performance and, a few weeks later, the (football) Cup Final. At the end of the former, stars of the show would line up to meet the Queen, having first been informed of the relevant interactional rules (identical to those which applied in the above exchange). Upon being told by the Queen that she had found him very funny, Cooper asked her whether she had really found him funny and, receiving a positive reply, sought further confirmation, to the noticeable discomfort of her attendants and others in the party. At this point, the conversation developed along these lines:

Cooper: May I ask your majesty a personal question?

(Awkward silence)

Queen: (Frostily) So far as I may allow.

Cooper: Do you enjoy football, ma’am?

Queen: No, as a matter of fact I don’t.

Cooper: Well in that case can I have your Cup Final tickets?

(General laughter)

Goffman (1974) has described such behaviour in terms of ‘frames’, which answer the question ‘What is happening here’ and represent the way in which we structure our experience. In the example above Tommy Cooper is ‘breaking frame’. The awkward silence here and the frosty reception are significant both socially and as part of the setting up of the punchline, but the joke has already been prepared for in the earlier establishment of Cooper’s role as a ‘funny man’. We can see a contrast between his behaviour here and that of Greville, whose tortuous efforts to keep to the rules make the earlier example so amusing. It seems to me that the rules in the Queen Victoria example (which don’t seem to have changed) are pretty straightforward: let the Queen take the lead unless a pause in the conversation indicates that a switch is permissible, but make sure you keep to the same topic — and whatever happens, don’t disagree. Tommy Cooper not only takes the lead but selects his own topic (and marks this as a ‘personal’ one).

The SPEAKING model

This is the best known model for analysing speech events. Hymes, who developed it, referred to it as an etic grid and explained the need for such descriptive apparatus as follows:

Even the ethnographies that we have, though almost never focused on speaking, show us that communities differ significantly in ways of speaking, in patterns of repertoire and switching, in the roles and meanings of speech ... Since there is no systematic understanding of the ways in which communities differ in these respects, and of the deeper relationships such differences may disclose, we have it to create. We need taxonomies of speaking, and descriptions adequate to support and test them

Hymes (1986:42-43)

S ituation 3 Setting

P articipants 5 Speaker, or sender

6 Addressor

7 Hearer, or receiver, or audience

8 Addressee

E nds 9 Purposes — outcomes

10 Purposes — goals

A ct sequence 1 Message form

2 Message content

K ey 11 Key

I nstrumentalities 12 Channels

13 Forms of speech

N orms 14 Norms of interaction

15 Norms of interpretation

G enres 16 Genres

The order here is based on the acronym, but numbers refer to the order in which these components are introduced in Hymes (1986).

Speech event components

One of the things which has always impressed me about Hymes’ SPEAKING model is the subtlety of the distinctions within it: the beauty of the description lies in the divisions within each of the main components. The following comments highlight the main points I made in the lecture:

Hymes’ distinction between setting and scene is an important one. Setting refers to the physical context in which the interaction takes place and may influence the sort of talk that is allowable (e.g. religious building vs bar or caf?). Scene is also part of the situation but its locus is psychological rather than physical. Hymes points out that the same physical setting might be the location for different psychological scenes. Within the same setting participants may move from formal to informal, festive to serious etc.

Participants

The distinctions here are along the same lines as Goffman’s ‘production format’ involving the ‘animator’, who produces talk, the ‘author’, who creates talk, and the ‘principal’, who is responsible for talk. The first distinction is between speaker (or sender ) and addressor . The former is responsible for the message while the latter is the person who physically delivers it. Normally these are the same, but not always. For example, when in the United States the presidential spokesperson delivers an unpalatable message, nobody points the finger of blame towards the deliverer: it is the President who must bear the brunt of any backlash. The second distinction, which parallels the first, is that between the hearer (or receiver , or audience ) and the addressee . The receiver of ‘Now do this in pairs’ in a coursebook may be the students but the main addressee is the teacher.

The distinction which Hymes draws here between outcomes and goals is perhaps less easy to pin down in practice. Outcomes refers to what is conventionally expected or publicly stated as the object of the event from the point of view of the community, whereas the reference to goals recognises that the parties involved may have purposes which are related but not identical to this. Hymes is careful to point out that, for both outcomes and goals, we must be careful to distinguish what is conventionally recognised from what is purely personal or situational.

Act sequence

This refers to the sequence of acts which makes up a speech event. Hymes draws a distinction between message form and message content offering an example of this distinction in terms of ‘He prayed saying “....”’ (where the words appearing between double quotation marks represent the form) and ‘He prayed that he would get well’ which reports the content only. Presumably the difference between the two could be much greater. For example, the message form, ‘Have you seen the time?’ would, in the right context, have a message content which would be represented as, ‘He said it was time they were going.’ This seems to be essentially the same as the locutionary form and illocutionary force distinction originally made by Austin and a key distinction in Speech Act Theory.

The term is used in its conventional sense, to refer to ‘the tone manner, or spirit in which an act is done’ (Hymes 1986:62).

Instrumentalities

These are, again, conventional. Channel is used in the conventional sense, so it would be important, for example, to distinguish face-to-face communication from talk on the telephone. Forms of speech Hymes identifies as language and dialect, codes, and varieties and registers. It is interesting to note that Saville-Troike includes non-verbal elements under message form, which is surely legitimate. But to represent these (e.g. 1989:166; 169; 173) in general terms as ‘kinesics’ or ‘proxemics’ or ‘eye gaze’ is less acceptable, even when specific examples are provided in the analysis itself. Research in the area of non-verbal communication has demonstrated conclusively that it is an important feature of all face-to-face communication, and detailed studies (e.g. Goodwin 1981 on gaze direction) have revealed that its role is a subtle and complex one. The dilemma for speech event analysis is that this aspect cannot be ignored but there is simply not the space to do it full justice. Selection of ‘relevant’ non-verbal features is therefore inevitably, to some extent, arbitrary.

The two components under this head are particularly important, and many cross-cultural comparisons tend to focus on these areas. Norms of interaction refer to the conventional rules relating to the conduct of the speech event. These will include rules about floor holding, turn-taking, delivery, topic etc. Norms of interpretation are also of crucial importance in speech events and in cross-cultural interaction generally. These refer to the rules which determine the interpretation of particular acts. A failure to understand relevant norms of interpretation was responsible for some very expensive mistakes when the US first engaged in large scale business negotiations in Japan.

The final element is genre, which is not necessarily an element at all. This is not Hymes’ stated position, and he explicitly argues (1986:65) that genres can be invoked within specific events, as when the ‘sermon’ is invoked for humorous purposes within another event. However, it seems to me that this is a special case, and that unless a genre is exploited in this way, it is more likely to be a super-ordinate descriptive category. This is, in fact, how Hymes himself uses it, as the genre (‘Scoring’) within which certain events (shaman’s retribution, girl’s puberty rite, testing of children) are located (1986:67-68).

The model in Perspective

‘The spirit of the model is heuristic, that is, it is designed as an aid to noticing, formulating and organizing materials, and it is designed so as to become itself an object of data- and experience-based critique.’

Philipsen, G. & Coutu, M. 2005. The ethnography of speaking. In K. L. Fitch & R. E. Sanders (eds.), Handbook of Language and Social Interaction. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Pages 355-379. (Page 365)

Basic elements

A number of other writers have developed similar models, all very similar. There’s no need to explore these in depth, but it’s worth noting that the common elements seem to be the first three in Hymes’ list (situation, participants and ends), so you could say these are the core elements, though as far as I know nobody has actually claimed that.

To see how these elements might work when it comes to interpreting an utterance, try working out the purpose (ends) of the following utterance, given the situation and the setting:

Do you know where today’s paper is?

1. Participants: colleague → colleague

Setting: Senior Common Room.

2. Participants: master → servant

Setting: breakfast table

3. Participants: husband → wife

Setting: living room

You should have found the first two very straightforward, but the last one is more problematic, as we saw in the first week:

Husband: Do you know where today’s paper is?

Wife: I’ll get it for you.

Husband: That’s OK Just tell me where it is. I’ll get it.

Wife: No, I’LL get it.

(Gumperz 1982: 135)

This is not an issue we need to explore, but it does serve as a reminder of the points I covered in the first week about the many dimensions of spoken language, which means that it often resists a priori categorisation. As we’ll see next week, this is a position that conversation analysis takes up.

Situation and Event

So far I’ve concentrated on the defining characteristics of the speech event, but the event itself is part of a hierarchy of descriptive terms used by those in the field. Hymes himself offers a fairly extensive list of ‘social units’, but I’ll like to concentrate on the three main elements. Two of these, situation and event, seem to me to be fairly unproblematic, but the speech ‘act’ does throw up a number of problems. For the purpose of discussion we’ll use a slightly adapted example from Saville-Troike (1989:28-29):

SITUATIONS: Party

Religious service

EVENTS: Call to worship

Reading of scriptures

Announcements

Benediction

ACTS: Summons

Supplication

Closing formula

In this example, the element in italics is carried on to the next level, where it is broken down, so that the situation religious service is represented by the list of events, and from these prayer is chosen as the element to be broken down into acts.

The distinction between (speech/communicative) situation and (speech) event is a straightforward one. The term situation here is used in its conventional sense to stand for the general social context in which communication occurs. A situation is not defined by speaking, although speaking may normally be expected to occur within it. So, for example, speaking would be expected to occur at a party (although it is just about possible to imagine a party where the loudness of the music makes speaking ‘at’ the party impossible), but there will also be other activities, such as dancing, where speaking may not feature. A speech event, however, is defined in terms of speaking, at least in the sense of being governed by the norms relating to this:

The term speech event will be restricted to activities, or aspects of activities, that are directly governed by rules or norms for the use of speech.

Hymes 1986:56

So within the speech situation ‘religious service’, prayer may be a speech event. Obviously, there are forms of prayer which do not involve speech, but the focus here is on ‘spoken’ or ‘public’ prayer. For obvious reasons, Saville-Troike has chosen a clear cut example, and I’ve followed her, but this is not to say that speech events are always so easy to identify, and, as Gumperz notes (1982:164), they may not be easy to isolate. It may also be possible to find one event embedded within another (e.g. an announcement within a lecture) and they may be discontinuous (the lecture may be briefly interrupted as other business is transacted). They can also range from single utterances (‘Fire!’) to extended sequences (e.g. a lecture).

Gumperz’s observation (1982:164) that speech events can range from ritual situations to casual talk seems particularly relevant to TESOL, where coursebooks seem to be to be guilty all too often of ignoring this continuum. We often find them treating as ritual — and therefore subject to precise specification — what properly belongs to the more open end of the range.

Despite these minor reservations, the concept of the speech event is reasonably well-defined, and as an analytical unit it has proved its worth. However, the status of ‘speech act’ is much more problematic. In the end, I think we probably have to accept that the concept of an ‘act’ in EC is far from clear, but it does represent a unit of description below the level of the event. For this reason it seems safest, and perhaps most sensible, to think of acts as part of an ‘act sequence’, which is what Saville-Troike does in her book (e.g. 1989:163). In this way attention is drawn to the fact that they are essentially descriptive units. Having said this, I’d now like to point to what is problematic about the concept, starting with Hymes’ own acknowledgement of the difficulty of labelling acts:

The labelling of the acts is unavoidably somewhat arbitrary.

Hymes 1986:68

The most serious problem associated with the speech act is that its status is by no means clear. Saville-Troike (1996:371) says that it is ‘generally coterminous with a single interactional function, such as a referential statement, a request, or a command, and may be either verbal or nonverbal.’ The problem with this is that the idea of a single interactional function is pretty vague, and ‘generally’ coterminous allows plenty of space for alternatives. The situation isn’t helped by the fact that Hymes states that a joke can be a speech act within a conversation:

The term speech event will be restricted to activities, or aspects of activities, that are directly governed by rules or norms for the use of speech. An event may consist of a single speech act, but will often comprise several. Just as an occurrence of a noun may at the same time be the whole of a noun phrase and the whole of a sentence (e.g. ‘Fire!’), so a speech act may be the whole of a speech event, and of a speech situation (say, a rite consisting of a single prayer, itself a single invocation). More often, however, one will find a difference in magnitude: a party (speech situation), a conversation during the party (speech event), a joke within the conversation (speech act). It is of speech events and speech acts that one writes formal rules for their occurrence and characteristics. Notice that the same type of speech act may recur in different types of speech event, and the same type of speech event in different contexts of situation. Thus, a joke (speech act) may be embedded in a private conversation, a lecture, a formal introduction. A private conversation may occur in the context of a party, a memorial service, a pause in changing sides in a tennis match.

Hymes 1977: 52

I have to admit that I’m not at all comfortable with the idea that a joke is a speech act because jokes can be very extended affairs. There’s also the disturbing possibility that a speech event (e.g. an announcement) might find itself embedded, albeit artificially, within a speech act (it’s easy to imagine it featuring as part of a joke, for example). This is why I feel that the much looser term ‘act sequence’ is useful, since it recognises — perfectly reasonably, it seems to me — that events can sometimes be broken up into a sequence of acts (‘phases’ or ‘stages’ might serve just as well to capture this idea). The precise status of such elements then does not need to be spelt out.

There is another problem with the use of the term ‘speech act’ which arises from its better known use within a related but distinct field. Speech Act Theory developed from the work of the philosopher, Austin, who recognised that certain utterances are used to do more than convey information. He demonstrated that they also perform particular acts. Subsequently, a great deal of work in pragmatics centred on the analysis of such ‘speech acts’, which are always specific utterances. Such work is related indirectly to the concerns of the ethnography of communication, but its treatment of isolated examples, often invented, marks it as coming from a different tradition. Duranti summarises the essential differences between the two fields:

What usually distinguishes the ethnographic approach from pragmatic analysis is a stronger concern for the socio-cultural context of the use of language, with the specific relationship between language and local systems of knowledge and social order, and a lesser commitment to the relevance of logical notation to the strategic use of speech in social interaction.

Duranti 1988:213

Where two traditions use exactly the same term for a central concept, the potential for confusion is considerable, and its not helped when the key figures in each tradition (Austin and Hymes) choose examples which could easily be interchanged. This seems to provide a very good reason for referring to an ‘act sequence’ or following Saville-Troike in using the term ‘communicative act’.

Acts and events

While there is potential for confusion in the use of the term ‘speech act’, it’s also true to say that the connection between event and act is an intimate one. The best way of illustrating this is to ask you to match the following ‘acts’ to the events in which they might occur:

‘Five past ten — is that the time!’

‘It is five minutes past ten, Mr James.’

‘It is 10.05.’

Announcement

The first thing to notice in these examples is that the form of the utterance is different in each case. It would be very odd, for example, to find someone in a conversation giving the time as 10.05. Perhaps more importantly in view of the issue of acts and their function, it seems clear that a knowledge of the relevant speech event enables us to identify quite clearly the ‘message content’ of these utterances (what Speech Act Theory would call their ‘illocutionary force’). In the first case we know that lectures begin and end at specified times, that the speaker and audience are expected to remain in situ throughout, and that the lecturer is expected, within reasonable limits, to keep to the subject of the lecture. So when Mr James arrives five minutes late and the lecturer reminds him of the time, we know that this is not part of the lecture as such but is an aside which serves as an admonition. In the case of the announcement, which is designed to present information, a bare statement of the precise time achieves the necessary communicative end.

The relationships in the examples are therefore as follows:

Lecture: “It is five minutes past ten, Mr James.”

Chat: “Five past ten — is that the time!”

Announcement: “It is 10.05.”

The ‘chat’ example is perhaps a little more subtle than the others because conversation is the least predictable (in terms of content at least) of all events. However, we know that conversations have to open and close, and if we reflect we will realise that sometimes speakers signal that a conversation has to come to an end (using ‘pre-closers’). In this case the speaker expresses surprise — even alarm — about the time, and from what we know of conversations we can safely assume that it announces that something needs to be done which will either interrupt or end the conversation.

There is, then, a relationship between the interpretation of specific acts within a speech event and the event itself as a representation of shared understandings of the relevant social context; and whatever the shortcomings of the notion of ‘act’ as Hymes represents it, these shouldn’t blind us to the fact that his etic grid offers is a subtle and insightful representation of the components which make up a speech event.

In fact, I think it’s well worth making an effort to get to grips with this concept and with the use of etic grids, but I’m less convinced by some of the more general claims of the ethnography of communication. If you’d like to pursue this (and this very much depends on where your particular interests lie), you’ll need to read Saville-Troike’s 1996 paper in the light of my suggestions in the next section.

Issues in the ethnography of communication

If you’re interested in exploring this field further, Saville-Troike (1996) makes a very good starting point. You might like to read this, noting the following:

  • any apparent contradictions in the statements the author makes;
  • definitions or descriptions which seem to you to be vague or very general in scope;
  • proposals which seem to you to be optimistic;
  • any other problems.

You might also consider how much of what she says here is relevant to TESOL as opposed to TESL or first language teaching.

If you’re interested in my own thoughts on the subject, these can be accessed at:

http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/celte/staff/richards_k/se2lecturenotesrichards_k/issuesinec/

Duranti, A. 1988. Ethnography of speaking: towards a linguistics of praxis. In F. Newmeyer (ed), The Cambridge Linguistic Survey, Part IV, pp.210-28 . Cambridge: Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Gumperz, J. 1982. Discourse Strategies . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Gumperz, J. 1986. Introduction. In Gumperz & Hymes (eds), pp.1-25.

Gumperz, J. J. and Hymes, D. (eds). 1986. Directions in Sociolinguistics. Oxford: Blackwell.

Hymes, D. 1977. Foundations in Sociolinguistics. London: Tavistock.

Hymes, D. 1986. Models of the interaction of language and social life. In Gumperz. and Hymes (eds), pp.35-71.

Keating, E. 2001. The ethnography of communication. In P. Atkinson, A, Coffey, S. Delamont, J. Lofland and L. Lofland (eds), Handbook of Ethnography , pp.285-301. London: Sage.

Saville-Troike, M. 1989 The Ethnography of Communication (Second Edition). Oxford: Blackwell.

Saville-Troike, M. 1996. The ethnography of communication. In S.L. McKay (ed), Sociolinguistics and Language Teaching, pp.351-80. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

I suggest that you approach this in the following way:

1. Read Labov’s treatment of the subject, either in his book or in the extract reprinted in Joworski and Coupland.

2. Read my brief notes below to check that you have identified the essential elements.

3. Study my analysis of the ‘James Bond’ story.

4. Study the ‘Students as villains’ story and identify any interesting elements in it. Compare your findings with mine in my 1999 paper.

If you plan to write your assignment on this topic, you should explore the papers that appear in the Reading section below (Thornbury & Slade includes a useful chapter). You could also search the Journal of Pragmatics to see whether there have been any studies of narrative in your own language.

Some definitions

We define narrative as one method of recapitulating past experience by matching

a verbal sequence of clauses to the sequence of events which (it is inferred)

actually occurred. Labov 1999: 225

  • A minimal narrative is a sequence of two narrative clauses that are temporally ordered.
  • A narrative clause is confined by temporal juncture. This means that if the order is changed the inferred temporal sequence is changed.
  • A free clause is not confined by any temporal juncture.

Here is an example from Labov 1977/1999. Identify the narrative clauses then check your answer against Labov’s analysis:

a. I know a boy named Harry.

b. Another boy threw a bottle at him right in the head

c. and he had to get seven stitches.

Labov 1999: 227

Story Structure

Labov describes the elements in narratives, then sums these up in terms of the questions to which they respond:  

Abstract What was this about?

Orientation Who, when, what, where?

Complicating Action Then what happened?

Evaluation So what?

Result What finally happened?

Note that the coda is a signal that the narrative has finished and therefore does not respond to a question. Labov says that if you ask the question, ‘And then what happened?’ after a coda, the only possible response is, ‘Nothing; I just told you what happened.’

Types of Story

Narrative As above

Anecdote Notable event and reaction

(resolution not expected)

Exemplum Told to make a moral point

(typically incident and interpretation)

Recount Essentially expository

(record of events)

(Thornbury and Slade 2006: 152-158)

Here is the story on the handout (but note that the alignment on this webpage version is less accurate than on the original):

(3.0)


Annette: Because I just let something happen then that I shouldn’t have let happen.



Abstract


E:r (.) the:: (.) they’ve been doing a story about-reading about James Bond, and then >we were-< answering some questions on it, and one of the questions said em:: (0.5) er (.) >I can’t remember what the que- >the exactly< question was but it started with Bond, (.) Bond (.) did such and such and they were (.) to say whether it was true or false.=


Keith: =Right.


Orientation


Annette: e:m (.) Shafie got out his dictionary and was looking up (.) what I thought was an important word in the question that he didn’t understand, (.) and he was looking up ‘bond’. (.)


Keith: HA! ┌Hahahah


Complicating action 1


Annette: └ it came at the beginning of the sentence, (.) er (.) ┌he therefore ┐


Keith: └Right right ri┘ght.


Annette: didn’t realise that that capital letter meant that it ┌was ┐ a name, (.)


Keith: └Yes.┘


Embedded orientation 1


Annette: he’s (.) he s- he showed me in his dictionary


Complicating action 2


Annette: I- I thought I’d better go and check what he was ┌looking ┐ up.


Keith: └Oh right.┘


Embedded orientation 2


Annette: then he said ‘It’s this ‘bond’, it says ‘money’ and ‘stocks and shares’ or something. °And° lots of meanings.’


Keith: Hahaha::h=


Complicating action 3


Annette: I said ‘No no,


Keith: ( )=


Annette: = (.) James Bond,’ >I mean< I pointed to the name on the board and he said ‘O::h yes.’ Heheheh


Keith: Beautiful.


Result


Annette: I thought I should have picked up on that earlier.


Keith: It’s nice though. Real confusions.


Annette: Yes.


Keith: Yeah. Mmm. (.) Heh


(3.0)


Evaluation


All of the following are available from Warwick library:

Jefferson, G. 1978. Sequential aspects of storytelling in conversation. In J. Schenkein (ed.), Studies in the Organization of Conversational Interaction , pp.219-248. New York: Academic Press.

Johnstone, B. 2003. Discourse analysis and narrative. In D. Schiffrin, D. Tannen and H. E. Hamilton (eds), The Handbook of Discourse Analysis , pp.635-649. Oxford: Blackwell.

Labov, W. 1977. Language in the Inner City . Oxford: Blackwell. Reprinted in A. Jaworski and N. Coupland (eds), The Discourse Reader , London: Routledge, 1999. Pages 221-235.

Norrick, N. R. 2001. Discourse markers in oral narrative. Journal of Pragmatics, 33(6): 849- 878

Norrick, N. R. 2005. Interactional remembering in conversational narrative. Journal of Pragmatics, 37(11): 1819-1844.

Schiffrin, D. 1981. Tense variation in narrative. Language , 57 (1): 45-62.

Tannen, D. 1982. Oral and literate strategies in spoken and written narratives. Language , 58(1): 1-21.

Thornbury, S. and Slade, D. 2006. Conversation: From Description to Pedagogy . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Toolan, M. J. 2001. Narrative: A Critical Linguistic Introduction (2 nd Edition). London: Routledge.

Wolfson, N. 1979. The conversational historical present alternation. Language , 55(1): 168-182.

The following is available from the Applied Linguistics Resources Centre:

Richards, K. 1999. Working towards common understandings: Collaborative interaction in staffroom stories. Text , 19(1): 143-174.

National Speech & Debate Association

Competition Events

a speech event meaning

Competition Events Guide

Speech  involves a presentation by one or two students that is judged against a similar type of presentation by others in a round of competition. There are two general categories of speech events, public address events and interpretive events.  Public address events  feature a speech written by the student, either in advance or with limited prep, that can answer a question, share a belief, persuade an audience, or educate the listener on a variety of topics.  Interpretation events center upon a student selecting and performing published material and appeal to many who enjoy acting and theatre. 

Debate involves an individual or a team of students working to effectively convince a judge that their side of a resolution or topic is, as a general principle, more valid. Students in debate come to thoroughly understand both sides of an issue, having researched each extensively, and learn to think critically about every argument that could be made on each side.

To learn more about each event, click on the event name.

Interp events.

  • Dramatic Interpretation (DI)
  • Duo Interpretation (DUO)
  • Humorous Interpretation (HI)
  • Poetry (POE)
  • Program Oral Interpretation (POI)
  • Prose (PRO)
  • Storytelling (STO)

Public Address Events

  • Commentary (EXC)
  • Declamation (DEC)
  • Expository (EXP)
  • Impromptu (IMP)
  • Informative Speaking (INF)
  • International Extemporaneous Speaking (IX)
  • Mixed Extemporaneous Speaking (MX)
  • Original Oratory (OO)
  • Original Spoken Word Poetry (SW)
  • Pro Con Challenge (PCC)
  • United States Extemporaneous Speaking (USX)

Debate Events

  • Big Questions (BQ)
  • Congressional Debate (House & Senate) (CON)
  • Extemporaneous Debate (XDB)
  • Lincoln-Douglas Debate (LD)
  • Policy Debate (CX)
  • Public Forum Debate (PF)
  • World Schools Debate (WS)

Students are presented with prompts related to societal, political, historic or popular culture and, in 20 minutes, prepare a five-minute speech responding to the prompt. Students may consult articles and evidence they gather prior to the contest. At the National Tournament, students may use internet during preparation. Some other tournaments may not. The speech is delivered from memory and no notes are allowed.

About Declamation

About Dramatic Interpretation

About Duo Interpretation

About Expository

About Humorous Interpretation

About Impromptu

Impromptu is a public speaking event where students have seven minutes to select a topic, brainstorm their ideas, outline and deliver a speech. The speech is given without notes and uses an introduction, body, and conclusion. The speech can be light-hearted or serious. It can be based upon prompts that range from nursery rhymes, current events, celebrities, organizations, and more.

An adapted version of Impromptu, Prepared Prompt Speaking, has been used at online tournaments. In Prepared Prompt, students will be given a list of topics prior to the tournament, select one prompt from the official list, prepare a speech, and submit it through the recording process.

Impromptu is a public speaking event that tests a student’s ability to analyze a prompt, process their thoughts, organize the points of the speech, and deliver them in a clear, coherent manner. Students’ logic is extremely important. They must be able to take an abstract idea, such as a fortune from a fortune cookie, and put together a speech that has a thesis and supporting information.

About Informative Speaking

Informative is a speech written by the student with the intent to inform the audience on a topic of significance. Students in informative may use a visual aid. Informative gives students the unique opportunity to showcase their personality while educating the audience. An Informative is not simply an essay about the topic—it is a well researched and organized presentation with evidence, logic, and sometimes humor to convey a message. Topics are varied and interesting. Whether it be a new technological advance the audience is unaware of or a new take on a concept that everyone is familiar with, Informative is the students opportunity to teach the audience. Types of topics and structure vary greatly.

About International Extemp

International Extemporaneous Speaking, typically called International Extemp, is a speech on current International events with limited preparation time. A student’s understanding of important political, economic, and cultural issues is assessed along with critical thinking and analytical skills. Students report to a draw room (often referred to as Extemp prep) where all of the Extempers gather at tables, set out their files, and await their turn to draw topics. Students may access research brought with them to the tournament during the 30-minute preparation period. Some tournaments, including the NSDA National Tournament, will permit students to use the internet to research during preparation time. When prep time is up, the student reports to the competition room to deliver a 7 minute speech. Students have a lot to do in 30 minutes—they must select a question, review research, outline arguments with supporting materials, and practice at least part of the speech before time expires. Many tournaments prohibit the consultation of notes during the speech in which case speech structure and evidence need to be memorized during prep time as well.

Mixed Extemp

Mixed Extemp combines international and domestic issues (as opposed to two separate events like high school). Mixed Extemp is an event at the NSDA Middle School National Tournament. Students are presented with a choice of three questions related to national and international current events. The student has 30 minutes to prepare a seven-minute speech answering the selected question. Students may consult articles and evidence to help with their preparation. The internet may be used during preparation time at the NSDA Middle School National Tournament, though local events may not allow use of internet.

About Original Oratory

About Original Spoken Word Poetry

Students write and perform original poetry to express ideas, experience, or emotion through the creative arrangement of words according to their sound, their rhythm, their meaning.

The maximum time limit is 5 minutes with a 30-second grace period. The delivery must be memorized, and no book or script may be used. No more than 150 words of the original poetry may be direct quotation from any other speech or writing. A successful performer will craft a piece that elicits critical thought, reflection, or emotion. As opposed to traditional Poetry, Spoken Word Poetry is created to be performed aloud and may feature rhythmic flow, vivid imagery, word play, gestures, lyrical elements, and repetition. Use the Getting Started with Original Spoken Word Poetry guide as a helpful tool to explore ways to express thoughts and experiences through poetry.

About Poetry

Poetry is characterized by writing that conveys ideas, experiences, and emotions through language and expression. Often Poetry is very creative in terms of vocabulary and composition. While Poetry may tell a story or develop a character, more often Poetry’s focus on language and form are designed to elicit critical thought, reflection, or emotion. Students may choose what the National Speech & Debate Association refers to as traditional Poetry, which often has a formal meter or rhyme scheme, or nontraditional Poetry, which often has a rhythmic flow but lacks formal rhyme or meter. Poetry is different than Original Spoken Word Poetry in that students in Poetry will perform works written by others. In Poetry, students may chose to perform one long poem or create a program of poetry from one source or multiple sources.

Pro Con Challenge

Students select the National Tournament topic for CX, LD, or PF or a piece of legislation in the Congressional Debate Docket and write a 3-5 minute affirmative speech and a 3-5 minute negative speech on that topic. This event allows students to explore debate topics in a new and exciting way while showing off their writing, research, and delivery skills.

About Progam Oral Interpretation

About Prose

About Storytelling

Storytelling consists of sharing a story with an audience, performed as if the audience were a group of young children. Some tournaments have themes that the story selection must fit in; the National Tournament does not have a theme, and any story selection is acceptable. The story must not exceed five minutes. Students may use a full range of movement to express themselves and may incorporate a chair in a variety of different ways, though the chair may not be used as a prop during the performance. Students may be seated but most commonly performers use a full range of stage space available to them. As there are so many different types of stories that can be performed, it is important to observe rounds to see what other students and teams are using. The Association has final rounds of Storytelling from both the high school and middle school level to review. Local and regional tournaments may vary in the selection of stories performed.

About United States Extemp

About Big Questions Debate

Time limits.

Speech Time Limit Purpose
Affirmative Constructive 5 minutes Present case
Negative Constructive 5 minutes Present case
Question Segment 3 minutes Alternate asking and answering questions
Affirmative Rebuttal 4 minutes Refute the opposing side’s arguments
Negative Rebuttal 4 minutes Refute the opposing side’s arguments
Question Segment 3 minutes Alternate asking and answering questions
Affirmative Consolidation 3 minutes Begin crystallizing the main issues in the round
Negative Consolidation 3 minutes Begin crystallizing the main issues in the round
Affirmative Rationale 3 minutes Explain reasons that you win the round
Negative Rationale 3 minutes Explain reasons that you win the round

*Each team is entitled to three minutes of prep time during the round.

About Congressional Debate

About Extemporaneous Debate

Speech Time Limit Purpose
Proposition Constructive 2 minutes The debater in favor of the resolution presents his or her case/position in support of the topic.
Cross Examination of Proposition 1 minute The opposition debater asks the proposition questions.
Opposition Constructive 2 minutes The debater against the resolution or the proposition’s case presents his or her case/position.
Cross Examination of Opposition 1 minute The proposition debater asks the opposition questions.
Mandatory Prep Time 1 minute Both debaters have one minute to prepare their rebuttals.
Proposition Rebuttal 2 minutes The proposition debater refutes the main idea of the opposition and supports their main ideas.
Opposition Rebuttal 2 minutes The opposition debater refutes the main idea of the proposition and supports their main ideas.
Mandatory Prep Time 1 minute Both debaters have one minute to prepare their rebuttals.
Proposition Rebuttal 2 minutes In this final speech the proposition crystallizes the round for the judge and tries to establish sufficient reason for a vote in favor of the resolution.
Opposition Rebuttal 2 minutes In this final speech the opposition crystallizes the round for the judge and tries to establish sufficient reason for a vote against the proposition’s case and/or the resolution.

About Lincoln-Douglas Debate

Lincoln-Douglas Debate typically appeals to individuals who like to debate, but prefer a one-on-one format as opposed to a team or group setting. Additionally, individuals who enjoy LD like exploring questions of how society ought to be. Many people refer to LD Debate as a “values” debate, as questions of morality and justice are commonly examined. Students prepare cases and then engage in an exchange of cross-examinations and rebuttals in an attempt to convince a judge that they are the better debater in the round.

Speech Time Limit Purpose
Affirmative Constructive 6 minutes Present the affirmative case
Negative Cross-Examination 3 minutes Negative asks questions of the affirmative
Negative Constructive 7 minutes Present the negative case and refute the affirmative case
Affirmative Cross-Examination 3 minutes Affirmative asks questions of the negative
First Affirmative Rebuttal 4 minutes Refute the negative case and rebuild the affirmative case
Negative Rebuttal 6 minutes Refute the affirmative case, rebuild the negative case, and offer reasons that negative should win the round, commonly referred to as voting issues.
2nd Affirmative Rebuttal 3 minutes Address negative voting issues and offer reasons for why the affirmative should win.

About Policy Debate

Speech Abbreviation Time Limit
1st Affirmative Constructive 1AC 8 minutes
Negative Cross-Examination of Affirmative 3 minutes
1st Negative Constructive 1NC 8 minutes
Affirmative Cross-Examination of Negative 3 minutes
2nd Affirmative Constructive 2AC 8 minutes
Negative Cross-Examination of Affirmative 3 minutes
2nd Negative Constructive 2NC 8 minutes
Affirmative Cross-Examination of Negative 3 minutes
1st Negative Rebuttal 1NR 5 minutes
1st Affirmative Rebuttal 1AR 5 minutes
2nd Negative Rebuttal 2NR 5 minutes
2nd Affirmative Rebuttal 2AR 5 minutes
Prep Time (each team) 8 minutes

About Public Forum Debate

Speech Time Limit Purpose
Team A Speaker 1 – Constructive 4 minutes Present the team’s case
Team B Speaker 1 – Constructive 4 minutes Present the team’s case
Crossfire 3 minutes Speaker 1 from Team A & B alternate asking and answering questions
Team A Speaker 2 – Rebuttal 4 minutes Refute the opposing side’s arguments
Team B Speaker 2 – Rebuttal 4 minutes Refute the opposing side’s arguments
Crossfire 3 minutes Speaker 2 from Team A & B alternate asking and answering questions
Team A Speaker 1 – Summary 3 minutes Begin crystallizing the main issues in the round
Team B Speaker 1 – Summary 3 minutes Begin crystallizing the main issues in the round
Grand Crossfire 3 minutes All four debaters involved in a crossfire at once
Team A Speaker 2 – Final Focus 2 minutes Explain reasons that you win the round
Team B Speaker 2 – Final Focus 2 minutes Explain reasons that you win the round

About World Schools Debate

Speech Time Limit
Proposition Team Speaker 1 8 minutes
Opposition Team Speaker 1 8 minutes
Proposition Team Speaker 2 8 minutes
Opposition Team Speaker 2 8 minutes
Proposition Team Speaker 3 8 minutes
Opposition Team Speaker 3 8 minutes
Opposition Rebuttal 4 minutes
Proposition Rebuttal 4 minutes

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18.2 Special-Occasion Speeches

Learning objectives.

  • Identify the different types of ceremonial speaking.
  • Describe the different types of inspirational speaking.

A man giving a birthday speech for his friend

M+MD – Birthday Speech – CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Many entertaining speeches fall under the category of special-occasion speeches. All the speeches in this category are given to mark the significance of particular events. Common events include weddings, bar mitzvahs, awards ceremonies, funerals, and political events. In each of these different occasions, speakers are asked to deliver speeches relating to the event. For purposes of simplicity, we’ve broken special-occasion speeches into two groups: ceremonial speaking and inspirational speaking.

Ceremonial Speaking

Ceremonial speeches are speeches given during a ceremony or a ritual marked by observance of formality or etiquette. These ceremonies tend to be very special for people, so it shouldn’t be surprising that they are opportunities for speech making. Let’s examine each of the eight types of ceremonial speaking: introductions, presentations, acceptances, dedications, toasts, roasts, eulogies, and farewells.

Speeches of Introduction

The first type of speech is called the speech of introduction , which is a minispeech given by the host of a ceremony that introduces another speaker and his or her speech. Few things are worse than when the introducer or a speaker stands up and says, “This is Joe Smith, he’s going to talk about stress.” While we did learn the speaker’s name and the topic, the introduction falls flat. Audiences won’t be the least bit excited about listening to Joe’s speech.

Just like any other speech, a speech of introduction should be a complete speech and have a clear introduction, body, and conclusion—and you should do it all in under two minutes. This brings up another “few things are worse” scenario: an introductory speaker who rambles on for too long or who talks about himself or herself instead of focusing on the person being introduced.

For an introduction, think of a hook that will make your audience interested in the upcoming speaker. Did you read a news article related to the speaker’s topic? Have you been impressed by a presentation you’ve heard the speaker give in the past? You need to find something that can grab the audience’s attention and make them excited about hearing the main speaker.

The body of your introductory speech should be devoted to telling the audience about the speaker’s topic, why the speaker is qualified, and why the audience should listen (notice we now have our three body points). First, tell your audience in general terms about the overarching topic of the speech. Most of the time as an introducer, you’ll only have a speech title and maybe a paragraph of information to help guide this part of your speech. That’s all right. You don’t need to know all the ins and outs of the main speaker’s speech; you just need to know enough to whet the audience’s appetite. Next, you need to tell the audience why the speaker is a credible speaker on the topic. Has the speaker written books or articles on the subject? Has the speaker had special life events that make him or her qualified? Lastly, you need to briefly explain to the audience why they should care about the upcoming speech.

The final part of a good introduction is the conclusion, which is generally designed to welcome the speaker to the lectern. Many introducers will conclude by saying something like, “I am looking forward to hearing how Joe Smith’s advice and wisdom can help all of us today, so please join me in welcoming Mr. Joe Smith.” We’ve known some presenters who will even add a notation to their notes to “start clapping” and “shake speakers hand” or “give speaker a hug” depending on the circumstances of the speech.

Now that we’ve walked through the basic parts of an introductory speech, let’s see one outlined:

Specific Purpose: To entertain the audience while preparing them for Janice Wright’s speech on rituals.

Introduction: Mention some common rituals people in the United States engage in (Christmas, sporting events, legal proceedings).

Main Points:

  • Explain that the topic was selected because understanding how cultures use ritual is an important part of understanding what it means to be human.
  • Janice Wright is a cultural anthropologist who studies the impact that everyday rituals have on communities.
  • All of us engage in rituals, and we often don’t take the time to determine how these rituals were started and how they impact our daily routines.

Conclusion: I had the opportunity to listen to Dr. Wright at the regional conference in Springfield last month, and I am excited that I get to share her with all of you tonight. Please join me in welcoming Dr. Wright (start clapping, shake speaker’s hand, exit stage).

Speeches of Presentation

The second type of common ceremonial speech is the speech of presentation . A speech of presentation is a brief speech given to accompany a prize or honor. Speeches of presentation can be as simple as saying, “This year’s recipient of the Schuman Public Speaking prize is Wilhelmina Jeffers,” or could last up to five minutes as the speaker explains why the honoree was chosen for the award.

When preparing a speech of presentation, it’s always important to ask how long the speech should be. Once you know the time limit, then you can set out to create the speech itself. First, you should explain what the award or honor is and why the presentation is important. Second, you can explain what the recipient has accomplished in order for the award to be bestowed. Did the person win a race? Did the person write an important piece of literature? Did the person mediate conflict? Whatever the recipient has done, you need to clearly highlight his or her work. Lastly, if the race or competition was conducted in a public forum and numerous people didn’t win, you may want to recognize those people for their efforts as well. While you don’t want to steal the show away from winner (as Kanye West did to Taylor Swift during the 2009 MTV Music Video Awards, for example http://www.mtv.com/videos/misc/435995/taylor-swift-wins-best-female-video.jhtml#id=1620605 ), you may want to highlight the work of the other competitors or nominees.

Speeches of Acceptance

The complement to a speech of presentation is the speech of acceptance . The speech of acceptance is a speech given by the recipient of a prize or honor. For example, in the above video clip from the 2009 MTV Music Video Awards, Taylor Swift starts by expressing her appreciation, gets interrupted by Kanye West, and ends by saying, “I would like to thank the fans and MTV, thank you.” While obviously not a traditional acceptance speech because of the interruption, she did manage to get in the important parts.

There are three typical components of a speech of acceptance: thank the givers of the award or honor, thank those who helped you achieve your goal, and put the award or honor into perspective. First, you want to thank the people who have given you the award or honor and possibly those who voted for you. We see this done every year during the Oscars, “First, I’d like to thank the academy and all the academy voters.” Second, you want to give credit to those who helped you achieve the award or honor. No person accomplishes things in life on his or her own. We all have families and friends and colleagues who support us and help us achieve what we do in life, and a speech of acceptance is a great time to graciously recognize those individuals. Lastly, put the award in perspective. Tell the people listening to your speech why the award is meaningful to you.

Speeches of Dedication

The fourth ceremonial speech is the speech of dedication . A speech of dedication is delivered when a new store opens, a building is named after someone, a plaque is placed on a wall, a new library is completed, and so on. These speeches are designed to highlight the importance of the project and possibly those to whom the project has been dedicated. Maybe your great-uncle has died and left your college tons of money, so the college has decided to rename one of the dorms after your great-uncle. In this case, you may be asked to speak at the dedication.

When preparing the speech of dedication, start by explaining how you are involved in the dedication. If the person to whom the dedication is being made is a relative, tell the audience that the building is being named after your great-uncle who bestowed a gift to his alma mater. Second, you want to explain what is being dedicated. If the dedication is a new building or a preexisting building, you want to explain what is being dedicated and the importance of the structure. You should then explain who was involved in the project. If the project is a new structure, talk about the people who built the structure or designed it. If the project is a preexisting structure, talk about the people who put together and decided on the dedication. Lastly, explain why the structure is important for the community where it’s located. If the dedication is for a new store, talk about how the store will bring in new jobs and new shopping opportunities. If the dedication is for a new wing of a hospital, talk about how patients will be served and the advances in medicine the new wing will provide the community.

At one time or another, almost everyone is going to be asked to deliver a toast . A toast is a speech designed to congratulate, appreciate, or remember. First, toasts can be delivered for the purpose of congratulating someone for an honor, a new job, or getting married. You can also toast someone to show your appreciation for something they’ve done. Lastly, we toast people to remember them and what they have accomplished.

When preparing a toast, the first goal is always to keep your remarks brief. Toasts are generally given during the middle of some kind of festivities (e.g., wedding, retirement party, farewell party), and you don’t want your toast to take away from those festivities for too long. Second, the goal of a toast is to focus attention on the person or persons being toasted—not on the speaker. As such, while you are speaking you need to focus your attention to the people being toasted, both by physically looking at them and by keeping your message about them. You should also avoid any inside jokes between you and the people being toasted because toasts are public and should be accessible for everyone who hears them. To conclude a toast, simply say something like, “Please join me in recognizing Joan for her achievement” and lift your glass. When you lift your glass, this will signal to others to do the same and then you can all take a drink, which is the end of your speech.

The roast speech is a very interesting and peculiar speech because it is designed to both praise and good-naturedly insult a person being honored. Generally, roasts are given at the conclusion of a banquet in honor of someone’s life achievements. The television station Comedy Central has been conducting roasts of various celebrities for a few years.

In this clip, watch as Stephen Colbert, television host of The Colbert Report , roasts President George W. Bush.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BSE_saVX_2A

Let’s pick this short clip apart. You’ll notice that the humor doesn’t pull any punches. The goal of the roast is to both praise and insult in a good-natured manner. You’ll also see that the roaster, in this case Stephen Colbert, is standing behind a lectern while the roastee, President George W. Bush, is clearly on display for the audience to see, and periodically you’ll see the camera pan to President Bush to take in his reactions. Half the fun of a good roast is watching the roastee’s reactions during the roast, so it’s important to have the roastee clearly visible by the audience.

How does one prepare for a roast? First, you want to really think about the person who is being roasted. Do they have any strange habits or amusing stories in their past that you can discuss? When you think through these things you want to make sure that you cross anything off your list that is truly private information or will really hurt the person. The goal of a roast is to poke at them, not massacre them. Second, when selecting which aspects to poke fun at, you need to make sure that the items you choose are widely known by your audience. Roasts work when the majority of people in the audience can relate to the jokes being made. If you have an inside joke with the roastee, bringing it up during roast may be great fun for the two of you, but it will leave your audience unimpressed. Lastly, end on a positive note. While the jokes are definitely the fun part of a roast, you should leave the roastee knowing that you truly do care about and appreciate the person.

A eulogy is a speech given in honor of someone who has died. (Don’t confuse “eulogy” with “elegy,” a poem or song of mourning.) Unless you are a minister, priest, rabbi, imam, or other form of religious leader, you’ll probably not deliver too many eulogies in your lifetime. However, when the time comes to deliver a eulogy, it’s good to know what you’re doing and to adequately prepare your remarks. Watch the following clip of then-Senator Barack Obama delivering a eulogy at the funeral of civil rights activist Rosa Parks in November of 2005.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pRsH92sJCr4

In this eulogy, Senator Obama delivers the eulogy by recalling Rosa Parks importance and her legacy in American history.

When preparing a eulogy, first you need to know as much information about the deceased as possible. The more information you have about the person, the more personal you can make the eulogy. While you can rely on your own information if you were close to the deceased, it is always a good idea to ask friends and relatives of the deceased for their memories, as these may add important facets that may not have occurred to you. Of course, if you were not very close to the deceased, you will need to ask friends and family for information. Second, although eulogies are delivered on the serious and sad occasion of a funeral or memorial service for the deceased, it is very helpful to look for at least one point to be lighter or humorous. In some cultures, in fact, the friends and family attending the funeral will expect the eulogy to be highly entertaining and amusing. While eulogies are not roasts, one goal of the humor or lighter aspects of a eulogy is to relieve the tension that is created by the serious nature of the occasion. Lastly, remember to tell the deceased’s story. Tell the audience about who this person was and what the person stood for in life. The more personal you can make a eulogy, the more touching it will be for the deceased’s friends and families. The eulogy should remind the audience to celebrate the person’s life as well as mourn their death.

Speeches of Farewell

A speech of farewell allows someone to say good-bye to one part of his or her life as he or she is moving on to the next part of life. Maybe you’ve accepted a new job and are leaving your current job, or you’re graduating from college and entering the work force. Whatever the case may be, periods of transition are often marked by speeches of farewell. Watch the following clip of Derek Jeter’s 2008 speech saying farewell to Yankee Stadium, built in 1923, before the New York Yankees moved to the new stadium that opened in 2009.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJrlTpQm0to

In this speech, Derek Jeter is not only saying good-bye to Yankee Stadium but also thanking the fans for their continued support.

When preparing a speech of farewell, the goal should be to thank the people in your current position and let them know how much you appreciate them as you make the move to your next position in life. In Derek Jeter’s speech, he starts by talking about the history of the 1923 Yankee Stadium and then thanks the fans for their support. Second, you want to express to your audience how much the experience has meant to you. A farewell speech is a time to commemorate and think about the good times you’ve had. As such, you should avoid negativity during this speech. Lastly, you want to make sure that you end on a high note. Derek Jeter concludes his speech by saying, “On behalf of this entire organization, we just want to take this moment to salute you, the greatest fans in the world!” at which point Jeter and the other players take off their ball caps and hold them up toward the audience.

Inspirational Speaking

The goal of an inspirational speech is to elicit or arouse an emotional state within an audience. In Section 18.2.1 “Ceremonial Speaking” , we looked at ceremonial speeches. Although some inspirational speeches are sometimes tied to ceremonial occasions, there are also other speaking contexts that call for inspirational speeches. For our purposes, we are going to look at two types of inspirational speeches: goodwill and speeches of commencement.

Speeches to Ensure Goodwill

Goodwill is an intangible asset that is made up of the favor or reputation of an individual or organization. Speeches of goodwill are often given in an attempt to get audience members to view the person or organization more favorably. Although speeches of goodwill are clearly persuasive, they try not to be obvious about the persuasive intent and are often delivered as information-giving speeches that focus on an individual or organization’s positives attributes. There are three basic types of speeches of goodwill: public relations, justification, and apology.

Speeches for Public Relations

In a public relations speech, the speaker is speaking to enhance one’s own image or the image of his or her organization. You can almost think of these speeches as cheerleading speeches because the ultimate goal is to get people to like the speaker and what he or she represents. In the following brief speech, the CEO of British Petroleum is speaking to reporters about what his organization is doing during the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cCfa6AxmUHw

Notice that he keeps emphasizing what his company is doing to fix the problem. Every part of this speech is orchestrated to make BP look caring and attempts to get some amount of goodwill from the viewing public.

Speeches of Justification

The second common speech of goodwill is the speech of justification, which is given when someone attempts to defend why certain actions were taken or will be taken. In these speeches, speakers have already enacted (or decided to enact) some kind of behavior, and are now attempting to justify why the behavior is or was appropriate. In the following clip, President Bill Clinton discusses his decision to bomb key Iraqi targets after uncovering a plot to assassinate former President George H. W. Bush.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6mpWa7wNr5M

In this speech, President Clinton outlines his reasons for bombing Iraq to the American people and the globe. Again, the goal of this speech is to secure goodwill for President Clinton’s decisions both in the United States and on the world stage.

Speeches of Apology

The final speech of goodwill is the speech of apology. Frankly, these speeches have become more and more commonplace. Every time we turn around, a politician, professional athlete, musician, or actor/actress is doing something reprehensible and getting caught. In fact, the speech of apology has quickly become a fodder for humor as well. Let’s take a look at a real apology speech delivered by professional golfer Tiger Woods.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xs8nseNP4s0

When you need to make an apology speech, there are three elements that you need to include: be honest and take responsibility, say you’re sorry, and offer restitution. First, a speaker needs to be honest and admit to doing something wrong. The worst apology speeches are those in which the individual tries to sidestep the wrongdoing. Even if you didn’t do anything wrong, it is often best to take responsibility from a public perception perspective. Second, say that you are sorry. People need to know that you are remorseful for what you’ve done. One of the problems many experts saw with Tiger Woods’s speech is that he doesn’t look remorseful at all. While the words coming out of his mouth are appropriate, he looks like a robot forced to read from a manuscript written by his press agent. Lastly, you need to offer restitution. Restitution can come in the form of fixing something broken or a promise not to engage in such behavior in the future. People in society are very willing to forgive and forget when they are asked.

Speeches for Commencements

The second type of inspirational speech is the speech of commencement , which is designed to recognize and celebrate the achievements of a graduating class or other group of people. The most typical form of commencement speech happens when someone graduates from school. Nearly all of us have sat through commencement speeches at some point in our lives. And if you’re like us, you’ve heard good ones and bad ones. Numerous celebrities and politicians have been asked to deliver commencement speeches at colleges and universities. One famous and well-thought-out commencement speech was given by famed Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling at Harvard University in 2008.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nkREt4ZB-ck

J. K. Rowling’s speech has the perfect balance of humor and inspiration, which are two of the main ingredients of a great commencement speech.

If you’re ever asked to deliver a commencement speech, there are some key points to think through when deciding on your speech’s content.

  • If there is a specific theme for the graduation, make sure that your commencement speech addresses that theme. If there is no specific theme, come up with one for your speech. Some common commencement speech themes are commitment, competitiveness, competence, confidence, decision making, discipline, ethics, failure (and overcoming failure), faith, generosity, integrity, involvement, leadership, learning, persistence, personal improvement, professionalism, reality, responsibility, and self-respect.
  • Talk about your life and how graduates can learn from your experiences to avoid pitfalls or take advantages of life. How can your life inspire the graduates in their future endeavors?
  • Make the speech humorous. Commencement speeches should be entertaining and make an audience laugh.
  • Be brief! Nothing is more painful than a commencement speaker who drones on and on. Remember, the graduates are there to get their diplomas; their families are there to watch the graduates walk across the stage.
  • Remember, while you may be the speaker, you’ve been asked to impart wisdom and advice for the people graduating and moving on with their lives, so keep it focused on them.
  • Place the commencement speech into the broader context of the graduates’ lives. Show the graduates how the advice and wisdom you are offering can be utilized to make their own lives better.

Overall, it’s important to make sure that you have fun when delivering a commencement speech. Remember, it’s a huge honor and responsibility to be asked to deliver a commencement speech, so take the time to really think through and prepare your speech.

Key Takeaways

  • There are eight common forms of ceremonial speaking: introduction, presentation, acceptance, dedication, toast, roast, eulogy, and farewell. Speeches of introduction are designed to introduce a speaker. Speeches of presentation are given when an individual is presenting an award of some kind. Speeches of acceptance are delivered by the person receiving an award or honor. Speeches of dedication are given when a new building or other place is being opened for the first time. Toasts are given to acknowledge and honor someone on a special occasion (e.g., wedding, birthday, retirement). Roasts are speeches designed to both praise and good-naturedly insult a person being honored. Eulogies are given during funerals and memorial services. Lastly, speeches of farewell are delivered by an individual who is leaving a job, community, or organization, and wants to acknowledge how much the group has meant.
  • Inspirational speeches fall into two categories: goodwill (e.g., public relations, justification, and apology) and speeches of commencement. Speeches of goodwill attempt to get audience members to view the person or organization more favorably. On the other hand, speeches of commencement are delivered to recognize the achievements of a group of people.
  • Imagine you’ve been asked to speak before a local civic organization such as the Kiwanis or Rotary Club. Develop a sample speech of introduction that you would like someone to give to introduce you.
  • You’ve been asked to roast your favorite celebrity. Develop a two-minute roast.
  • Develop a speech of commencement for your public speaking class.

Stand up, Speak out Copyright © 2016 by University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Speech Acts in Linguistics

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  • An Introduction to Punctuation
  • Ph.D., Rhetoric and English, University of Georgia
  • M.A., Modern English and American Literature, University of Leicester
  • B.A., English, State University of New York

In linguistics , a speech act is an utterance defined in terms of a speaker's intention and the effect it has on a listener. Essentially, it is the action that the speaker hopes to provoke in his or her audience. Speech acts might be requests, warnings, promises, apologies, greetings, or any number of declarations. As you might imagine, speech acts are an important part of communication.

Speech-Act Theory

Speech-act theory is a subfield of pragmatics . This area of study is concerned with the ways in which words  can be used not only to present information but also to carry out actions. It is used in linguistics, philosophy, psychology, legal and literary theories, and even the development of artificial intelligence.

Speech-act theory was introduced in 1975 by Oxford philosopher J.L. Austin in "How to Do Things With Words"   and further developed by American philosopher J.R. Searle. It considers three levels or components of utterances: locutionary acts (the making of a meaningful statement, saying something that a hearer understands), illocutionary acts (saying something with a purpose, such as to inform), and perlocutionary acts (saying something that causes someone to act). Illocutionary speech acts can also be broken down into different families, grouped together by their intent of usage.

Locutionary, Illocutionary, and Perlocutionary Acts

To determine which way a speech act is to be interpreted, one must first determine the type of act being performed.  Locutionary acts  are, according to Susana Nuccetelli and Gary Seay's "Philosophy of Language: The Central Topics," "the mere act of producing some linguistic sounds or marks with a certain meaning and reference." So this is merely an umbrella term, as illocutionary and perlocutionary acts can occur simultaneously when locution of a statement happens.

Illocutionary acts , then, carry a directive for the audience. It might be a promise, an order, an apology, or an expression of thanks—or merely an answer to a question, to inform the other person in the conversation. These express a certain attitude and carry with their statements a certain illocutionary force, which can be broken into families. 

Perlocutionary acts , on the other hand, bring about a consequence to the audience. They have an effect on the hearer, in feelings, thoughts, or actions, for example, changing someone's mind. Unlike illocutionary acts, perlocutionary acts can project a sense of fear into the audience.

Take for instance the perlocutionary act of saying, "I will not be your friend." Here, the impending loss of friendship is an illocutionary act, while the effect of frightening the friend into compliance is a perlocutionary act.

Families of Speech Acts

As mentioned, illocutionary acts can be categorized into common families of speech acts. These define the supposed intent of the speaker. Austin again uses "How to Do Things With Words" to argue his case for the five most common classes: 

  • Verdictives, which present a finding
  • Exercitives, which exemplify power or influence
  • Commissives, which consist of promising or committing to doing something
  • Behabitives, which have to do with social behaviors and attitudes like apologizing and congratulating
  • Expositives, which explain how our language interacts with itself

David Crystal, too, argues for these categories in "Dictionary of Linguistics." He lists several proposed categories, including " directives (speakers try to get their listeners to do something, e.g. begging, commanding, requesting), commissives (speakers commit themselves to a future course of action, e.g. promising, guaranteeing), expressives (speakers express their feelings, e.g. apologizing, welcoming, sympathizing), declarations (the speaker's utterance brings about a new external situation, e.g. christening, marrying, resigning)."

It is important to note that these are not the only categories of speech acts, and they are not perfect nor exclusive. Kirsten Malmkjaer points out in "Speech-Act Theory," "There are many marginal cases, and many instances of overlap, and a very large body of research exists as a result of people's efforts to arrive at more precise classifications."

Still, these five commonly accepted categories do a good job of describing the breadth of human expression, at least when it comes to illocutionary acts in speech theory.

Austin, J.L. "How to Do Things With Words." 2nd ed. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1975.

Crystal, D. "Dictionary of Linguistics and Phonetics." 6th ed. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2008.

Malmkjaer, K. "Speech -Act Theory." In "The Linguistics Encyclopedia," 3rd ed. New York, NY: Routledge, 2010.

Nuccetelli, Susana (Editor). "Philosophy of Language: The Central Topics." Gary Seay (Series Editor), Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, December 24, 2007.

  • What Is The Speech Act Theory: Definition and Examples
  • Illocutionary Act
  • Locutionary Act Definition in Speech-Act Theory
  • Perlocutionary Act Speech
  • Illocutionary Force in Speech Theory
  • Performative Verbs
  • Appropriateness in Communication
  • What Is a Rhetorical Device? Definition, List, Examples
  • Information Content (Language)
  • Politeness Strategies in English Grammar
  • Pause (Speech and Writing)
  • What Is Relevance Theory in Terms of Communication?
  • Explicature (Speech Acts)
  • Modality (Grammar and Semantics)
  • Pragmatic Competence
  • Dubitatio as a Rhetorical Strategy

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14 Ceremonial Speaking

Learning objectives.

  • Understand the different types of ceremonial speeches.
  • Explain how to deliver a strong ceremonial speech in different contexts.

A man entertaining a crowd on the street

There are many occasions in which one may be called to speak that do not focus on informing or persuading an audience in the ways we’ve already discussed. Special occasions mark life events, celebrate milestones, and commemorate people and situations. The speeches delivered at these types of events provide perspective on the occasion, help the audience make sense of its significance, and can become a lasting part of the memories formed from the event. Whether you are standing up to give an award speech, a wedding toast, or a eulogy, knowing how to deliver speeches in a variety of different contexts is an important skill of public speaking. In this chapter, we will explore the functions of special occasion speeches, as well as several specific types of special occasion speeches, and four key items to remember when you are asked to deliver one these speeches at an event.

Functions of Special Occasion Speeches

Chris Hoy's Acceptance Speech

Chris Hill – Chris Hoy – Acceptance Speech – CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Entertain and Celebrate

While speeches intended to entertain an audience may be either informative or persuasive, the rhetorical situation often provides a clear indication of when a speech falls into the special occasion category. Consider roasts and toasts; both entertain and celebrate, albeit in different ways. An awards banquet and weddings are examples of special occasions that call for a speaker to present an upbeat, light speech designed to amuse the audience while celebrating a person, event, or situation.

Commemorate

When we think of a speech crafted to commemorate something or someone, perhaps a eulogy is the first type to come to mind. That is likely because a commemorative speech is one of tribute, and often remembrance, such as a eulogy or when a speaker recalls an anniversary or a milestone event. Speeches of commemoration can also include building or monument dedications that are designed to honor the memory of the person or situation that inspired the site.

Often the rhetorical situation calls for a speaker to present words of wisdom and guidance based upon their personal experiences or what they’ve learned through shared experiences of the audience they are addressing. Examples of this kind of inspirational speaking include one you’ve all likely already witnessed, the commencement speech. Another example is a keynote address at a conference or convention. An inaugural address is another type of speech designed to inspire audiences through the promise of the speaker’s vision for the future.

This textbook is dedicated to encouraging students to stand up and speak out and this type of special occasion speech encompasses the speeches in which individuals do just that. Speeches of advocacy focus on goals and values. They are often cause-oriented or crafted to impact policy-setting or change in some way. Speakers present advocacy speeches at special occasions such as fundraisers, campaign rallies, and even protests or marches.

Types of Special Occasion Speeches

If we consider the functions of special occasion speeches we’ve just reviewed, chances are we could come up with a myriad of different types of speeches that could be included in this section. For our purposes, we are going to focus on several special occasion speeches that you are likely to encounter in your academic, professional, and personal lives. By looking at common types of speeches, we hope to enable you with the tools to stand up and speak out in events and situations in which you may find yourselves given a platform to deliver a speech.

Speeches of Introduction

The first type of speech is called the speech of introduction. A speech of introduction is a short speech that introduces another speaker. There are two main goals of an introduction speech: to provide a bit of context, including who the speaker is and why that speaker will be giving a speech at the particular event, and to entice the audience to pay attention to what the speaker has to say.

Just like any other speech, a speech of introduction should have a clear introduction, body, and conclusion. The information should be delivered as concisely but informative as possible. For an introduction, think of a hook that will make your audience interested in the upcoming speaker. Did you read a news article related to the speaker’s topic? Have you been impressed by a presentation you’ve heard the speaker give in the past? You need to find something that can grab the audience’s attention and make them excited about hearing the main speaker.

The body of your speech of introduction should be devoted to telling the audience about the speaker’s topic, why the speaker is qualified, and why the audience should listen (notice we now have our three body points). First, tell your audience in general terms about the overarching topic of the speech. You may only have a speech title and maybe a paragraph of information to help guide this part of your speech. Remember, your role is to be concise and to the point. The speaker is the one who will elaborate on the topic. Next, you need to tell the audience why the speaker is a credible speaker on the topic. Has the speaker written books or articles on the subject? Has the speaker had special life events that make him or her qualified? Think about what you’ve learned about building ethos and do that for the speaker. Lastly, you need to briefly explain to the audience why they should care about the upcoming speech.

The final part of a good introduction speech is the conclusion. The conclusion is generally designed to welcome the speaker to the lectern. Many introduction speeches will conclude by saying something like, “I am looking forward to hearing how Joe Smith’s advice and wisdom can help all of us today, so please join me in welcoming Mr. Joe Smith.” We’ve known some presenters who will even add a notation to their notes to “start clapping,”  “shake the speaker’s hand,” or “give the speaker a hug” depending on the circumstances of the speech.

Speeches of Presentation

The second type of ceremonial speech is the speech of presentation. A speech of presentation is a brief speech given to accompany a prize or honor. A speech of presentation could be as simple as saying, “This year’s recipient of the Schuman Public Speaking prize is Wilhelmina Jeffers,” or could last up to five minutes as the speaker explains why the honoree was chosen for the award.

When preparing a speech of presentation, it’s always important to ask how long the speech should be. Once you know the time limit, then you can set out to create the speech itself. First, you should explain what the award or honor is and why the presentation is important. Second, you can explain what the recipient has accomplished in order for the award to be bestowed. Did the person win a political race? Did the person write an important piece of literature? Did the person mediate conflict? Whatever the recipient has done, you need to clearly highlight their work. Lastly, if the race or competition was conducted in a public forum and numerous people didn’t win, you may want to recognize those people for their efforts as well. While you don’t want to steal the show away from the winner (as Kanye West did to Taylor Swift during the 2009 MTV Music Video Awards ( https://vimeo.com/173170491 ), you may want to highlight the work of the other competitors or nominees.

Speeches of Acceptance

The complement to a speech of presentation is the speech of acceptance. The speech of acceptance is a speech given by the recipient of a prize or honor. For example, in the above video clip from the 2009 MTV Music Video Awards, Taylor Swift starts by expressing her appreciation, gets interrupted by Kanye West, and ends by saying, “I would like to thank the fans and MTV, thank you.” While not a traditional acceptance speech because of the interruption, she did manage to get in the important parts.

There are three typical components of a speech of acceptance: thank the givers of the award or honor, thank those who helped you achieve your goal, and put the award or honor into perspective.

First, you want to thank the people who have given you the award or honor and possibly those who voted for you. We see this done every year during the Oscars, “First, I’d like to thank the academy and all of the academy voters.” Second, you want to give credit to those who helped you achieve the award or honor. No person accomplishes things in life on their own. We all have families, friends, and/or colleagues who support us and help us achieve what we do in life. A speech of acceptance is a great time to graciously recognize those individuals. Lastly, put the award in perspective. Tell the people listening to your speech why the award is meaningful to you.

Speeches of Dedication

The fourth ceremonial speech is the speech of dedication. A speech of dedication is delivered when a new store opens, a building is named after someone, a plaque is placed on a wall, a new library is completed, and so on. These speeches are designed to highlight the importance of the project and those to whom the project has been dedicated.

When preparing the speech of dedication, start by explaining your connection to the project and why you’ve been asked to speak. Next, you want to explain what is being dedicated and who was involved with the project, who made it possible. If the project is a new structure, talk about the people who built the structure or designed it. If the project is a preexisting structure, talk about the people who put together and decided on the dedication. You also want to explain why the structure is important and the impact it may have on the local community. For instance, if the dedication is for a new store, you could talk about how the store will bring in new jobs and shopping opportunities. If the dedication is for a new wing of a hospital, you could talk about how patients will be served and the advances in medicine the new wing will provide the community.

It is likely that if you haven’t yourself given a toast at this point in your life, you’ve witnessed one at a social event. A toast is a speech designed to congratulate, appreciate, or remember. Toasts can be delivered for the purpose of congratulating someone for an honor, a new job, or getting married. You can also toast someone to show your appreciation for something they’ve done. We also toast people to remember them and what they have accomplished. Think about a time when you may have heard someone exclaim “let’s raise our glass!” in honor of someone who may or may not be present at that moment.

When preparing a toast, the first goal is always to keep your remarks brief. Toasts are generally given in the course of some festivity (e.g., wedding, retirement party, farewell party), and you don’t want your toast to take away from the festivity for too long. Second, the goal of a toast is to focus attention on the person or persons being celebrated—not on the speaker. As such, while you are speaking you need to focus your attention on the people you are toasting, both by physically looking at them and by keeping your message about them. You should also avoid any inside jokes between you and the people being toasted because toasts are public and should be accessible for everyone who hears them. To conclude a toast, simply say something like, “Please join me in recognizing Joan for her achievement.” While that will verbally signal the conclusion of the toast, some occasions may also call for you to physically raise your glass in the direction of the honoree. This action will invite the audience to join in the toast.

A roast is an interesting and peculiar speech because it is designed to both praise and good-naturedly poke fun at a person being honored. Generally, roasts are given at the conclusion of a banquet in honor of someone’s life achievements. The television station Comedy Central has created a series of celebrity roasts which showcases public figures jokingly insulting other well-known figures in front of a live audience.

In this clip ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BSE_saVX_2A#action=share ), watch as Stephen Colbert, television host of The Colbert Report, roasts President George W. Bush.

How does one prepare for a roast? You want to think about the person who is being roasted. Do they have any strange habits or amusing stories in their past that you can discuss? When you think through these things, you want to make sure that you cross anything off your list that is truly private information or will really hurt the person. The goal of a roast is to poke fun at them, not embarrass them or tarnish their reputation. When selecting which aspects to highlight in your roast, you want to make sure that the items you choose are widely known by your audience. Roasts work when the majority of people in the audience can relate to the jokes as these are intended to create a fun atmosphere for all. It is up to the speaker to ensure neither the individual being roasted or the audience, is left feeling uncomfortable. Always remember the point of a roast is to honor someone. While the jokes are definitely the fun part of a roast, you should leave the roastee knowing that you truly do care about and appreciate them.

A eulogy is a speech given in honor of someone who has died. If you are asked to deliver a eulogy, it’s important to understand the expectations of this type of speech and ensure you are prepared. You need to be prepared both for the sake of the audience as well as your own. Watch the following clip ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pRsH92sJCr4&feature=youtu.be ) of then-Senator Barack Obama delivering a eulogy at the funeral of civil rights activist Rosa Parks in November of 2005.

In this eulogy, Senator Obama delivers the eulogy by recalling Rosa Park’s importance and her legacy in American history. When preparing a eulogy, first you need to know as much information about the deceased as possible. The more information you have about the person, the more personal you can make the eulogy. While you can rely on your own knowledge if you were close to the deceased, it is always a good idea to ask friends and relatives of the deceased for their memories. Other people’s input may add important facets that may not have occurred to you. Of course, if you were not very close to the deceased, you will need to ask friends and family for information.

Second, although eulogies are delivered on the serious and sad occasion of a funeral or memorial service for the deceased, it is very helpful to look for at least one point to be lighter or humorous. In some cultures, in fact, the friends and family attending the funeral will expect the eulogy to be highly entertaining and amusing. While eulogies are not roasts, one goal of the humor or lighter aspects of a eulogy is to relieve the tension that is created by the serious nature of the occasion.

Lastly, remember to tell the deceased’s story. Tell the audience about who this person was and what the person stood for in life. The more personal you can make a eulogy, the more touching it will be for the deceased’s friends and families. The eulogy should remind the audience to celebrate the person’s life as well as mourn their death.

Speeches of Farewell

A speech of farewell allows someone to say goodbye to one part of their life as they move on to the next part of life. Maybe you’ve accepted a new job and are leaving your current job, or you’re graduating from college and entering the workforce. Whatever the case may be, periods of transition are often marked by speeches of farewell. Watch the following clip ( https://youtu.be/HJrlTpQm0to ) of Derek Jeter’s 2008 speech saying farewell to Yankee Stadium, built in 1923, before the New York Yankees moved to the new stadium that opened in 2009.

In this speech, Derek Jeter is not only saying goodbye to Yankee Stadium but also thanking the fans for their continued support. When preparing a speech of farewell, the goal should be to thank people and let them know how much you appreciate them as you make the move to your next role in life. In Derek Jeter’s speech, he starts by talking about the history of the 1923 Yankee Stadium and then thanks the fans for their support. You will also want to express to your audience how much the experience has meant to you.

A farewell speech is a time to commemorate and think about the good times you’ve had, not recount any less pleasant aspects. It’s a good idea to end on a high note. Derek Jeter concludes his speech by saying, “On behalf of this entire organization, we just want to take this moment to salute you, the greatest fans in the world!” At this point, Jeter and the other players take off their ball caps and hold them up toward the audience.

Inspirational Speaking

The goal of an inspirational speech  is to elicit or arouse an emotional state within an audience. Although other speeches we’ve already explored can incorporate inspirational messages, we will now look at two specific types of inspirational speeches: goodwill and speeches of commencement.

Speeches to Ensure Goodwill

Goodwill is an intangible asset that is made up of the favor or reputation of an individual or organization. Speeches of goodwill are often given in an attempt to get audience members to view the person or organization more favorably. Although speeches of goodwill are persuasive, they try not to be obvious about the persuasive intent. They are often delivered as information-giving speeches that focus on an individual or organization’s positive attributes.

Speeches for Commencements

The second type of inspirational speech is the speech of commencement, which is designed to recognize and celebrate the achievements of a graduating class. Nearly all of us have sat through commencement speeches at some point in our lives.  Perhaps you just finished high school and earned your degree, or you recently attended a commencement for a sibling or other family member. If you have not yet attended a commencement ceremony, you will soon as you work toward earning your college degree. Numerous celebrities and politicians have been asked to deliver commencement speeches at colleges and universities. One famous commencement speech was given by famed Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling at Harvard University in 2008 ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nkREt4ZB-ck ).

J.K. Rowling’s speech has the perfect balance of humor and inspiration, which are two of the main ingredients of a great commencement speech.

If you’re ever asked to deliver a commencement speech, there are some key points to think through when deciding on your speech’s content.

  • If there is a specific theme for the graduation, make sure that your commencement speech addresses that theme. If there is not a specific theme, come up with one for your speech. Some common commencement speech themes are commitment, competitiveness, competence, confidence, decision making, discipline, ethics, failure (and overcoming failure), faith, generosity, integrity, involvement, leadership, learning, persistence, personal improvement, professionalism, reality, responsibility, and self-respect.
  • Talk about your life and how graduates can learn from your experiences to avoid pitfalls or take advantages of life. How can your life inspire the graduates in their future endeavors?
  • Make the speech humorous. Commencement speeches should be entertaining and make an audience laugh.
  • Be brief! Remember, the graduates are there to get their diplomas, and their families are there to watch the graduates walk across the stage.
  • Remember, while you may be the speaker, you’ve been asked to impart wisdom and advice for the people graduating and moving on with their lives, so keep it focused on them.
  • Place the commencement speech into the broader context of the graduates’ lives. Show the graduates how the advice and wisdom you are offering can be utilized to make their own lives better. 
Overall, it’s important to make sure that you have fun when delivering a commencement speech. Remember, it’s a tremendous honor and responsibility to be asked to deliver a commencement speech. Take the time to really think through and prepare your speech.

Keynote Speaking

A man giving a speech at a podium during a fancy reception

Acumen_ – Keynote Speech – CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

The last type of special occasion speech we will examine is the keynote speech. A keynote speech is delivered to set the underlying tone and summarize the core message of an event. People who deliver keynote speeches are typically experts in a given area who are invited to speak at a conference, convention, banquet, meeting, or other kinds of events with the purpose of setting a specific tone for the occasion. As mentioned, keynote speeches often are meant to inspire an audience. This inspiration can anything from motivating staff at a sales convention to discussing organizational values and imparting wisdom on a group with a shared goal or purpose.

Some keynote speakers will work for a speakers bureau, an agency that represents celebrity and professional speakers. One important organization for all aspiring keynote speakers is the National Speaker’s Association, or NSA. ( http://www.nsaspeaker.org ). In the world of professional public speaking, there are two common types of keynotes: after-dinner speeches and motivational speeches. Let’s look at each of these unique speeches.

After-Dinner Speeches

Ironically, an after-dinner speech does not have to occur after a formal dinner, though it does get its name from the idea that these speeches historically followed a meal of some kind. After-dinner speakers are generally asked (or hired) to speak because they have the ability both to effectively convey a message and to make people laugh. This characteristic does not mean its only goal is to entertain. The after-dinner speech could serve any of the functions previously detailed in this chapter, and all the basic conventions of public speaking discussed in this text apply to after-dinner speeches. However, the overarching goal of these speeches is to entertain and create a light-hearted, jovial atmosphere.

After-dinner speaking is a challenging type of speaking because it requires a balance of entertainment and humor by providing substantive insight into the topic of the event or situation. Finding this balance will allow speakers to deliver a rewarding speech that leaves a lasting impact on the audience. For an example of an after-dinner speech, read the following speech delivered by Mark Twain on his seventieth birthday: ( https://www.pbs.org/marktwain/learnmore/writings_seventieth.html ).

Here are some things to consider when preparing an after-dinner speech.

First, use all that you have learned about informative or persuasive speeches to prepare for this speech, and then consider the four items of note we will outline later in this chapter for creating a successful special occasion speech. You must prepare, consider the occasion, understand your audience, and be mindful of time constraints surrounding your speech and the event.

Second, remember that this is not an opportunity to try your hand at stand-up comedy. The after-dinner speech has a specific goal or purpose, which you must identify and attempt to accomplish. Doing so requires that your speech has a recognizable structure like your more formal speeches: an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. While you ideally want to entertain and amuse your audience, you also want to be sure you achieve your speech goal in the given timeframe.

Motivational Speaking

The second common form of keynote speaking is motivational speaking. A motivational speech is designed not only to make an audience experience emotional arousal (fear, sadness, joy, excitement) but also to motivate the audience to do something with that emotional arousal. Whereas a traditional persuasive speech may attempt to influence listeners to purchase a product or agree with an ideology, a motivational speech helps to inspire people in a broader fashion, often without a clearly articulated end result in mind. As such, motivational speaking is a highly specialized form of persuasive speaking commonly delivered in schools, businesses, or religious, club, and group contexts. The Toastmasters International Guide to Successful Speaking lists four types of motivational speeches: hero, survivor, religious, and success (Slutsky & Aun, 1997).

The hero speech is a motivational speech given by someone who is considered a hero in society (e.g. military speakers, political figures, and professional athletes). Just type “motivational speech” into YouTube and you’ll find many motivational speeches given by individuals who can be considered heroes or role models. The following clip ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vMlmbz8-_Xg ) presents a speech by Steve Sax, a former major league baseball player.

In this speech, Sax talks about his life as a baseball player, along with issues related to leadership, overcoming obstacles, and motivation.

The survivor speech is a speech given by someone who has survived a personal tragedy or who has faced and overcome serious adversity. In the following clip ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NasfjwL8wTc ), Becky Olson discusses her life as a cancer survivor.

Becky Olson goes all over the country talking with and motivating cancer survivors to beat the odds.

The final type of motivational speech is the success speech, which is given by someone who has succeeded in some aspect of life and is giving back by telling others how they too can be successful. In the following clip ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E52eIa1VSgQ ), the then CEO of Xerox, Anne Mulcahy, speaks before a group of students at the University of Virginia discussing the spirit of entrepreneurship.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E52eIa1VSgQ

In this speech, Mulcahy shares the leadership lessons she had learned as the CEO of Xerox

Review of the Types of Special Occasion Speeches

A speech of introduction is a short speech that introduces another speaker.

A speech of presentation is a brief speech given to accompany a prize or honor.

The speech of acceptance is a speech given by the recipient of a prize or honor.

A speech of dedication is delivered when a new store opens, a building is named after someone, a plaque is placed on a wall, a new library is completed, and so on. These speeches are designed to highlight the importance of the project and those to whom the project has been dedicated.

A toast is a speech designed to congratulate, appreciate, or remember.

A roast speech is designed to both praise and good-naturedly poke fun at a person being honored.

A eulogy is a speech given in honor of someone who has died.

A s peech of farewell allows someone to say goodbye to one part of their life as they move on to the next part of life.

An inspirational speech  elicits an emotional state within an audience. Inspirational speeches include speeches to ensure goodwill and commencement addresses.

A keynote speech is delivered to set the underlying tone and summarize the core message of an event. Keynote speeches include after-dinner and motivational speeches.

Delivering Your Special Occasion Speech

Special occasion speeches may be common, but that doesn’t mean they don’t require effort and preparation. A frequent trap is that people often do not consider the impact these speeches can have on the occasion. For instance, a wedding toast not only leaves a lasting impression on the couple getting married but also all of the guests in attendance (not to mention it will likely be recorded and posted on social media). As a result, one may not prepare seriously but instead, stand up to speak with the idea that they can “wing it” by acting silly and telling a few jokes. Rather than being entertaining or commemorating the occasion, the speech appears ill-prepared and falls flat. To help us think through how to be effective in delivering special occasion speeches, let’s look at four key items to remember: preparation, adaptation to the occasion, adaptation to the audience, and mindfulness about the time.

First, and foremost, the biggest mistake you can make when standing to deliver a ceremonial speech is to be underprepared or simply not prepare at all. We’ve stressed the need for preparation throughout this text, so just because you’re giving a wedding toast or a eulogy doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think through the speech before you stand up and speak out. If the situation is impromptu, even jotting some basic notes on a napkin is better than not having any plan for what you are going to say. Remember, when you get anxious, as inevitably happens in front of an audience, your brain doesn’t function as well as when you are having a relaxed conversation with friends. You often forget information. By writing down some simple notes, you’ll be poised to deliver a more thoughtful speech that matches the needs of the occasion.

Consider the Occasion

Not all content is appropriate for all occasions. If you are asked to deliver a speech commemorating the first anniversary of a school shooting, then obviously using humor and telling jokes is not appropriate. But some decisions about adapting to the occasion are less obvious. Consider the following examples:

  • You are the maid of honor giving a toast at the wedding of your younger sister.
  • You are receiving a Most Valuable Player award in your favorite sport.
  • You are a sales representative speaking to a group of clients after a mistake has been discovered.
  • You are a cancer survivor speaking at a high school student assembly.

How might you adapt your message and speaking style to successfully mark each occasion in front of the various audiences in attendance? 
Remember that being a competent speaker is about being both personally effective and socially appropriate. Different occasions will call for different speech functions. As a speaker, it is important to understand the needs of the occasion and adapt your content accordingly. One of the biggest mistakes speakers can make is to deliver one generic speech to different groups without adapting the speech to the specific 
occasion. In fact, professional speakers always make sure that their speeches are tailored to each specific occasion by asking questions and investigating the details of each event or situation. When we customize our speech for the special occasion, people are more likely to remember the speech than if we give a generic speech.

Consider Your Audience

Understanding your audience remains one of the most critical aspects of preparing your speech for any occasion. Different audiences will respond differently to speech material. The more you know about your audience and the more you are able to adapt your content to their needs and wants, the more likely your speech will have an impact and you will effectively achieve your speaking goal. One of the coauthors of this text was at a conference specifically for teachers of public speaking. The keynote speaker stood and delivered a speech on the importance of public speaking. Remember, a function of keynote speaking is to inspire the audience. Though this particular speaking was highly informed on the topic and even entertained the audience, the speech did not go over very well with the audience. Why do you think this was? Speaking to an audience of public speaking instructors, a safe assumption is that they already believe in the importance of the subject. Thus, we can also assume that the speaker may not have considered the audience when preparing the speech, and therefore it is likely the keynote did not fulfill its function of inspiring them.

Be Mindful of the Time

There are very few times in life, whether it be academic, professional, or personal, that you will be given an infinite amount of time to do anything. This is an important consideration to keep in mind when preparing your special occasion speech (as well as your informative and persuasive speeches!). Special occasions often consist of more than just speeches. Each has its own conventions and rules with regard to time. Acceptance speeches and toasts, for example, should be relatively short (typically under five minutes). A speech of introduction should be extremely brief, just long enough to tell the audience what they need to know about the person being introduced and prepares them to appreciate that person’s remarks. Conversely, commemorative speeches, commencement speeches, and keynote addresses tend to be longer as they include more content and have different goals.

When it comes to speech timing, the other three items we’ve discussed in this section can come in very handy. With preparation and practice, you can ensure your speech adheres to a specific timeframe. Considering your occasion and understanding your audience will also help you when crafting your speech and determining an appropriate amount of time for speaking. Think about a wedding you’ve attended when a toast honoring the couple has gone on and on and on, and everyone, including the happy couple, just wanted to get up and dance. There are also examples of instances when an audience may have been eager to be inspired and motivated but left disappointed when the speaker presented a quick and vapid speech. It can go either way, and that’s why it is important to be prepared, consider the occasion, and understand your audience.

It is also perfectly acceptable to ask questions about the expected time frame for a speech. Either ask the person who has invited you to speak, or you can do some quick research to see what the average speech times in the given context tend to be.

Slutsky, J., & Aun, M. (1997). The Toastmasters International® guide to successful speaking: Overcoming your fears, winning over your audience, building your business & career. Chicago, IL: Dearborn Financial Publishing.

Stand up, Speak out Copyright © 2017 by Josh Miller; Marnie Lawler-Mcdonough; Megan Orcholski; Kristin Woodward; Lisa Roth; and Emily Mueller is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Speech Events and Natural Speech

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a speech event meaning

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For interviews which follow a questionnaire format, the problems involved in collecting anything approaching everyday speech are extremely severe. This is because the interview is, in fact, a speech event, in the technical sense proposed by Hymes (1974: 52):

The term speech event will be restricted to activities, or aspects of activities that are directly governed by rules or norms for the use of speech. An event may consist of a single speech act, but will often comprise several.

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Brown, R. and Gilman, A. (1960) ‘The Pronouns of Power and Solidarity’, in Sebeok, T. A. (ed.) Style and Language ( Cambridge, MA: The Technology Press ) pp. 253–76.

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Hymes, D. H. (1974) Foundations in Sociolinguistics: An Ethnographic Approach ( Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press).

Labov, W. (1972a) ‘The Logic of Nonstandard English’, in Labov, W. Language in the Inner City: Studies in the Black English Vernacular (Philadelphia. PA: University of Pennsylvania Press ) pp. 201–40.

Labov, W. (1972b) ‘The Isolation of Contextual Styles’, in Labov, W. Sociolinguistic Patterns ( Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press ) pp. 70–109.

Shuy, R. W., Wolfram, W. and Riley, W. K. (1968) Field Techniques in an Urban Language Study ( Washington, DC: Center for Applied Linguistics).

Wolfram, W. and Fasold, R. (1974) The Study of Social Dialects in American English ( Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall).

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Speech Acts

We are attuned in everyday conversation not primarily to the sentences we utter to one another, but to the speech acts that those utterances are used to perform: requests, warnings, invitations, promises, apologies, predictions, and the like. Such acts are staples of communicative life, but only became a topic of sustained investigation, at least in the English-speaking world, in the middle of the twentieth century. [ 1 ] Since that time “speech act theory” has become influential not only within philosophy, but also in linguistics, psychology, legal theory, artificial intelligence, literary theory, and feminist thought among other scholarly disciplines. [ 2 ] Recognition of the significance of speech acts has illuminated the ability of language to do other things than describe reality. In the process the boundaries among the philosophy of language, the philosophy of action, aesthetics, the philosophy of mind, political philosophy, and ethics have become less sharp. In addition, an appreciation of speech acts has helped lay bare a normative structure implicit in linguistic practice, including even that part of this practice concerned with describing reality. Much recent research aims at an accurate characterization of this normative structure underlying linguistic practice.

1. Introduction

2.1 the independence of force and content, 2.2 can saying make it so, 2.3 theories of performativity, 3.1 direction of fit, 3.2 conditions of satisfaction, 3.3 seven components of illocutionary force, 3.4 direct and indirect force, 4.1 force conventionalism, 4.2 a biosemantic species of force conventionalism.

  • 4.3 An Intentionalist Alternative to Force Conventionalism

5.1 Grice’s Account of Speaker Meaning

5.2 objections to grice’s account, 5.3 force as an aspect of speaker meaning, 6.1 speech acts and conversations, 6.2 speech acts and scorekeeping, 7. force-indicators and the logically perfect language, 8. do speech acts have a logic, 9. speech acts and social issues, further reading, other internet resources, related entries.

Bertrand Russell’s Theory of Descriptions was a paradigm for many philosophers in the twentieth century. One reason for this is that it suggested a way to respond to longstanding philosophical problems by showing them to be specious. Russell argued that such sentences as ‘The present King of Singapore is bald,’ and, ‘The round square is impossible,’ possess superficial grammatical forms that are misleading as to their underlying logical structure. In so doing he showed how such sentences can be meaningful without this fact obliging us to posit current Singaporean monarchs or round squares. Many philosophers in what came to be known as the Ordinary Language movement were inspired by this achievement to argue that classic philosophical problems (e.g., of free will, the relation of mind to body, truth, the nature of knowledge, and of right and wrong) likewise rested on a misunderstanding of the language in which these problem are couched. In How to Do Things with Words , J.L. Austin for instance writes,

…in recent years, many things which would once have been accepted without question as ‘statements’ by both philosophers and grammarians have been scrutinized with new care… It has come to be commonly held that many utterances which look like statements are either not intended at all, or only intended in part, to record or impart straightforward information about the facts…Along these lines it has by now been shown piecemeal, or at least made to look likely, that many traditional philosophical perplexities have arisen through a mistake-the mistake of taking as straightforward statements of fact utterances which are either (in interesting non-grammatical ways) nonsensical or else intended as something quite different. Whatever we may think of any particular one of these views and suggestions…it cannot be doubted that they are producing a revolution in philosophy. (Austin 1962, pp. 1–2)

The Ordinary Language movement, with its broad claim that the meaning of an expression should be equated with its use, and its desire to transcend traditional philosophical perplexities, did not achieve the revolution of which Austin speaks. Nonetheless one of its enduring legacies is the notion of a speech act.

One way of appreciating the distinctive features of speech acts is in contrast with other well-established phenomena within the philosophy of language and linguistics. Accordingly in this entry we will consider the relations among speech acts and: semantic content, grammatical mood, speaker-meaning, logically perfect languages, perlocutions, performatives, presuppositions , and implicature . This will enable us to situate speech acts within their ecological niche.

2. Content, Force, and How Saying Can Make It So

Whereas an act of speech is any act of uttering [ 3 ] meaningful words, ‘speech act’ is a term of art. As a first approximation, speech acts are those acts that can (though need not) be performed by saying that one is doing so. On this conception, resigning, promising, asserting and asking are all speech acts, while convincing, insulting and growing six inches are not. One can, for instance, resign by saying, “I resign…”, although one can also resign from a position without describing oneself as doing so. However, this conception is too inclusive, since it also counts whispering as a speech act even though one can whisper a string of nonsense words without meaning anything. Instead a more accurate characterization of speech acts builds on Grice’s notion of speaker meaning. This notion is discussed further in Section 5 below, but for now it is enough to note that in looking at my watch, I might be trying to tell the time; or I might be trying to indicate to you that it’s time for us to leave. The latter (but not the former) is a case of speaker meaning.

Accordingly, a speech act is a type of act that can be performed by speaker meaning that one is doing so. This conception still counts resigning, promising, asserting and asking as speech acts, while ruling out convincing, insulting and whispering. This definition leaves open the possibility of speech acts being performed wordlessly, as well as speech acts being performed without saying that you are doing so. Our characterization of speech acts captures this fact in emphasizing speaker meaning rather than the uttering of any words.

Speech acts are thus also to be distinguished from performatives. ‘Performative’ is another technical term, and as used here it refers in the first instance to a kind of sentence. A performative sentence is in the first person, present tense, indicative mood, active voice, that describes its speaker as performing a speech act. ‘I assert that George is the culprit,’ is a performative sentence by this test. As we have seen, one can perform a speech act without uttering a performative. Further, since it is merely a type of sentence, one can utter a performative without performing a speech act. For instance, while talking in my sleep I might say, “I hereby promise to climb the Eiffel Tower,” without thereby making any promise. We may also define a performative utterance as an utterance of a performative sentence that is also a speech act. [ 4 ]

More nomenclature: ‘Speech act’ and ‘illocution’ will here be used synonymously. The latter term is due to Austin, who used ‘illocutionary force’ to refer to a dimension of communicative acts. (It is nowadays common also to use ‘illocute’ as a verb meaning ‘to perform a speech act.’) Austin’s reason for using ‘force’ begins with the observation that, construed as a bit of observable behavior, the communicative significance of an act may be underdetermined by what has been said or observably done. I bow deeply before you. So far you may not know whether I am paying obeisance, responding to indigestion, or looking for a wayward contact lens. So too, an utterance of a meaningful sentence (which Austin calls a locutionary act ) such as ‘You’ll be more punctual in the future,’ may leave you wondering whether I am making a prediction or issuing a command or even a threat. The colloquial question, “What is the force of those words?” is often used to elicit an answer. In asking such a question we acknowledge a grasp of those words’ meaning but seek to know how that meaning is to be taken–as a threat, as a prediction, or as a command.

Or so it seems. In an early challenge to Austin, Cohen (1964) argues that the notion of illocutionary force is otiose provided we already have in place the notion of a sentence’s meaning (Austin’s locutionary meaning). Cohen contends that for a performative sentence such as ‘I promise to read that novel,’ its meaning already guarantees that it is a promise. On the other hand, for a sentence that is not a performative, such as ‘I will read that novel,’ if it is understood as being used to make a promise, the promise is still implicit in the sentence’s meaning. In either case, Cohen concludes, meaning already guarantees force and so we do not require an extra-semantic notion to do so.

Cohen’s reasoning assumes that any utterance of ‘I promise to read that novel’ is a promise. But as we have seen with the case of the somniloquist, neither a sentence, nor even the utterance of a sentence, is sufficient on its own for the performance of a speech act, be it a promise or some other. In a similar spirit to that of Cohen, Searle (1968, p. 407) observes that a serious and literal utterance of ‘I promise to read that novel,’ made under what he terms “conditions of successful utterance”, also counts as a promise. Searle concludes from this that some locutionary acts are also illocutionary acts, and infers from this in turn that for some sentences, their locutionary meaning determines their illocutionary force. This last inference is, however, a non sequitur . As we have seen, the aforementioned sentence’s meaning does not determine the illocutionary force with which it is uttered. Rather, when that sentence is uttered in such a way as to constitute a promise, what determines that force is the meaning of the sentence together with such factors as the speaker’s being serious and other contextual conditions being met.

We may thus agree with Searle that some locutionary acts are also illocutionary acts, without losing sight of our earlier observation that locutionary meaning underdetermines illocutionary force. This fact about underdetermination is implied by Davidson’s Thesis of the Autonomy of Linguistic Meaning, according to which once a bit of language has acquired a conventional meaning, it can be used for any of a variety of extra-linguistic purposes (Davidson, 1979). Green 1997 argues for a qualification of Davidson’s Autonomy Thesis to recognize sentences having the feature that if they are used in a speech act all, then there is at least one other illocutionary force that their utterance must have. Even in light of this qualified version of the Autonomy Thesis, the most that can be said of, ‘I promise to climb the Eiffel Tower,’ is that it is designed to be used to make promises, just as common nouns are designed to be used to refer to things and predicates are designed to characterize things referred to. Below (Section 6.3) we shall consider the view that force is a component of meaning, albeit not of a sentence’s meaning. [ 5 ]

Let us return, then, to an elucidation of our distinction between what a speaker says and the force of her utterance. A grammatical sentence composed of meaningful words is commonly thought to express a “content,” which is determined by what that sentence literally means together with features of the context of utterance. Suppose I say to someone in a crowded subway, “You’re standing on my foot.” I am most likely trying to convey the message that he should move. However, what I literally say is only that the addressee in question is standing on my foot. This is the content of my utterance. Many if not most utterances of grammatical sentences composed of meaningful words express more than those sentences’ contents. Pragmaticians, however, commonly distinguish content from other aspects of meaning conveyed by an utterance. On this way of thinking, two intertranslatable sentences of different languages will express the same content, and certain transformations of a sentence within a language are commonly thought to express the same content. Thus, ‘Mary saw John,’ and ‘John was seen by Mary,’ will express the same content even if a speaker’s use of one rather than another of these will carry a distinctive suggestion. For indicative sentences, such contents are typically called Propositions . (In what follows I will capitalize this term to signify that it is in part technical.) Propositions, then, are the contents of indicative sentences, are what such sentences express, and, further, are often thought to be the primary bearers of truth value.

Illocutionary force and semantic content are often taken to be distinct from one another, not just in the way that your left and right hand are distinct, but rather by virtue of falling into different categories. Stenius 1967 elucidates this distinction, noting that in chemical parlance a radical is a group of atoms normally incapable of independent existence, whereas a functional group is the grouping of those atoms in a compound that is responsible for certain of that compound’s properties. Analogously, a Proposition is itself communicatively inert. For instance, merely expressing the Proposition that it is snowing is not to make a move in a “language game”. Rather, such a move is only made by putting forth a Proposition with an illocutionary force such as assertion, conjecture, command, etc. The chemical analogy gains further support from the fact that just as a chemist might isolate radicals held in common among various compounds, the student of language may isolate a common element held among ‘Is the door shut?’, ‘Shut the door!’, and ‘The door is shut’. This common element is the Proposition that the door is shut, queried in the first sentence, commanded to be made true in the second, and asserted in the third. According to the chemical analogy, then:

Illocutionary force : Propositional content :: functional group : radical

In light of this analogy we may see, following Stenius, that just as the grouping of a set of atoms is not itself another atom or set of atoms, so too the forwarding of a Proposition with a particular illocutionary force is not itself a further component of Propositional content.

Encouraged by the chemical analogy, a central tenet in the study of speech acts is that content may remain fixed while force varies. The force of an utterance also underdetermines its content: Just from the fact that a speaker has made a promise, we cannot deduce what she has promised to do. For these reasons, students of speech acts contend that a given communicative act may be analyzed into two components: force and content. While semantics studies the contents of communicative acts, pragmatics studies their force.

The force/content distinction also finds parallels in our understanding of mentality. Speech acts are not only moves in a “language game.” They also often purport to express of states of mind with analogous structural properties. An assertion that it is snowing purports to express the speaker’s belief that it is snowing. A promise to read Middlemarch purports to express the speaker’s intention to read Middlemarch . We find evidence for these relationships in the fact that it is in some sense absurd to say, ‘It’s snowing, but I don’t believe that it is,’ and ‘I promise to read Middlemarch , but I have no intention of doing so.’ [ 6 ] Further, just as we may distinguish between an assert ing and what is assert ed (the so-called “ing/ed ambiguity” for verbs such as ‘assert’), and a promis ing from what is promis ed , we may also distinguish between a state of believing and what is believed, and a state or act of intending and what is intended. Searle 1983 delineates structural analogies between speech acts and the mental states they express. Pendlebury 1986 succinctly explains the merits of this approach.

In spite of these structural analogies, we may still wonder why an elucidation of the notion of force is important for a theory of communication. That A is an important component of communication, and that A underdetermines B , do not justify the conclusion that B is an important component of communication. Content also underdetermines the decibel level at which we speak but this fact does not justify adding decibel level to our repertoire of core concepts for pragmatics or the philosophy of language. Why should force be thought any more worthy of admission to this set of core concepts than decibel level? One reason for an asymmetry in our treatment of force and decibel level is that the former, but not the latter, seems to be a component of speaker meaning: Force is a feature not of what is said but of how what is said is meant; decibel level, by contrast, is a feature at most of the way in which something is said. This point is developed in Section 5 below.

We have spoken thus far as if the contents of speech acts must be Propositions, and indeed Searle routinely analyzes speech acts as having the form F ( p ) (e.g., 1975, p. 344), where ‘ F ’ is the force component and ‘ p ’ the Propositional content component. However, in the last two decades linguistic semantics has developed formal representations of contents for the two other major grammatical moods besides the indicative, namely the interrogative and the imperative. On the strength of the analyses of Hamblin (1958), Bell (1975), Pendlebury (1986) and others, one strategy for the semantics of interrogatives is to construe them as expressing sets of propositions rather than a single proposition, where each element of the putative set is a complete answer to the question at issue. Thus the content expressed by ‘How many doors are shut?’ will be {<No doors are shut>, <One door is shut>, …} where the ellipsis will be filled by as many other Propositions as it is reasonable to interpret the questioner as asking after. Call such a set an Interrogative . A complete answer to an Interrogative is an element of the set by which it is defined; a partial answer is a subset of that set containing two or more members, as would naturally be expressed by the sentence ‘Between two and four doors are shut.’ On the present conceptualization, just as we may distinguish between expressing and asserting a Propositional content, we may also distinguish between expressing an Interrogative and asking a question. One merely expresses an Interrogative in such an utterance as, ‘John wonders how many doors are shut.’ In fact, a single utterance may express two Interrogatives while asking neither, as in ‘How many doors are shut will depend on how many customers are trying on clothes.’ Asking a question is no less substantial a conversational move than is making an assertion.

Similarly, work by Hamblin (1987), Belnap (1990), Portner (2004) and others suggests semantic analyses for sentences in the imperative mood: on one approach an imperative expresses a property, and when one speaker issues an imperative that her addressee accepts, that property is added to her “to do list”, itself a parameter of what we will later describe as conversational score (Section 7).

In light of the above liberalization of the notion of sentential content to accommodate the contents of non-indicative sentences, we may rephrase Stenius’s chemical analogy as follows:

Illocutionary force : sentential content :: functional group : radical

with the understanding that different types of sentential content will correspond to the different grammatical moods. This refined analogy would in turn require there to be different types of radical. [ 7 ]

In some cases we can make something the case by saying that it is. Alas, I cannot lose ten pounds by saying that I am doing so, nor can I persuade you of a claim by saying that I am doing so. On the other hand I can promise to meet you tomorrow by uttering the words, “I promise to meet you tomorrow,” and if I have the authority to do so, I can even appoint you to an office by saying, “I hereby appoint you.” (I can also appoint you without making the force of my act explicit: I might just say, “You are now Treasurer of the Corporation.”) Only an appropriate authority, speaking at the appropriate time and place, can: christen a ship, pronounce a couple married, appoint someone to an administrative post, declare the proceedings open, or rescind an offer. Austin, in How To Do Things With Words, details the conditions that must be met for a given speech act to be performed felicitously .

Failures of felicity fall into two classes: misfires and abuses . The former are cases in which the putative speech act fails to be performed at all. If I utter, before the QEII, “I declare this ship the Noam Chomsky,” I have not succeeded in naming anything because I lack the authority to do so. My act thus misfires in that I’ve performed an act of speech but no speech act. Other attempts at speech acts might misfire because their addressee fails to respond with an appropriate uptake : I cannot bet you $100 on who will win the election unless you accept that bet. If you do not accept that bet, then I have tried to bet but have not succeeded in betting. As we will see in Section 9, a systematic unwillingness on the part of a speaker’s interlocutors to respond with the requisite uptake may compromise that speaker’s freedom of speech.

Some speech acts can be performed–that is, not misfire—while still being less than felicitous. I promise to meet you for lunch tomorrow, but haven’t the least intention of making good. Here I have promised all right, but the act is not felicitous because it is not sincere. My act is, more precisely, an abuse because although it is a speech act, it fails to live up to a standard appropriate for speech acts of its kind. Sincerity is a paradigm condition for the felicity of speech acts. Austin foresaw a program of research in which thousands of types of speech act would be studied in detail, with felicity conditions elucidated for each. [ 8 ]

As observed by Sbisà 2007, not only can I perform a speech act by speaker meaning that I am doing so, I can also subsequently rescind that act. I cannot, it would seem, change the past, and so nothing I can do on Wednesday can change the fact that I made a promise or assertion on Monday. However, on Wednesday I may be able to retract a claim I made on Monday. I can’t take back a punch or a burp; the most I can do is apologize for one of these infractions, and perhaps make amends. By contrast, not only can I apologize or make amends for a claim I now regret; I can also withdraw it. Likewise, you may allow me on Wednesday to retract the promise I made to you on Monday. In both these cases of assertion and promise, I am now no longer beholden to the commitments that the speech acts engender in spite of the fact that the past is fixed. Just as one can, under appropriate conditions, perform a speech act by speaker meaning that one is doing so, so too one can, under the right conditions, retract that very speech act.

Austin famously denied that performatives are statements (1962, p. 6). This may be taken either as the denial that performative sentences, even those in the indicative grammatical mood, have truth value; or instead as the denial that utterances of performative sentences, even when such sentences have truth value, are assertions. One can consistently hold that an indicative sentence has truth value, and even that it may be uttered in such a way as to say something true, while denying that its utterance is an assertion. (Testing a microphone in a windowless room, I utter, “It’s raining,” and it happens to be raining outside. Here I have said something true but have made no assertion.)

Lemmon 1962 argues that performative utterances are true on the ground that they are instances of a wider class of sentences whose utterance guarantees their truth. If sound, this argument would show that performatives have truth value, but not that they are assertions. It also leaves unanswered the question why some verb phrases such as ‘I promise’ may be used performatively while others cannot be so used. Sinnott-Armstrong 1994 also argues that performatives can have truth value without addressing the question whether they are also used to make assertions. Reimer 1995 argues that while performatives have truth values, they are not also assertions. Adopting a similar strategy, Jary 2007 aims to explain how utterances of such sentences as “I order you to clean the kitchen,” can succeed in being orders. In so doing he draws on Green’s 2007 analysis of showing to argue that such utterances show (rather than merely describe) the force of the speaker’s utterance. Because ‘show’ is factive, if such an utterance shows its force, then it must have that force.

Most challenges to Austin, however, construe performatives as assertions and attempt to explain their properties in that light. Ginet 1979 argues that performative verbs (‘promise,’ ‘appoint’, etc.) name the kinds of acts that one can perform by asserting that one is doing so, and elaborates on why this is so. In this way he offers an account of how performatives work that depends on the assumption that performative utterances are assertions. Starting from that same assumption, Bach 1975 contends that ‘I order you to clean the kitchen’ is an assertion, and proceeds to explain on this basis how the speaker is indirectly also issuing an order. This explanation depends on the speaker’s being able to count on the addressee’s ability to discern the speaker’s communicative intention. In later work, such as Bach and Harnish 1978, and 1992, this view is refined with a notion of standardization, so that a sufficiently common practice of issuing assertions with performative effect enables speakers and hearers to bypass complex inferential reasoning and jump by default to a conclusion about the illocution being performed. Reimer 1995 challenges Bach and Harnish on the ground that hearers do not seem to impute assertoric force to the indicative sentences speakers utter with performative effect; her criticism would evidently carry over to Ginet’s proposal. Instead Reimer contends that performative utterances rest on systems of what she terms illocutionary conventions to achieve their performative effects.

Searle 1969, p. 62–4, had argued that a performative formula such as “I promise to…” is an “illocutionary force indicator” in the sense that it is a device whose role is to make explicit the force of the speaker’s utterance. Making something explicit, however, would seem to involve characterizing an independent event or state of affairs, and as a result Searle’s account presupposes that speakers can imbue their utterances with the force of demotions and excommunications; yet this is what was to be explained. Realizing this, Searle and Vanderveken (1985) characterize performatives as speech acts having the force of declarations. Uncontroversial examples of this speech act are declaring war or adjourning a meeting. Searle 1989 then acknowledges that this account pushes us back to the question how certain expressions come to have the power to make declarations. In that same work he offers an answer that depends on the view that in uttering a sentence with a performative prefix, a speaker manifests an intention to perform an act of a certain kind: in uttering the words, ‘I order you to close the door’, I manifest an intention to order you to close the door, etc. Searle also takes it that manifesting an intention to perform a speech act is sufficient for the performance of that act. On this basis, Searle goes on to attempt to derive the assertoric nature of performatives, holding that when uttered in such a way as to say something true, they are also assertions.

3. Aspects of Illocutionary Force

Austin distinguishes illocutionary acts into five categories: verdictives (in which a speaker gives a verdict, e.g. acquitting and diagnosing), exercitives (in which speakers exercise powers, rights or influence, e.g. excommunicating and resigning), commissives (in which speakers commit themselves to causes or courses of action, e.g. promising and betting), behabitives (concerning attitudes and social behavior, e.g. apologizing and toasting), and expositives (in which speakers clarify how their utterances fit into lines of reasoning, e.g., postulating and defining).

Searle (1975) criticizes Austin’s taxonomy on two central grounds. First, Austin’s methodology is unduly lexicographic, assuming that we can learn about the range and limits of illocutionary acts by studying illocutionary verbs in English or other natural languages. However, Searle observes, nothing rules out the possibility of there being illocutionary acts that are not named by a verb either in a particular language such as Swahili or Bengali, or indeed in any language at all; similarly, two non-synonymous illocutionary verbs may yet name one and the same illocutionary act.

Second, Searle argues that the principles of distinction among Austin’s categories are unclear. For instance, behavitives seem to be a heterogeneous group with little unifying principle. Similarly, ‘describe’ appears both as a verdictive and as an expositive whereas one would expect taxonomic categories to be mutually exclusive. More generally, Austin’s brief account of each category gives no direction as to why this way of delineating them does so along their most fundamental features. Searle offers a new categorization of speech acts based on relatively clear principles of distinction. To appreciate this it will help to explain some of the basic concepts he uses for this purpose.

Consider an example derived from Anscombe (1963): a woman sends her husband to the grocery store with a list of things to procure; unbeknownst to him he is also being trailed by a detective concerned to make a list of what the man buys. By the time the husband and detective are in the checkout line, their two lists contain exactly the same items. The contents of the two lists differ, however, along another dimension. For the contents of the husband’s list guide what he puts in his shopping cart. Insofar, his list exhibits world-to-word direction of fit : It is, so to speak, the job of the items in his cart to conform to what is on his list. By contrast, it is the job of the detective’s list to conform with the world, in particular to what is in the husband’s cart. As such, the detective’s list has word-to-world direction of fit : The onus is on those words to conform to how things are. Speech acts such as assertions and predictions have word-to-world direction of fit, while speech acts such as commands have world-to-word direction of fit.

Not all speech acts appear to have direction of fit. I can thank you by saying “Thank you,” and it is widely agreed that thanking is a speech act. However, thanking seems to have neither of the directions of fit we have discussed thus far. Similarly, asking who is at the door is a speech act, but it does not seem to have either of the directions of fit we have thus far mentioned. Some would respond by construing questions as a form of imperative (e.g., “Tell me who is at the door!”), and then ascribing the direction of fit characteristic of imperatives to questions. This leaves untouched, however, banal cases such as thanking or even, “Hooray for Arsenal!” Some authors, such as Searle and Vanderveken 1985, describe such cases as having “null” direction of fit. That characterization is evidently distinct from saying such speech acts have no direction of fit at all. [ 9 ]

Direction of fit is also not so fine-grained as to enable us to distinguish speech acts meriting different treatment. Consider asserting that the center of the Milky Way is inhabited by a black hole, as opposed to conjecturing that the center of the Milky Way is so inhabited. These two acts are subject to different norms: The former purports to be a manifestation of knowledge, while the latter does not. This is suggested by the fact that it is appropriate to reply to the assertion with, “How do you know?” (Williamson 1996), while that is not an appropriate response to the conjecture (Green 2017). Nevertheless, both the assertion and conjecture have word-to-world direction of fit. Might there be other notions enabling us to mark differences between speech acts with the same direction of fit?

One suggestion might come from the related notion of conditions of satisfaction . This notion generalizes that of truth. As we saw in 2.3, it is internal to the activity of assertion that it aims to capture how things are. When an assertion does so, not only is it true, it has hit its target; the aim of the assertion has been met. A similar point may be made of imperatives: it is internal to the activity of issuing an imperative that the world is enjoined to conform to it. The imperative is satisfied just in case it is fulfilled. Assertions and imperatives both have conditions of satisfaction—truth in the first place, and conformity in the second. In addition, it might be held that questions have answerhood as their conditions of satisfaction: A question hits its target just in case it finds an answer, often in a speech act, such as an assertion, that answers the question posed. Like the notion of direction of fit, however, the notion of conditions of satisfaction is too coarse-grained to enable us to make some valuable distinctions among speech acts. Just to use our earlier case again: an assertion and a conjecture that P have identical conditions of satisfaction, namely that P be the case. May we discern features distinguishing these two speech acts, in a way enabling us to make finer-grained distinctions among other speech acts as well? I shall return to this question in Sections 6–7.

In an attempt to systematize and deepen Austin’s approach, Searle and Vanderveken 1985 distinguish between those illocutionary forces employed by speakers within a given linguistic community, and the set of all possible illocutionary forces. While a certain linguistic community may make no use of forces such as conjecturing or appointing, these two are among the set of all possible forces. (These authors appear to assume that while the set of possible forces may be infinite, it has a definite cardinality.) Searle and Vanderveken go on to define illocutionary force in terms of seven features, namely:

  • Illocutionary point : This is the characteristic aim of each type of speech act. For instance, the characteristic aim of an assertion is to describe how things are, and perhaps also to bring about belief in an addressee; the characteristic aim of a promise is to commit oneself to a future course of action.
  • Degree of strength of the illocutionary point : Two illocutions can have the same point but differ along the dimension of strength. For instance, requesting and insisting that the addressee do something both have the point of attempting to get the addressee to do that thing; however, the latter is stronger than the former.
  • Mode of achievement : This is the special way, if any, in which the illocutionary point of a speech act must be achieved. Testifying and asserting both have the point of describing how things are; however, the former also involves invoking one’s authority as a witness while the latter does not. To testify is to assert in one’s capacity as a witness. Commanding and requesting both aim to get the addressee to do something; yet only someone issuing a command does so in her capacity as a person in a position of authority.
  • Content conditions : Some illocutions can only be achieved with an appropriate propositional content. For instance, I can only promise what is in the future and under my control; or, at least, I cannot promise to do anything that it is obvious to myself and my promissee that I cannot do. So too, I can only apologize for what is in some sense under my control and already the case. (In light of our discussion above of semantics for non-indicative contents, this condition could be recast in terms of imperatival, interrogative, and propositional content conditions.)
  • Preparatory conditions : These are all other conditions that must be met for the speech act not to misfire. Such conditions often concern the social status of interlocutors. For instance, a person cannot bequeath an object unless she already owns it or has power of attorney; a person cannot marry a couple unless she is legally invested with the authority to do so.
  • Sincerity conditions : Many speech acts involve the expression of a psychological state. Assertion expresses belief; apology expresses regret, a promise expresses an intention, and so on. A speech act is sincere only if the speaker is in the psychological state that her speech act expresses.
  • Degree of strength of the sincerity conditions : Two speech acts might be the same along other dimensions, but express psychological states that differ from one another in the dimension of strength. Requesting and imploring both express desires, and are identical along the other six dimensions above; however, the latter expresses a stronger desire than the former.

Searle and Vanderveken (1985) suggest, in light of these seven characteristics, that each illocutionary force may be defined as a septuple of values, each of which is a “setting” of a value within one of the seven characteristics. It follows, according to this suggestion, that two illocutionary forces F 1 and F 2 are identical just in case they correspond to the same septuple.

I cannot slow the expansion of the universe or convince you of the truth of a claim by saying that I am doing so. However, these two cases differ in that the latter, but not the former, is a characteristic aim of a speech act. One characteristic aim of assertion is the production of belief in an addressee, whereas there is no speech act one of whose characteristic aims is the slowing of the universe’s expansion. A type of speech act can have a characteristic aim without each speech act of that type being issued with that aim: Speakers sometimes make assertions without aiming to produce belief in anyone, even themselves. Instead, the view that a speech act-type has a characteristic aim is akin to the view that a biological trait has a function. The characteristic role of wings is to aid in flight even though some flightless creatures are winged.

Austin called these characteristic aims of speech acts perlocutions (1962, p. 101). I can both urge and persuade you to shut the door, yet the former is an illocution while the latter is a perlocution. How can we tell the difference? We can do so by noting that under the right conditions, one can urge just by saying and speaker meaning, “I hereby urge you to shut the door,” while there are no circumstances in which I can persuade you just by saying, “I hereby persuade you to shut the door.” A characteristic aim of urging is, nevertheless, the production of a resolution to act (1962, p. 107). Cohen (1973) develops the idea of perlocutions as characteristic aims of speech acts.

Perlocutions are characteristic aims of one or more illocution, but are not themselves illocutions. Nevertheless, one speech act can be performed by means of the performance of another. For instance, my remark that you are standing on my foot is normally taken as, in addition, a demand that you move; my question whether you can pass the salt is normally taken as a request that you do so. These are examples of so-called indirect speech acts (Searle 1979). Phrases that are commonly used in service of indirect speech acts are, ‘Would you mind terribly if I…,’ ‘Might I suggest…,’ and ‘It seems to me that…’, or simply ‘please’, as in ‘Can you pass the salt, please?’ Observe that this last sentence, with its appended tag-question, cannot be interpreted as a request for information (about the addressee’s salt-passing abilities), but can only be understood as a request. Asher and Lascarides (2001) provide a formal model of indirect speech acts on which some are conventionalized while others require Gricean reasoning for their interpretation.

While indirect communication is ubiquitous, indirect speech acts are less common than might first appear. In asking whether you intend to quit smoking, I might be taken as well to be suggesting that you quit. However, while the embattled smoker might jump to this interpretation, we do well to consider what evidence would mandate it. After all, while I probably would not have asked whether you intended to quit smoking unless I hoped you would quit, I can evince such a hope without performing the speech act of suggesting. Evincing a psychological state, even if done intentionally, arguably does not constitute a speech act. Instead, intentionally evincing a psychological state may be understood as simply expressing that state (See Green 2020, ch. 2).

Whether, in addition to a given speech act, I am also performing an indirect speech act would seem to depend on my intentions. My question whether you can pass the salt is also a request that you do so only if I intend to be so understood. What is more, this intention must be feasibly discernible on the part of one’s audience. Even if, in remarking on the fine weather, I intend as well to request that you pass the salt, I will not have issued a request unless I have made that intention manifest in some way.

How might I do this? One way is by making an inference to the best explanation. Perhaps the best explanation of my asking whether you can pass the salt is that I mean to be requesting that you do so, and perhaps the best explanation of my remarking that you are standing on my foot, particularly if I use a stentorian tone of voice, is that I mean to be demanding that you desist. By contrast, it is doubtful that the best explanation of my asking whether you intend to quit smoking is that I intend to suggest that you do so. Another explanation at least as plausible is my hope, or expression of hope, that you do so. Bertolet 1994 develops a more skeptical position than that suggested here, arguing that any alleged case of an indirect speech act can be construed just as an indication, by means of contextual clues, of the speaker’s intentional state—hope, desire, etc., as the case may be. Postulation of a further speech act beyond what has been (relatively) explicitly performed is, he contends, explanatorily unmotivated. McGowan et al . (2009) reply by offering three conditions they take to be sufficient for a case of what they term linguistic communication. They would also argue that in, for instance, the smoking case, the speaker meets those three conditions, and thus counts as suggesting that the addressee quit smoking. Bertolet (2017) replies that these three conditions are not sufficient for an instance of speaker meaning, and given that (as we have seen) speaker meaning is a necessary condition for (non-conventional) speech acts, concludes that McGowan et al . have not established that the cases that concern them are indirect speech acts.

These considerations suggest that indirect speech acts, if they do occur at all, can be explained within the framework of conversational implicature–that process by which we mean more (and on some occasions less) than we say, but in a way not due exclusively to the conventional meanings of our words. Conversational implicature, too, depends both upon communicative intentions and the availability of inference to the best explanation (Grice, 1989). In fact, Searle’s 1979 influential account of indirect speech acts is couched in terms of conversational implicature (although he does not use this phrase). The study of speech acts is in this respect intertwined with the study of conversations; we return to this theme in Section 6. [ 10 ]

4. Mood, Force and Convention

Not only does content underdetermine force; content together with grammatical mood does so as well. ‘You’ll be more punctual in the future’ is in the indicative grammatical mood, but as we have seen, that fact does not determine its force. The same may be said of other grammatical moods. Although I overhear you utter the words, ‘shut the door’, I cannot infer yet that you are issuing a command. Perhaps instead you are simply describing your own intention, in the course of saying, “I intend to shut the door.” If so, you’ve used the imperative mood without issuing a command. So too with the interrogative mood: I overhear your words, ‘who is on the phone.’ Thus far I don’t know whether you’ve asked a question, since you may have so spoken in the course of stating, “John wonders who is on the phone.” Might either or both of initial capitalization or final punctuation settle the issue? Apparently not: What puzzles Meredith is the following question: Who is on the phone?

Mood together with content underdetermine force. On the other hand it is a plausible hypothesis that grammatical mood is one of the devices we use (together with contextual clues, intonation, and the like) to indicate the force with which we are expressing a content. Understood in this weak way, it is unexceptionable to construe the interrogative mood as used for asking questions, the imperatival mood as used for issuing commands, and so on. So understood, we might go on to ask how speakers indicate the force of their speech acts given that grammatical mood and content cannot be relied on alone to do so.

One well known answer we may term force conventionalism . According to a strong version of this view, for every speech act that is performed, there is some convention that will have been invoked in order to make that speech act occur. This convention transcends those imbuing words with their literal meaning. Thus, force conventionalism implies that in order for use of ‘I promise to meet you tomorrow at noon,’ to constitute a promise, not only must the words used possess their standard conventional meanings, there must also exist a convention to the effect that the use, under the right conditions, of some such words as these constitutes a promise. Austin seems to have held this view. For instance in his characterization of “felicity conditions” for speech acts, Austin holds that for each speech act

There must exist an accepted conventional procedure having a certain conventional effect, that procedure to include the uttering of certain words by certain persons in certain circumstances… (1962, p. 14).

Austin’s student Searle follows him in this, writing

…utterance acts stand to propositional and illocutionary acts in the way in which, e.g., making an X on a ballot paper stands to voting. (1969, p. 24)

Searle goes on to clarify this commitment in averring,

…the semantic structure of a language may be regarded as a conventional realization of a series of sets of underlying constitutive rules, and …speech acts are acts characteristically performed by uttering sentences in accordance with these sets of constitutive rules. (1969, p. 37)

Searle espouses a weaker form of force conventionalism than does Austin in leaving open the possibility that some speech acts can be performed without constitutive rules; Searle considers the case of a dog requesting to be let outside (1969, p. 39). Nevertheless Searle does contend that speech acts are characteristically performed by invoking constitutive rules.

Millikan (1998) espouses a parsimonious conception of conventions that she terms ‘natural conventions,’ and on the assumption that natural conventions are a type of convention, one would expect this strategy to make it easier to defend the view that speech acts are inherently conventional. For Millikan, a natural convention is constituted by patterns that are reproduced by virtue of the weight of precedent. [ 11 ] A pattern is reproduced just in case it has a form that derives from a previous entity having, in certain respects, the same form, and in such a way that had the previous form been different in those respects, the current form would be different in those respects as well (1998, p. 163). Photocopying is one form of reproduction meeting these criteria; the retinotopic mapping from patterns of stimulation on the retina to patterns of stimulation in the visual cortex is evidently another. Millikan would not treat retinotopic mapping as a type of convention, however, since it would not seem to be perpetuated by virtue of the weight of precedent. The point is difficult to discern, however, since in her discussion of the matter Millikan discusses the conditions under which a pattern is taken to be conventional, rather than for it to be conventional, writing

To be thought of as conventional, a reproduced pattern must be perceived as proliferated due, in important part, to weight of precedent, not to its intrinsically superior capacity to produce a desired result, or due, say, to ignorance of alternatives (ibid, p. 166).

Millikan thus seems to characterize what it is for a pattern to have weight of precedent in terms of that pattern’s being perceived to have such weight. This notion is not itself elucidated, and as a result the notion of weight of precedent is left obscure in her account. Nonetheless, she tells us that just as the conventions of chess dictate that when one’s king is in check, one does what one can to get him out of check; so too the conventions of language dictate that when A tells B that p , B responds by believing that p . Millikan describes the hearer’s response as a hidden, inner act that is not under B ’s voluntary control. Millikan also describes this response as being learned in the way that we learn what she calls “natural sign patterns,” such as our learning that the sound of crashing waves is an indication of a nearby coastline.

On Millikan’s view, then, A ’s assertion of p being followed by B ’s belief that p is a process that is not intrinsically superior to others that might have been followed. This may be doubted, however. What, after, all would be viable alternative responses? Dis believing p ? Remaining neutral on the question of p ? Scratching one’s left earlobe? Any of these responses would tend to undermine the use of language as a means for transmission of information. What is more, if belief formation is not under the voluntary control of addressees, it is obscure how this aspect of communication could be conventional, any more than the pattern of stimulation of our visual cortex is conventional when that pattern results from an isomorphic pattern on the retina.

4.3. An Intentionalist Alternative to Force Conventionalism

Force-conventionalism as espoused by Austin and later Searle has been challenged by Strawson , who writes,

I do not want to deny that there may be conventional postures or procedures for entreating: one can, for example, kneel down, raise one’s arms, and say, “I entreat you.” But I do want to deny that an act of entreaty can be performed only as conforming to such conventions….[T]o suppose that there is always and necessarily a convention conformed to would be like supposing that there could be no love affairs which did not proceed on lines laid down in the Roman de la Rose or that every dispute between men must follow the pattern specified in Touchstone’s speech about the countercheck quarrelsome and the lie direct. (1964, p. 444)

Strawson contends that rather than appealing to a series of extra-semantic conventions to account for the possibility of speech acts, we explain that possibility in terms of our ability to discern one another’s communicative intentions. What makes an utterance of a sentence in the indicative mood a prediction rather than a command, for instance, is that it manifests an intention to be so taken; likewise for promises rather than predictions. This position is compatible with holding that in special cases linguistic communities have instituted conventions for particular speech acts such as appointing and excommunicating. So too, as Skinner (1970) observes, understanding the utterances of an historical figure crucially depends on sensitivity to conventions of the society in which they are made.

Intending to make an assertion, promise, or request, however, is not enough to perform one of these acts. Those intentions must be efficacious. The same point applies to cases of trying to perform a speech act, even when what one is trying to do is clear to others. This fact emerges from reflecting on an oft-quoted passage from Searle:

Human communication has some extraordinary properties, not shared by most other kinds of human behavior. One of the most extraordinary is this: If I am trying to tell someone something, then (assuming certain conditions are satisfied) as soon as he recognizes that I am trying to tell him something and exactly what it is I am trying to tell him, I have succeeded in telling it to him. (1969, p. 47.)

As Green 2013 observes, the point may be doubted. Suppose I am trying to work up the courage to ask Sidney’s hand in marriage. Sidney recognizes this fact on the basis of background knowledge, my visible embarrassment, and my fumbling in my pocket for an engagement ring. Here we cannot infer that I have succeeded in asking Sidney anything. Nothing short of coming out and saying it will do. Similarly, it might be common knowledge that my moribund uncle is trying, as he breathes his last, to bequeath me his fortune; still, I won’t inherit a penny if he expires before saying what he was trying to. [ 12 ] Closer to Searle’s example, even if you were to find, on the basis of fMRI analysis of my neural activity, that I was trying to tell you that it’s going to rain tomorrow, I still have not asserted anything about tomorrow’s weather. (If I were completely paralyzed as a result of Locked-In Syndrome, then making such a neural effort might be the most I can hope to do; in that case, your fMRI information might be enough to justify you in taking me to have performed a speech act.)

The gist of these examples is not the requirement that words be uttered in every speech act—we have already observed that speech acts can be performed silently. Rather, their gist is that speech acts involve intentional undertaking of a publicly accessible commitment; further, that commitment is not undertaken simply by virtue of my intending to undertake it, even when it is common knowledge that this is what I am trying to do. Can we, however, give a more illuminating characterization of the relevant intentions than merely saying that, for instance, to assert P one must intentionally put forth P as an assertion? Strawson (1964) proposes that we can do so with aid of the notion of speaker meaning—to which we now turn.

5. Speaker-Meaning and Force

As we have seen, that A is an important component of communication, and that A underdetermines B , do not justify the conclusion that B is an important component of communication. One reason for an asymmetry in our treatment of force and decibel level is that the former, but not the latter, seems crucial to how I mean what I say. I intend to speak at a certain volume, and sometimes succeed, but in most cases it is no part of how I mean what I say that I happen to be speaking at that volume. On the other hand, the force of my utterance is an aspect of what I mean. It is not, as we have seen, any aspect of what I say—that notion being closely associated with content. However, whether I mean what I say as an assertion, a conjecture, a promise or something else will be crucial to how I mean what I do.

In his influential 1957 article, Grice distinguished between two uses of ‘mean’. One use is exemplified by remarks such as ‘Those clouds mean rain,’ and ‘Those spots mean measles.’ The notion of meaning in play in such cases Grice dubs ‘natural meaning’. Grice suggests that we may distinguish this use of ‘mean’ from another use of the word more relevant to communication, exemplified in such utterances as

In saying “You make a better door than a window”, George meant that you should move,
In gesticulating that way, Salvatore means that there’s quicksand over there,

Grice used the term ‘non-natural meaning’ for this use of ‘mean’, and in more recent literature this jargon has been replaced with the term ‘speaker meaning’. [ 13 ] After distinguishing between natural and (what we shall hereafter call) speaker meaning, Grice attempts to characterize the latter. It is not enough that I do something that influences the beliefs of an observer: In putting on a coat I might lead an observer to conclude that I am going for a walk. Yet in such a case it is not plausible that I mean that I am going for a walk in the sense germane to speaker meaning. Might performing an action with an intention of influencing someone’s beliefs be sufficient for speaker meaning? No: I might secretly leave Smith’s handkerchief at the crime scene to make the police think that Smith is the culprit. However, whether or not I am successful in getting the authorities to think that Smith is the culprit, in this case it is not plausible that I mean that Smith is the culprit.

What is missing in the handkerchief example is the element of overtness. This suggests another criterion: Performing an action with the, or an, intention of influencing someone’s beliefs, while intending that this very intention be recognized. Grice contends that even here we do not have enough for speaker meaning. Herod presents Salome with St. John’s severed head on a charger, intending that she discern that St. John is dead and intending that this very intention of his be recognized. Grice observes that in so doing Herod is not telling Salome anything, but is instead deliberately and openly letting her know something. Grice concludes that Herod’s action is not a case of speaker meaning either. The problem is not that Herod is not using words; we have already considered communicators who mean things wordlessly. The problem seems to be that to infer what Herod intends her to, Salome does not have to take his word for anything. She can see the severed head for herself if she can bring herself to look. By contrast, in its central uses, telling requires a speaker to intend to convey information (or alleged information) in a way that relies crucially upon taking her at her word. Grice appears to assume that at least for the case in which what is meant is a proposition (rather than a question or an imperative), speaker meaning requires a telling in this central sense. What is more, this last example is a case of performing an action with an intention of influencing someone’s beliefs, even while intending that this very intention be recognized; yet it is not a case of telling. Grice infers that it is not a case of speaker meaning either.

Grice holds that for speaker meaning to occur, not only must one (a) intend to produce an effect on an audience, and (b) intend that this very intention be recognized by that audience, but also (c) intend this effect on the audience to be produced at least in part by their recognition of the speaker’s intention. The intention to produce a belief or other attitude by means (at least in part) of recognition of this very intention, has come to be called a reflexive communicative intention .

It may be doubted that speaker meaning requires reflexive communicative intentions. After all, a mathematics teacher who proves a theorem T for her class likely wants her pupils to believe T on the strength of her proof rather than their recognition of her intention that they come to believe T. (Vlach 1981) It may even be doubted that speaker meaning requires intentions to produce cognitive effects on addressees at all: Davis (1992) provides a range of cases such as speaking to pre-linguistic infants, uncooperative photocopy machines, and photos of deceased loved ones. [ 14 ] , [ 15 ] Instead of intentions to produce psychological effects in an addressee, some authors have advocated a construal of speaker meaning as overtly manifesting an aspect of one’s commitments or state of mind (Green 2019). Compare my going to the closet to take out my overcoat (not a case of speaker meaning), with the following case: After heatedly arguing about the weather, I march to the closet while beadily meeting your stare, then storm out the front door while ostentatiously donning the coat. Here it is more plausible that I mean that it is raining outside, and the reason seems to be that I am making some attitude of mine overt: I am not only showing it, I am making clear my intention to do just that.

How does this detour through speaker meaning help to elucidate the notion of force? One way of asserting that P , it seems, is overtly to manifest my commitment to P , and indeed commitment of a particular kind: commitment to defend P in response to challenges of the form, “How do you know that?” I must also overtly manifest my liability to be either right or wrong on the issue of P depending on whether P is the case. By contrast, I conjecture P by overtly manifesting my commitment to P in this same “liability to error” way, but I am not committed to responding to challenges demanding full justification. I must, however, give some reason for believing P ; this much cannot, however, be said of a guess.

We perform a speech act, then, when we overtly commit ourselves in a certain way to a content—where that way is an aspect of how we speaker-mean that content. One way to do that is to invoke a convention for undertaking commitment; another way is overtly to manifest one’s intention to be so committed. We may elucidate the relevant forms of commitment by spelling out the norms underlying them. We have already adumbrated such an approach in our discussion of the differences among asserting and conjecturing. Developing that discussion a bit further, compare

  • conjecturing

All three of these acts have word-to-world direction of fit, and all three have conditions of satisfaction mandating that they are satisfied just in case the world is as their content says it is. Further, one who asserts, conjectures, or guesses that P is right or wrong on the issue of P depending on whether P is in fact so. However, as we move down the list we find a decreasing order of stringency in commitment. One who asserts P lays herself open to the challenge, “How do you know that?”, and she is obliged to retract P if she is unable to respond to that challenge adequately. By contrast, this challenge is inappropriate for either a conjecture or a guess. On the other hand, we may justifiably demand of the conjecturer that she give some reason for her conjecture; yet not even this much may be said of one who makes a guess. (The “educated guess” is intermediate between these two cases.)

This illocutionary dimension of speaker meaning characterizes not what is meant, but rather how it is meant. Just as we may consider your remark, directed toward me, “You’re tired,” and my remark, “I’m tired,” as having said the same thing but in different ways; so too we may consider my assertion of P , followed by a retraction and then followed by a conjecture of P , as two consecutive cases in which I speaker-mean that P but do so in different ways. This idea will be developed further in Section 8 under the rubric of “mode” of illocutionary commitment. [ 16 ]

Speaker meaning, then, encompasses not just content but also force, and we may elucidate this in light of the normative structure characteristic of each speech act: When you overtly display a commitment characteristic of that speech act, you have performed that speech act. Is this a necessary condition as well? That depends on whether I can perform a speech act without intending to do so—a topic for Section 9 below. For now, however, compare the view at which we have arrived with Searle’s view that one performs a speech act when others become aware of one’s intention to perform that act. What is missing from Searle’s characterization is the notion of overtness: The agent in question must not only make her intention to undertake a certain commitment manifest; she must also intend that that very intention be manifest. There is more to overtness than wearing one’s heart (or mind) on one’s sleeve.

6. Force, Norms, and Conversation

In elucidating this normative dimension of force, we have sought to characterize speech acts in terms of their conversational roles. That is not to say that speech acts can only be performed in the setting of a conversation: I can approach you, point out that your vehicle is blocking mine, and storm off. Here I have made an assertion but have not engaged in a conversation. Perhaps I can ask myself a question in the privacy of my study and leave it at that–not continuing into a conversation with myself. However, a speech act’s “ecological niche” may nevertheless be the conversation. In that spirit, while we may be able to remove a speech act type from its environment and scrutinize it in isolated captivity, doing so may blind us to some of its distinctive features.

This ecological analogy sheds light on a dispute over the question whether speech acts can profitably be studied in isolation from the conversations in which they occur. An empiricist framework, exemplified in John Stuart Mill’s A System of Logic , suggests attempting to discern the meaning of a word, for instance a proper name, in isolation. By contrast, Gottlob Frege (1884) enjoins us to understand a word’s meaning in terms of the contribution it makes to an entire sentence. Such a method is indispensable for a proper treatment of such expressions as quantifiers, and represents a major advance over empiricist approaches. Yet students of speech acts have espoused going even further, insisting that the unit of significance is not the proposition but the speech act. Vanderveken writes,

Illocutionary acts are important for the purpose of philosophical semantics because they are the primary units of meaning in the use and comprehension of natural language. (Vanderveken, 1990, p. 1.)

Why not go even further, since speech acts characteristically occur in conversations? Is the unit of significance really the debate, the colloquy, the interrogation?

Students of conversation analysis have contended precisely this, remarking that many speech acts fall naturally into pairs. [ 17 ] For instance, questions pair naturally with assertions when the latter purport to be answers to those questions. Likewise, offers pair naturally with acceptances or rejections, and it is easy to multiply examples. Searle, who favors studying speech acts in isolation, has replied to these considerations (Searle 1992). There he issues a challenge to students of conversation to provide an account of conversations parallel to that of speech acts, arguing as well that the prospects for such an account are dim. One of his reasons is that unlike speech acts conversations do not as such have a point or purpose. Green 1999 rejoins that many conversations may indeed be construed in teleological terms. For instance, many conversations may be construed as aimed at answering a question, even when that question concerns something as banal as the afternoon’s weather or the location of the nearest subway station. Asher and Lascardes (2003) develop a systematic treatment of speech acts in their conversational setting that also responds to Searle’s challenge. Additionally, Roberts (2004, 2012) develops a model of conversational kinematics according to which conversations are invariably aimed at answering what she terms a question under discussion (QUD). This view is best appreciated within the framework of the “scorekeeping model” of conversation, to which we now turn.

Much literature concerned with speech acts is curiously disconnected from research in the semantics of natural language emphasizing pragmatic factors. For instance, Stalnaker (1972, 1973, 1974), Lewis (1979, 1980), Thomason (1990) and others have developed models of the kinematics of conversations aimed at understanding the role of quantification, presupposition (both semantic and pragmatic), anaphora, deixis, and vagueness in discourse. Such models typically construe conversations as involving an ever-developing set of Propositions that can be presupposed by interlocutors. This set of Propositions is the conversational common ground , defined as that set of Propositions that all interlocutors take to be true, while also taking it that all other interlocutors take them to be true. If a Proposition p is in a conversation’s common ground, then a speaker may felicitously presuppose p’s truth. Suppose then that the Proposition that Singapore has a unique King is in a conversation’s common ground at given point; then a speaker may felicitously utter a sentence such as ‘The present King of Singapore is wise,’ or ‘Singapore’s king is sleeping’. Other parameters characterizing a conversation at a given point include the domain of discourse, a set of salient perceptible objects, standards of precision, time, world or situation, speaker, and addressee. The set of all values for these items at a given conversational moment is often referred to as “conversational score”.

“Scorekeeping” approaches to language use typically construe a contribution to a conversation as a Proposition: If that “assertion” is accepted, then the score is updated by having the Proposition entered into common ground. In this spirit, MacFarlane (2011) considers an account of the speech act of assertion in terms an utterance’s capacity to update conversational score. Such an approach will, however, face a difficulty in explaining how two speech acts with the same content, such as an assertion that the Milky Way contains a black hole, and a conjecture that it does, will make different conversational contributions. An enrichment of the scorekeeping model would include sensitivity to differences such as these.

Another development in the scorekeeping model refines the teleological picture adumbrated above to incorporate Questions, construed (along the lines of Section 2.1) as sets of Propositions. When an interlocutor proffers an assertion that is not met with objections by others in the conversation, the Propositional content of that illocution will enter into common ground. When an interlocutor poses a question that is accepted by others, we may represent the change as an addition to Common Ground of the set of propositions that is the Interrogative content of that illocution. The presence of that Interrogative obliges interlocutors to work to rule all but one Proposition that is a complete answer to the Interrogative. Because Interrogatives stand in inferential relations to one another (Q1 entails Q2 just in case any answer to Q1 is an answer to Q2), one strategy for answering a question is to divide it into tractable questions that it entails: ‘How many covered bridges are there in Japan?’ can be answered by answering that question for each of that country’s 47 prefectures. Roberts (2004, 2012) develops the Question Under Discussion model of conversational dynamics according to which common ground contains a partially ordered set of Interrogatives in addition to a set of Propositions. This teleological approach to conversation bids fair to enrich our understanding of the relations of speech acts to other central topics within pragmatics such as presupposition and implicature. [ 18 ]

Frege’s Begriffsschrift (1879) constitutes history’s first thoroughgoing attempt to formulate a rigorous formal system in which to carry out deductive reasoning. However, Frege did not see his Begriffsschrift as merely a tool for assessing the validity of arguments. Rather, he appears to have seen it as an organon for the acquisition of knowledge from unquestionable first principles; in addition he wanted to use it in order to help make clear the epistemic foundations on which our knowledge rests. To this end his formal system contains not only symbols indicating the content of propositions (including logical constants), but also symbols indicating the force with which they are put forth. In particular, Frege insists that when using his formal system to acquire new knowledge from propositions already known, we use an assertion sign to indicate our acknowledgment of the truth of the proposition used as axioms or inferred therefrom. Frege thus employs what would now be called a force indicator : an expression whose use indicates the force with which an associated proposition is being put forth (Green 2002).

Reichenbach expands upon Frege’s idea in his 1947. In addition to using an assertion sign, Reichenbach also uses indicators of interrogative and imperatival force. Hare similarly introduces force indicators to lay bare the way in which ethical and cognate utterances are made (Hare 1970). Davidson (1979), however, challenges the value of this entire enterprise of introducing force-indicating devices into languages, formal or otherwise. Davidson’s reason is that since natural language already contains many devices for indicating the force of one’s speech act, the only interest a force indicator could have would be if it could guarantee the force of one’s speech act. But nothing could do this: Any device purporting to be, say, an infallible indicator of assertoric force is liable to being used by a joker or actor to heighten the realism of their performance. Referring to the putative force-indicating device as a ‘strengthened mood,’ he writes,

It is apparent that merely speaking the sentence in the strengthened mood cannot be counted on to result in an assertion: every joker, storyteller, and actor will immediately take advantage of the strengthened mood to simulate assertion. There is no point, then, in the strengthened mood; the available indicative does as well as language can do in the service of assertion (Davidson 1979, p. 311).

Hare 1989 replies that there could be a society with a convention that utterance of a certain expression constituted performance of a certain illocutionary act, even those utterances that occur on stage or as used by jokers or storytellers. Green 1997 questions the relevance of this observation to asserting, which as we have seen, which as we have seen, seem to require intentions for their performance. Just as no convention could make it the case that I believe that P , so too no convention could make it the case that I intend to put forth a certain sentence as an assertion.

On the other hand, Green 1997 and Green 2000 also observe that even if there can be no force indicator in the sense Davidson criticizes, nothing prevents natural language from containing devices that indicate force conditional upon one’s performing a speech act: such a force indicator would not show whether one is performing a speech act, but, given that one is doing so, it would show which speech act one is performing. For instance, parenthetical expressions such as, ‘as is the case’ can occur in the antecedent of conditionals, as in: ‘If, as is the case, the globe is warming, then Antarctica will melt.’ Use of the parenthetical cannot guarantee that the sentence or any part of it is being asserted, but if the entire sentence is being asserted, then, Green claims, use of the parenthetical guarantees that the speaker is also committed to the content of the antecedent. If this claim is correct, natural language already contains force indicators in this qualified sense. Whether it is worth introducing such force indicators into a logical notation remains an open question.

Subsequent to Austin’s introduction of the notion of a performative, it has also been suggested that what we might call performative sentential frames behave like force indicators: ‘I claim that it is sunny,’ seems to be a prolix way of saying that it is sunny, where the ‘I claim’ seems only to indicate how what follows is to be taken. On the approach of Urmson (1952), for instance, such a sentence should be understood on the model of ‘It is sunny, I claim.’ Support for such an analysis may be found in the fact that a potential reply to that utterance is ‘No it isn’t; it’s pouring outside!’, while ‘No you don’t’ is not. Again, if the speaker does not believe it is sunny outside, she cannot dodge, she cannot dodge the accusation of lying by remarking that what she had asserted was that she claimed that it is sunny, and not anything about the weather.

Nonetheless, drawing on Cohen 1964, Lycan 2018 objects to the view that such performative frames make no contribution to sentence or utterance meaning. If Marissa felicitously utters, ‘I claim that it is sunny,’ while Abdul felicitously utters, ‘I conjecture that it is sunny,’ the view implies that their utterances mean the same. The two speakers have clearly said different things, however. On the other hand, if we hold that the performative frame does contribute to the content of what Marissa and Abdul said, then, Lycan points out, it will be difficult to explain how their utterances commit either of them to any position about the weather. It evidently won’t do to posit inference rules such as ‘I state that p ,‘ ergo , ‘ p ’. We will consider a solution to what Lycan terms “Cohen’s Problem” after developing a notion of illocutionary inference in the next section.

Students of speech acts contend, as we have seen, that the unit of communicative significance is the Illocution rather than the Proposition. This attitude prompts the question whether logic itself might be enriched by incorporating inferential relations among speech acts rather than just inferential relations among Propositions. Just as two event-types E 1 and E 2 (such as running quickly and running) could be logically related to one another in that it is not possible for one to occur without the other; so too speech act types S 1 and S 2 could be inferentially related to one another if it is not possible to perform one without performing the other. A warning that the bull is about to charge is also an assertion that the bull is about to charge but the converse is not true. This is in spite of the fact that these two speech acts have the same propositional content: That the bull is about to charge. If, therefore, warning implies asserting but not vice versa, then that inferential relation is not to be caught within the net of inferential relations among propositions.

In their Foundations of Illocutionary Logic (1985), Searle and Vanderveken attempt a general treatment of logical relations among speech acts. They describe their central question in terms of commitment:

A theory of illocutionary logic of the sort we are describing is essentially a theory of illocutionary commitment as determined by illocutionary force. The single most important question it must answer is this: Given that a speaker in a certain context of utterance performs a successful illocutionary act of a certain form, what other illocutions does the performance of that act commit him to? (1985, p. 6)

To explicate their notion of illocutionary commitment, these authors invoke their definition of illocutionary force in terms of the seven values mentioned in Section 2.3 above. On the basis of this definition, they define two notions pertinent to entailment relations among speech acts, namely strong illocutionary commitment and weak illocutionary commitment . According to the former definition, an illocutionary act S 1 commits a speaker to another illocutionary act S 2 iff it is not possible to perform S 1 without performing S 2 . Whether that relation holds between a pair of illocutionary acts depends on the particular septuples with which they are identified. Thus suppose that S 1 is identical with <IP 1 , Str 1 , Mode 1 , Cont 1 , Prep 1 , Sinc 1 , Stresinc 1 > (corresponding to illocutionary point, strength, mode of achievement, propositional content, preparatory condition, sincerity condition, and strength of sincerity condition, respectively); and suppose that S 2 is identical with <IP 1 , Str 2 , Mode 1 , Cont 1 , Prep 1 , Sinc 1 , Stresinc 1 >. Suppose further that Str 1 and Str 2 differ only in that 1 is stronger than 2. Then it will not be possible to perform S 1 without performing S 2 ; whence the former strongly illocutionarily implies the latter. (This definition of strong illocutionary commitment generalizes in a straightforward way to the case in which a set of speech acts S 1 , …, S n −1 implies a speech act S n .)

Searle and Vanderveken also define a notion of weak illocutionary commitment such that S 1 weakly illocutionarily implies S 2 iff every performance of S 1 commits an agent to meeting the conditions laid down in the septuple identical to S 2 (1985, p. 24). Searle and Vanderveken infer that this implies that if P logically entails Q , and an agent asserts P , then she is committed to believing that Q . These authors stress, however, that this does not mean that the agent who asserts P is committed to cultivating the belief Q when P implies Q . In lieu of that explication, however, it is unclear just what notion of commitment is at issue. It is unclear, for instance, what it could mean to be committed to believing Q (rather than just being committed to Q ) if this is not to be explicated as being committed to cultivating the belief that Q .

Other approaches attempt to circumvent such problems by reductively defining the notion of commitment in terms of obligations to action and liability to error and/or vindication. Performance of a speech act or set of speech acts can commit an agent to a distinct content, and do so relative to some force. If P and Q jointly imply R , then my asserting both P and Q commits me to R . That is not to say that I have also asserted R : if assertion were closed under deductive consequence I would assert infinitely many things just by virtue of asserting one. By contrast, if I conjecture P and Q , then I am once again committed to R but not in the way that I would have been had I asserted P and Q . For instance, in the assertion case, once my further commitment to R is made clear, it is within the rights of my addressee to ask how I know that R holds; this would not have been an acceptable reply to my merely conjecturing P and Q . Developing this theme, let S be an arbitrary speaker, <Δ l A l , …, Δ n A n , Δ B > a sequence of force/content pairs; then:

<Δ l A l , …, Δ n A n , Δ B > is illocutionarily valid iff if speaker S is committed to each A i under mode Δ i , then S is committed to B under mode Δ. [ 19 ]

Because it concerns what force/content pairs commit an agent to what others, illocutionary validity is an essentially deontic notion: It will be cashed out in terms either of obligation to use a content in a certain way conversationally, or liability to error or vindication depending upon how the world is.

Our discussion of the possibility of an illocutionary logic answers one question posed at the end of Section 6.3, namely whether it is possible to perform a speech act without intending to do so. This seems likely given Searle and Vanderveken’s definition of strong illocutionary commitment: We need only imagine an agent performing some large number of speech acts, S 1 , …, S n −1 , which, unbeknownst to her, jointly guarantee that she fulfills the seven conditions defining another speech act S n . Even in such a case she performs S n only by virtue of intentionally performing some other set of speech acts S 1 , …, S n −1 ; it is difficult to see how one can perform S n while having no intention of performing a speech act at all.

We are also in a position to make headway on Cohen’s Problem as formulated by Lycan. As argued in Green 2000, in an assertion of ‘I (hereby) assert that p ’, a speaker commits herself to p even though her words do not logically entail that Proposition; nor do they presuppose, or either conversationally or conventionally imply it. They do, however, illocutionarily entail it: anyone committed to ‘I assert that p ’ assertorically is thereby committed to p assertorically. By contrast, one committed to ‘I assert that p ’ as a supposition for the sake of argument is not thereby committed to p . Accordingly, such a phrase as ‘I assert that’ is semantically opaque (making a non-trivial contribution to the truth conditions of the sentences in which it occurs) but pragmatically transparent in the sense that a speaker who undertakes assertoric commitment to a sentence in which it has widest scope is also assertorically committed to its complement. Analogous remarks apply to ‘I conjecture that’ and the like.

In a paradigmatic illocutionary event, a speaker has a choice of which if any speech act to perform and her addressee will do her charitable best to discern that speaker’s intentions and, where necessary, which conventions she may be invoking. Pratt (1986) observes that this paradigm is not true to the facts of many areas of communicative life, writing

An account of linguistic interaction based on the idea of exchange glosses over the very basic facts that, to put it crudely, some people get to do more talking than others, some are supposed to do more listening, and not everybody’s words are worth the same. (1986, p. 68)

Although Pratt intends this remark as a critique of speech act theory, it also suggests a way in which this theory might shed light on subtle forms of oppression. We saw in Section 2.2 that a putative bet can misfire if it is not accepted. In such a case the speaker attempts to bet but fails in that effort due to a lack of audience uptake. So too, a person may not be in the correct social position to, say, excommunicate or appoint, and her attempts to perform such illocutions will misfire. More momentously, a pattern of abuses of speech act institutions might deprive a person of an ability to perform speech acts: the inveterate promise-breaker will, in time, lead others in his community to be unwilling to accept any promises he tries to make. He can perform countless locutionary acts but will be unable to perform the illocutionary act of promising, at least in this community.

A pattern of culpable behavior could make a speaker unable to perform one speech act type. Could a pattern of culpable behavior–intentional or inadvertent—on the part of others in a speaker’s community achieve the same effect? This could happen if enough such speakers decide never to accept one person’s bets, warnings, or promises. Beyond such hypothetical cases, it has been argued that patterns of social inequality can prevent members of certain groups from performing the speech acts they would choose to. Building on and refining McKinnon’s (1993) claim that pornography silences women, Langton (1993), and Hornsby and Langton (1998) argue that the industry and consumption of pornography deprive women of the ability to perform the speech act of refusing sexual advances. Refusing is a speech act, but if large enough numbers of men deny uptake (with such thoughts as, “By ‘no’ she really means ‘yes’,” etc.) then, these authors argue, women’s attempts to refuse sexual advances will be characteristically inert with respect to the speech act of refusal. Women will still be able to attempt to refuse sexual advances, and can still try to prevent them by physical means, but a crucial illocutionary form of protection will be closed to them. So too, apartheid, Jim Crow, and even patterns of discrimination of which the perpetrators are not consciously aware, can deprive racial, religious, and ethnic minority groups of the ability to perform speech-act types requiring uptake. These phenomena are generally referred to as illocutionary silencing .

Bird (2002) denies that the speech act of refusal requires uptake. Such an illocution is, he contends, like inviting and surrendering, which can occur whether or not their intended audiences grasp or accept the proffered illocutions. Similarly denying that the “silencing” argument should be cast in terms of speech acts, Maitra 2009 argues that the institution of pornography prevents speaker-meant instances of refusal from being understood. One can speaker-mean that she refuses, for instance, but patterns of cognitive and affective response will systematically prevent that refusal from being grasped. Broadening the scope of investigations of the interaction of injustice and illocutionary phenomena, McGowan 2009 argues that some speech acts can not only cause but also constitute instances of oppression. Anderson, Haslanger and Langton (2012) provide overviews of research on racial, gender and related forms of oppression as they relate to speech acts.

Although not inherently culpable, the practice of dogwhistling has also recently gained the interest of theorists of speech acts. As suggested by the metaphor, an agent dogwhistles just in case one or more dimensions of a speech act she performs is readily intelligible only to a proper subset of her addressees. Saul 2018 notes that in contemporary American politics, stating one’s opposition to the Supreme Court case of Dred Scott seems to be a way of signaling one’s anti-abortion sympathies. For those not in the know, however, a speaker’s opposition to the Dred Scott appears to be an uncontroversial act of rejecting racism. The phenomenon of dogwhistling provides an apparent challenge to conceptions of speaker meaning in terms of overtness, since the dogwhistler would seem to speaker mean a content that is cryptic to all but her insider audience: is her utterance both overt and covert? Instead of adopting such a view, one who construes speech acts in terms of overtness could refine the notion of manifestness occuring in her account. What is manifest to one addressee may not be manifest to another, and a speaker may exploit this fact. Accordingly, someone who avows, “I’m against Dred Scott,” may speaker-mean that she is both against Dred Scott and pro-life to one part of her audience, but only that she is against Dred Scott to another part.

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  • –––, 1993. ‘Mood, force and convention,’ in his The Seas of Language (Oxford: Oxford University Press), pp. 202–23.
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How to cite this entry . Preview the PDF version of this entry at the Friends of the SEP Society . Look up topics and thinkers related to this entry at the Internet Philosophy Ontology Project (InPhO). Enhanced bibliography for this entry at PhilPapers , with links to its database.
  • Research project in the philosophy of language , maintained at the University of Berne, Switzerland. This site is devoted to some main themes of research stemming from Grices’ work on speaker meaning and implicature.
  • Working Papers in Linguistics , University College London.
  • Question Under Discussion , collecting research germane to this approach to conversational kinematics. .
  • ‘ Toward a history of speech act theory ,’ a paper by Barry Smith (SUNY/Buffalo).
  • ‘ J.L. Austin ,’ an annotated bibliography by Guy Longworth, Oxford Bibliographies Online .
  • ‘ Pragmatics ,’ an annotated bibliography by Mitchell S. Green, Oxford Bibliographies Online .

anaphora | assertion | Frege, Gottlob | Grice, Paul | implicature | meaning, theories of | pragmatics | presupposition | propositional attitude reports | propositions | vagueness

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a speech event meaning

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a speech event meaning

Book contents

  • The Cambridge Handbook of the Philosophy of Language
  • Cambridge Handbooks in Language and Linguistics
  • Copyright page
  • Contributors
  • 1 Philosophy of Language: Definitions, Disciplines, and Approaches
  • Part I The Past, Present, and Future of Philosophy of Language
  • Part II Some Foundational Issues
  • Part III From Truth to Vagueness
  • Part IV Issues in Semantics and Pragmatics
  • 17 Entailment, Presupposition, Implicature
  • 18 Speech Acts, Actions, and Events
  • 19 Propositions, Predication, and Assertion
  • 20 Events in Semantics
  • 21 Semantics and Generative Grammar
  • 22 Metasemantics: A Normative Perspective (and the Case of Mood)
  • 23 The Normativity of Meaning and Content
  • 24 The Semantics and Pragmatics of Value Judgments
  • 25 Slurs: Semantic and Pragmatic Theories of Meaning
  • Part V Philosophical Implications and Linguistic Theories
  • Part VI Some Extensions

18 - Speech Acts, Actions, and Events

from Part IV - Issues in Semantics and Pragmatics

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 November 2021

The study of speech acts began with Austin and was prefigured by Wittgenstein. 1 While Frege and Russell focused primarily on the semantics of the expressions of the artificial, formal languages used in logic and mathematics (to articulate truth-apt statements and theories), 2 Wittgenstein (in his later work) drew our attention to the variety of uses to which the expressions of ordinary, naturally occurring languages are put. One technique that he employed for doing so was to describe a number of different “language games” – i.e. “ways of using signs simpler than those in which we use the signs of our highly complicated everyday language” (1969: 17).

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  • Speech Acts, Actions, and Events
  • By Brian Ball
  • Edited by Piotr Stalmaszczyk
  • Book: The Cambridge Handbook of the Philosophy of Language
  • Online publication: 12 November 2021
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108698283.019

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The Components of Speech Events and Speech Situation

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The use of linguistics has become an important part of the teaching and learning process in and out of the class. It gives knowledge of the rules which controls of language as a system of communication.The speech events are motivating because the contextual factors relation includes. Knowing only grammar is not enough. So language must be appropriate to the condition and contributors. Although people from different social groups interrelate differently, the participants in each group are expected to adopt a specific "way of speaking". The use of language allows one to maintain relationship with other people in an interaction. However, language is a complex phenomenon. In other words, it is not enough just to recognize the meaning of the sentences spoken, but the context of situation and the context of the culture must be tacit, such as it is public or private, formalor informal, whois being spoken, and who might be hear the sentences.By studying sociolinguistics, we can interact politely studying and appropriately in social situations.

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a speech event meaning

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Pengajaranbahasaberkaitandengansosiolinguistikdalamberbagaicara. Faktorsosial yang berbedamempengaruhipengajarandanpembelajaranbahasa.Tulisaninimengkajihubunganantarasosialinguistikdanpengajaranbahasa.Beberapafaktorsosialsepertisituasikonteks, dan settingsosialmemilikiperandalampembelajaranbahasa.Sosiolinguistikmenjelaskantentangfaktor-faktorutama yang mempengaruhipemilihanlinguisticdanmenjelaskanseberapabaikpengajaransaatinidalammemanfaatkanfaktor-faktortersebut.Sosiolinguistikjugamenelaahberbagaivariasidalampenggunaanbahasayang digunakanoleh orang yang memilikiberbagaikarakter.

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Praise be to the presence of Allah SWT who has given grace and guidance so that we can complete the paper assignment entitled "The relationship between language and social context of society" on time. The aim of writing this paper is to fulfill the assignment of Mam Yuliana S. Pd, M.Pd in the Second Language Acquisition course. Apart from that, this paper also aims to increase insight into Sociolinguistics for readers and writers. We would like to thank Mam Yuliana S.Pd, M.Pd as the Lecturer in the Second Language Acquisition Course who has given us this assignment so that we can increase our knowledge and insight according to the field of study we are studying. We realize that the paper we wrote is still far from perfect. Therefore, we look forward to constructive criticism and suggestions for the perfection of this paper.

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Module 9: Informative Speaking

Informative speeches about events and people, learning objectives.

  • Identify characteristics of informative speeches about events.
  • Identify characteristics of informative speeches about people (biographical).
  • Identify characteristics of informative speeches about oneself (autobiographical).

Speeches about Events

Merriam Webster defines an event as “something that happens.” You might give a speech about an event that happens only once or rarely, such as a lunar eclipse, or an event that occurs on a regular schedule, such as the World Cup or an annual professional convention. Many event speeches tell the story of a historical event.

One of the most important considerations in speaking about events is the need to tailor the information to your audience and demonstrate why it might be meaningful for them.

In speaking about events—especially historical events—it can be all too easy to slip into a “just the facts” recounting of what happened. “Frederick I was king, then he died and Frederick William I was king; then he died and Frederick II was king; then he died and Frederick William II was king.” Clearly, this recounting doesn’t help us to understand why we should care about Prussian history.

To watch: Mary beard, What can ancient Rome Teach us about the Migrant Crisis?

In this short video, best-selling British Classicist Mary Beard talks about a number of events in ancient Rome. To make it directly meaningful to the modern audience, she compares Roman conceptions of the rights and obligations of citizenship to those of present-day Europe, especially in light of the thousands of displaced migrants entering Europe at the time by way of the Mediterranean Sea or through Southeast Europe.

You can view the transcript for “What can ancient Rome teach us about the migrant crisis? Mary Beard – Newsnight” here (opens in new window) .

Speaking about events: Press conferences

Press conferences offer many examples of informative speaking about events. Officials hold public health briefings to convey important steps listeners can take to keep themselves safe. Companies hold press conferences to talk about important changes or upcoming events. When mistakes or misdeeds come come to light, public figures or spokespeople might meet with the press to offer an explanation or an apology. After games, sports stars are asked to break down the events of the game, and offer some insight about their thinking and strategy. In each of these cases, the speaker tries to offer the appropriate level of detail and depth for the particular audience. In the following post-game interview with Stephen Curry, for instance, the audience is assumed to have seen the game immediately before, and to know a lot about the teams and the sport. (Curry’s interview also serves as an object lesson in dealing with distractions while speaking publicly!)

You can view the transcript for “Steph Curry’s Daughter Riley Steals the Show” here (opens in new window) .

Speeches about People (Biographical)

People, living or dead, can be excellent topics for an informative speech. You can speak about people who are well known to your audience, such as an athlete or celebrity, or someone not well known to your audience, such as a member of your family or an influential mentor of yours like a teacher or coach.

More often than not, a speech about a person is setting them up as an  exemplar ,  which is a way of describing a person or thing that provides an excellent—or at least highly informative—model or example of something. The exemplar doesn’t always have to be a good role model, but does have to demonstrate qualities that can be generalized. You can probably imagine people who illustrate what it is to be a moral person, a great athlete, an empathetic listener, a clever businessperson, or a corrupt politician. When you speak about a person, you’re often telling your audience what this person’s life or actions tell us about how to be a certain kind of human being in the world.

To Watch: Bill Gates, “The best teacher I never had”

In this short video, Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates talks about the physicist Richard Feynman. As the title suggests, Gates portrays Feynman as an exemplary great teacher.

You can view the transcript for “The best teacher I never had” here (opens in new window) .

Speeches about Oneself (Autobiographical)

A speech where you talk about an experience you had is an informative speech about yourself. For this type of speech, you have to remember that the speech is not just about who you are; it is about something you learned from an experience, how you changed from some event, or some growth experience. In some ways, this is the hardest part of the autobiographical speech: trying to build a speech that is about yourself but  for  the audience. Always ask yourself, how can your audience benefit from your experience? How can your story give the listeners a new line of sight into their own experiences?

To Watch: Jedida Isler, “The untapped genius that could change Science for the better”

In this speech, Jedida Isler talks about her experience of becoming an astrophysicist. However, she does much more than just tell her own story: Isler uses her experience to talk more generally about the concept of “intersectionality” and the remarkable events that happen at the intersection between two things.

You can view the transcript for “The Untapped Genius That Could Change Science for the Better | Jedidah Isler | TED Talks” here (opens in new window) .

What to watch for:

As much as this is an autobiographical speech, it is also a speech about concepts, in particular the extremely complex idea of intersectionality , which describes how aspects of a person’s identity intersect or combine to create different kinds of knowledge and experience, as well as creating complex situations of discrimination and privilege. In the speech, Isler talks about getting a PhD in physics as a Black woman, which required contending with intersecting systems of racism and sexism (at the time of this speech, only 18 other Black women had earned a PhD in a physics-related discipline). Yet, she reminds us, intersectionality is not just about making success doubly challenging. As a metaphor for the incredible productive forces generated at intersections, she talks about astrophysics and the birth of stars: “I’ve lived the entirety of my life in the in-between, in the liminal space between dreams and reality, race and gender, poverty and plenty, science and society. I am both black and a woman. Like the birth of stars in the heavens, this robust combination of knowing results in a shining example of the explosive fusion of identities.”

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  • Informative Speeches about Events and People. Authored by : Mike Randolph with Lumen Learning. License : CC BY: Attribution
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SPEECH&DEBATE ACADEMY

  • Oct 29, 2022

Speaker Points: The Ultimate Guide

Updated: Oct 29, 2022

By: Parlicademy Staff

They stare up at you from your tournament ballots. They sometimes can get you an extra trophy. But do they mean anything?

Here's a little guide to the world of 'speaks.'

a speech event meaning

Most tournaments have systems for scoring competitors beyond the "win/lose" or ranking system that typically composes the competition. These are speaker points , or speaks. However, there is no standardized set of rules for using speaks, so it varies heavily depending on the tournament and the judge.

This post will make the world of speaker points more understandable and hopefully help make it easier to win them!

#1 : What are Speaker Points?

#2 : speaker points in speech and debate.

#3: S o...How Do I Get Speaks?

The first rule of speaker points is that there are none. Speaker points are awarded entirely at the judge's discretion, with a few suggestions given as to each number's meaning. Traditionally, speaker points are awarded from 24-30, with 27 being average.

. The speaker has done something particularly egregious.

. The speaker is considerably worse than others.

. The speaker is less competent than others.

. The speaker is about the same than others.

. The speaker is more competent than others.

. The speaker displays considerable ability and is highly skillful.

. The speaker demonstrates extremely rare talent and has conducted a masterful performance.

However, it is worth noting that judges do not necessarily stick to this format. Technically, scores of 30 should only be awarded once or twice in an entire tournament, but some judges hand them out freely. Meanwhile, scores below 26 are generally unheard of, though they can occur.

Ultimately, speaks are almost completely judge-dependent. For instance, I have come across judges who say, "I give speaks ranging from 29 to 29.5" to "I think speaks are stupid and give everyone a 27 automatically."

Some tournaments give speaker awards for those with the highest scores or use speaker points to break ties for outrounds.

In a lot of speech tournaments, the range of speaks is from 19-25 instead of 24-30.

Speaker points in speech events are designed to create a more nuanced view of each competitor compared to the entire tournament rather than just that room. For example, if seven amazing speakers face off, one must come in last. Giving that competitor speaker points reflecting the excellence of their performance helps demonstrate their overall proficiency instead of how stiff their competition was.

Some speech competitions have speaker awards. However, they are most often used to break ties when breaking into elims.

Debate speaker points are often more important than speech because two teams face off against one another. Even two excellent teams who debate must come out with one as a winner, so speaker points help reward exceptional competitors.

On the other hand, if one team is less engaging/creative than another team but still manages to pull a victory, the judge could assign a low-point win . This is when the winning team has lower speaker points than the losers.

Speaks also help individual debaters to be compared to everyone in the round. If one debater is stronger than their partner, they could be awarded higher points.

Speaker awards more commonly are given at debate tournaments.

#3 : So...How Do I Get Speaks?

It all comes down to judging paradigms (read our comprehensive guide.) Aside from an explicit explanation of how that judge uses speaker points, focus on things they would like to see in round. While this may be less useful for pre-prepped events, limited-preparation speech or debate can really benefit from these adjustments.

Paying attention to what your judge likes is a good idea in general.

If there's nothing specific or the judge does not have a paradigm, ensure you are speaking confidently and eloquently (easy, am I right?) While it is difficult to master speaking on the fly, practice is the number one way to improve.

In the end, it is somewhat unclear whether or not speaks mean anything. They depend mostly on your judge and their personal methods, as well as a lack of standardization across the forensics board. We have honestly seen a tournament which did away with the 24-30 system entirely and instead used 1-100 points.

In reality, speaks are secondary to the main system of the tournament (ranking or wins/losses.) Don't judge your performance simply on the number of points you receive! Instead, use them as a guide and another form of feedback.

Don't forget to fill out the poll and tell us what you think of speaker points!

Speaks: Yay or Nay?

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Speech events in English Language

A speech event is what is going on, including both linguistic and non-linguistic activity that make up the context. Every speech event makes some demands on the participants as to the appropriate contribution required of them. Take for example a dialogue below:

A: Let me see your card

B: It’s not with me

A: And why do you think you’ll be treated without your card?

B: The nurse said I should come

A: Go back to the nurse and tell her to register you afresh

Anyone listening to this exchange would be able to recognise the kind of speech event it is as an encounter between a physician and a patient. It is also possible to understand why B’s answer: “the nurse said I should come” is the appropriate answer to A’s question “…why do you think you’ll be treated without your card?” You can see that B’s answer is a speech act that particularly relies on the function of the act in the speech event where a doctor thinks a patient had no right to treatment without a hospital card.

Table of Contents

Utterances in Speech Events

Speech events represent speech genres upon when linguistic choices are made. Here the form is defined in terms of the “style” or register prevalent in the event. Items such as “card”, “nurse”, or “treat” clearly define the speech event where the utterances are made. Look at another example:

Fry the onion and garlic gently in the butter or margarine until cooked but not browned. Add tomatoes, wine, seasoning, sugar and parsley, stir well and simmer gently 10 minutes. Drain the scampi well, add to the sauce and continue simmering for about 5 minutes, or until they are just heated through. Serve with crusty French bread, or boiled rice (Grundy 2000:169)

How would you describe the above text? Suggest a speech event where it occurred.

Utterances, either as words, phrases or sentences are linked with particular speech events or contexts in which they occur. We noted in Unit 11 that speech acts represent the intention of the speech and the function of the act itself. Again look at the following statements/interrogatives and try to identify the context in which they occurred or likely to occur and say what direct/indirect act each performs:

1. The chancellor is here again

2. The nurse said I should come

3. Mustapha’s men (are) still in the army

4. What matters is how you see yourself

5. Like I was telling us…

6. Women are now active political stakeholders

7. Are we all here?

8. Do I know you?

9. What’s your name by the way?

10. How are you doing?

Levinson (1979) proposes “activity type” rather than “speech event” because the latter implies that all acts constitute speaking. He defines activity type as a “goal defined, socially constituted, bounded, events constraints on the participants, setting and so on, but above all on the kinds of allowable contributions. Paradigm examples would be teaching, a job interview, a jural interrogation, a football game, a task in a workshop, a dinner party and so on.”

Levinson believes that what is important is that activity type is a “culturally recognised activity, whether or not that activity is co-extensive with a period of speech or indeed whether any talk takes place in it at all. A one-on-one conversation is an activity co-extensive with a period of speech while a football game is not. The function of any utterance depends on the meaning of words which differentiate the utterances as well as the role each utterance plays in the event (Levinson, 1979). The structure of the activity type/speech event therefore consists of the speech acts the utterances perform in the event.

Conversations as Speech Events

A conversation is like other speech events such as a radio interview, telephone exchange, career talks, debates, classroom event etc. In either of these events there are elements of organised turn-taking that demands certain types of contributions from participants. Each contribution to a talk exchange is purposeful and contributes significantly to the general anticipated outcome of the event. A conversation often satisfies Levinson’s cultural relevance criterion for speech activity.

In some conversations elements of code-switching usually occur where interlocutors employ certain culture-bound speech acts to drive home their intentions. In such conversations interactants are able to take some natural turns, employ their knowledge of the language system to convey their intentions, employ discourse strategies like hesitations, pauses, false starts, attention getters, slurs, fillers etc. and engage other language devices in conversation. Below are two conversations. Study them carefully, suggest the context of these events and try to examine some features of conversations as speech events. Pause in the B part of the conversations in marked by (.).

A: That’s really a beautiful dress

B: Thank you. I’m glad you like it

A: Would you like some more wine?

B: I beg your pardon?

B: Oh, er, no thank you. But perhaps you

could bring me a little orange juice?

A: Yes, of course

A: Here you are

B: Thank you

A: Would you like to dance?

B: Well, I’d love to, but I’m afraid I don’t know

how to tango

A: Actually, I think this is a waltz

B: I see, I’m afraid I don’t know how to waltz, either

A: Oh, do let me teach you (The New Cambridge English Course book 3)

A: You should eat first

B: I know what I want to eat (.)

A: What’s happened here (.) All the books on the shelf?

B: Your older books are in the second bedroom. I need the space for

A: Ezi okwu? You’ve really moved in, haven’t you?

B: Go and have a bath (.)

A: And what was that flowery scent on my good man?

B: I gave him a scented talcum powder. Didn’t notice his body odour?

A: That’s the smell of villagers. I used to smell like that until I left

Aba to go to secondary school. (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Half of a yellow sun)

Pragmatics and Conversations Analysis

From all we have discussed so far it is quite clear that conversation is a discourse type that contains several discourse strategies that are of interest to pragmatics. Every piece of conversation consists of some acts that represent the speaker’s intention and our efforts in discovering and evaluating those acts/discourse strategies amount to efforts in pragmatics. This section will be devoted to a more detailed examination of conversion and conversation analysis. The question we will attempt to answer here is whether conversation analysis is the same thing as doing pragmatics.

In the last sub-section (3.2), we identified some of the features of conversations namely turn-taking, and other strategies like fillers, repair mechanisms, overlaps etc during a conversation. Cook (1989) observes that conversation like any other type of talk is widely used in a more informal sense and has the following characteristics:

(i) not primarily necessitated by a practical task;

(ii) any unequal power of participations is partially suspended;

(iii) the number of participants is small

(iv) turns are quite short

(v) talk is primarily for the participants and not for an outside audience (Cook 1989:51)

Number of participants is suggested as between 3 and 5 or a little more but certainly a conversation is not likely to take place among 20 or more people. It is also observed that there is no fixed length of turns in conversation, but it is clear that when one person talks for 30 minutes, a conversation has certainly ended. Conversation analysts (also known as ethnomethodologists) attempt to discover what methods people in a conversation use to participate in and make sense of interaction.

They actually observed that conversation involves turn-taking, meaning that one speaker’s turn begins where the other person’s turn ends and interactants tend to know when to take turns with absolute precision within split-second timing. Overlaps occur less frequently and where they do occur at all some repair mechanisms are applied to remedy them. Overlaps will generally signal annoyance, urgency, or a desire to correct what is being said. Conversation analysis “tries to describe how people take turns, and under what circumstances they overlap turns or pause between them” (1989).

Conversation provides the raw data for a pragmatic study. While a conversation analyst is involved on the structure of turn-taking in a conversation and what they imply about the roles and relationships of interactants, a pragmatic analyst is primarily concerned with how this structure contributes to the meaning-making process and other speech acts that signal the speaker’s intention; how direct or indirect speech acts, contribute to the overall communication of the speaker’s intention and what results s/he expects.

Ethnomethodologists identify turn types, the main one being what they describe as adjacency pair . This occurs when the utterance of one speaker makes a particular kind of response likely, usually a choice of two likely responses. For example a request will likely attract either an acceptance or refusal. Other examples of adjacency pair are shown below:

1. OFFER (a) acceptance (preferred) (b) refusal (dispreferred)

2. ASSESSMENT (a) agreement (preferred) (b) disagreement (dispreferred)

3. BLAME (a) denial (preferred) (b) admission (dispreferred)

4. QUESTION (a) expected answer (preferred) (b) unexpected a nswer

A “dispreferred” response is often marked by either a slight pause or a preface like “well,”“you see,”“em…er (hesitation) etc. Read the conversation below, paying attention to the turn-taking process and the pragmatics of the utterances.

A. You, know, Mr. Sanda, to you it may seem a joke, but these things really do happen you know

B. What things?

A. Those who make money with black magic. I mean, there are people who do it. It is bad money. It doesn’t always last, and the things people have to do to get such money, it’s terrible business. Sometimes they have to sacrifice their near relations, even children. It’s a pact with the devil but they do it.

A. It’s a pact with the devil all right, but it doesn’t produce any money. They just slaughter those poor victims for nothing

B. Those overnight millionaires then, how do you think they do it?

A. Cocaine. 419 swindle. Godfathering or mothering armed robbers. Or after a career with the police. Or the Army, if you’re lucky to grab a political post. Then retire at forty – as a General who has never fought a war. Or you start your own church, or mosque. That’s getting more and more popular.

B. You don’t believe anything, that’s your problem

A. There are far too many superstitions.

C. Na true, Ah, oga, make you hear this one o. E take in eye see this one o, no to say den tell am

A. Don’t bother. It’s too early in the morning; my stomach won’t be able to take it.

C. And what of hunchbacks? Dat na another favourite for making money. They take out the hunch, sometimes while the man self still dey alive

B. Yes, that’s supposed to be most effective, when the hunch is

carved out with the owner still breathing. (Wohle Soyinka: The Beautification of Area Boy)

Conversation is one type of speech events where we see interactants in action. In it speakers demonstrate their knowledge of language and apply some discourse strategies to communicate their intention. Some of these strategies include speech acts in a variety of social contexts where people meet and interact with one another. The study of conversation gives us insights to the various ways utterances convey meanings in different types of speech events. An ethnomethodologist approach extends to the analysis of how speakers take turns in a conversation and how that enhances the art of communication.

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MEANING AND SCOPE OF PRAGMATICS

MEANING AND SCOPE OF PRAGMATICS

Brief history of pragmatics, privacy overview.

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a speech event meaning

No, Biden Did Not Mistakenly Read 'End of Quote' During Speech About Supreme Court Ruling

Online users criticized u.s. president joe biden in july 2024 after he properly advised viewers he had finished reading a quote., jordan liles, published july 2, 2024.

False

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On July 1, 2024, numerous online users  criticized U.S. President Joe Biden for reading aloud the words "end of quote" from a teleprompter during a White House speech he delivered the same day. Some other users' posts only vaguely implied Biden made the purported mistake.

For example, the X account for TheLeadingReport.com (@LeadingReport) posted ( archived ), "BREAKING: Joe Biden reads 'end of quote' during his speech."

a speech event meaning

Outkick.com founder Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) claimed ( archived ) on X, "After four days of debate criticism, Joe Biden Ron Burgundy'd it and reads 'end of quote' from the teleprompter during a four minute speech after which he took no questions."

a speech event meaning

A user named @DonaldTNews also posted ( archived ), "BREAKING: King Biden just read 'end of quote' on the teleprompter once again. What's your reaction?"

a speech event meaning

The truth was Biden did not "Ron Burgundy" his remarks (a reference to  scenes from the 2004 film "Anchorman"), as the X post claimed.

Biden correctly read the words "end of quote," notifying viewers and listeners he had finished reading an excerpt from a dissenting opinion written by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. The remark occurred during Biden's July 1 speech addressing the court's ruling earlier that day that presidents have broad immunity from criminal prosecution.

We contacted the White House by email to ask whether they had a statement to share regarding this misinformation promoted about the president. We will update this story if we receive a response.

Here's What Biden Said Prior to 'End of Quote'

A video of Biden's speech revealed the truth of the matter. Here's what he said:

I know I will respect the limits of the presidential power, as I have for three and a half years. But any president, including Donald Trump, will now be free to ignore the law. I concur with Justice Sotomayor's dissent today. She… here's what she said. She said, "In every use of official power, the president is now a king above the law. With fear for our democracy, I dissent." End of quote. So should the American people dissent. I dissent. May God bless you all. And may God help preserve our democracy. Thank you. And may God protect our troops.

Misinformers Repeatedly Seize on Biden's Public Appearances

Throughout Biden's presidency, online users promoted misinformation regarding his public appearances, no matter the function's seriousness, theme or list of attendees.

For example, during Biden's first year in office, users shared an altered picture claiming Biden's teleprompter displayed the words "leave now" to help alert him when he should exit the room.

In 2022, users falsely claimed  Biden read "end of quote" aloud during a speech when he wasn't supposed to. The following year, users  shared a misleading video featuring altered audio from an event at which he simply attempted to share an early Thanksgiving meal with U.S. soldiers and their families. Users also posted  false information and at least one fake video regarding his visit to the site of the 2023 Maui wildfires.

In the months leading up to the 2024 presidential election, users claimed , without evidence, that videos of Biden purportedly "freezing" and "malfunctioning" at public events indicated some undisclosed medical issue. In another widely shared false rumor, users claimed Biden attempted to sit in an "invisible chair" while honoring past military members in Normandy, France, during a ceremony on the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

Evon, Dan. "Did Biden Have a 'Ron Burgundy' Moment?" Snopes , 24 Nov. 2021, https://www.snopes.com//fact-check/biden-ron-burgundy/.

Liles, Jordan. "Biden's Teleprompter Did Not Say 'Leave Now' at End of Afghanistan Speech." Snopes , 17 Aug. 2021, https://www.snopes.com//fact-check/biden-teleprompter-leave-now/.

---. "Did a Military Chaplain Pray with Biden for Trump to Come Back to the White House?" Snopes , 5 Dec. 2023, https://www.snopes.com//fact-check/chaplain-praying-biden-trump/.

---. "The Facts About Biden's Purported 'Freeze Up' at Fundraiser and Obama Walking with Him Off Stage." Snopes , 19 June 2024, https://www.snopes.com//news/2024/06/19/biden-freeze-up-obama/.

---. "The Facts About GOP Videos Showing Biden 'Malfunctioning' During June 2024 Speech." Snopes , 20 June 2024, https://www.snopes.com//news/2024/06/19/biden-malfunctioning-june-2024/.

"President Biden Delivers Remarks on the Supreme Court's Immunity Ruling." YouTube , The White House, 1 July 2024, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CL1GXCOfWI8.

"Remarks by President Biden on the Supreme Court's Immunity Ruling."  The White House , 2 July 2024, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2024/07/01/remarks-by-president-biden-on-the-supreme-courts-immunity-ruling/.

Richer, Alanna Durkin, et al. "What to Know about the Supreme Court Immunity Ruling in Trump's 2020 Election Interference Case." The Associated Press , 1 July 2024, https://apnews.com/article/trump-immunity-supreme-court-capitol-riot-trial-72ec35de776315183e1db561257cb108.

Sherman, Mark. "Supreme Court Rules Ex-Presidents Have Broad Immunity, Dimming Chance of a Pre-Election Trump Trial." The Associated Press , 1 July 2024, https://apnews.com/article/supreme-court-trump-capitol-riot-immunity-2dc0d1c2368d404adc0054151490f542.

By Jordan Liles

Jordan Liles is a Senior Reporter who has been with Snopes since 2016.

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Chet Hanks clarifies meaning of 'White Boy Summer' after release of hate speech report

Chet Hanks is speaking out after a viral catchphrase he coined has been adopted by extremist groups.

Hanks, who popularized the term “White Boy Summer,” issued a lengthy statement on his Instagram page Wednesday after a recent report from the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism (GPAHE) found the phrase has “escalated into a powerful global call-to-action for far-right recruitment, protest, and violence.”

“White boy summer was created to be fun, playful and a celebration of fly white boys who love beautiful queens of every race,” Hanks wrote.

Hanks has been publicly using the phrase “White Boy Summer” as early as 2021 , even releasing a rap song by the same name . The term is most likely a play on the phrase “Hot Girl Summer,” which was popularized by rapper Megan Thee Stallion in her 2019 hit featuring Nicki Minaj and Ty Dolla $ign .

'Holy cow!': Tom Hanks asks son Chet to fill him in on Kendrick Lamar and Drake beef

GPAHE , a social-justice nonprofit dedicated to “tackling systemic problems rooted in hate in our governments and societies,” stated in its Tuesday report that Hanks’ “White Boy Summer” has become a slogan for “white supremacists and neo-Nazis.”

“Several extremist groups including the Proud Boys, White Lives Matter, the Identitarian movement in Europe and neo-Nazi Active Clubs are all using ‘White Boy Summer’ to spread propaganda, recruit new members and facilitate targeted hate campaigns including acts of vandalism and hate incidents,” GPAHE wrote.

View this post on Instagram A post shared by 🏔𝗖𝗛𝗘𝗧 𝗛𝗔𝗡𝗞𝗦 🧞‍♂️ (@chethanx)

Chet Hanks condemns use of ‘White Boy Summer’ for ‘hate or biogtry’

Hanks, son of actors Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson , further clarified the meaning of “White Boy Summer” in his Instagram post.

While not addressing the GPAHE report directly, Hanks slammed the use of his catchphrase in any harmful rhetoric.

'A double-edged sword': Chet Hanks opens up about fame, growing up as Tom Hanks' son

“Anything else that it has been twisted into to support any kind of hate or bigotry against any group of people is deplorable and I condemn it,” Hanks wrote. “I hope that we all can spread love to each other and treat each other with kindness and dignity.”

Hanks recently used the phrase in a May 20 Instagram post , captioning a selfie with the hashtag #WBS.

Nonprofit behind ‘White Boy Summer’ report responds to Chet Hanks

In an update to its report Wednesday, GPAHE responded to Hanks’ Instagram statement on the meaning of “White Boy Summer.”

The organization maintained that the phrase has “been transformed into a rallying cry for white supremacist groups who are using it to spread propaganda, recruit members and incite violence against marginalized communities,” regardless of Hanks’ original intent.

“Chet Hanks posted that ‘White Boy Summer’ was never intended for hateful actions. But the fact remains that it has been co-opted by far-right extremists to promote hate and bigotry,” GPAHE wrote. “This underscores the profound social responsibility that public figures bear in their words and actions.

“The Global Project Against Hate and Extremism emphasizes the need for those with powerful platforms to remain vigilant against irresponsible statements that can be used for tools of hate and division.”

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A Wall Street Law Firm Wants to Define Consequences of Israel Protests

Sullivan & Cromwell is requiring job applicants to explain their participation in protests. Critics see the policy as a way to silence speech about the war.

A large crowd gathering on a university campus. Some are holding signs.

By Emily Flitter

For as long as students at colleges across the United States have protested the war in Gaza, they’ve drawn the fury of some of the financial world’s mightiest figures — investors, lawyers and bankers — who have flexed their financial power over universities, toppling school leaders in the process.

It didn’t stop the students. The protests intensified this year until campuses emptied out for the summer.

Now, a prominent Wall Street law firm is taking a more direct approach with protesters. Sullivan & Cromwell, a 145-year-old firm that has counted Goldman Sachs and Amazon among its clients , says that, for job applicants, participation in a protest — on campus or off — could be a disqualifying factor.

The firm is scrutinizing students’ behavior with the help of a background check company, looking at their involvement with pro-Palestinian student groups, scouring social media and reviewing news reports and footage from protests. It is looking for explicit instances of antisemitism as well as statements and slogans it has deemed to be “triggering” to Jews, said Joseph C. Shenker, a leader of Sullivan & Cromwell.

Candidates could face scrutiny even if they weren’t using problematic language but were involved with a protest where others did. The protesters should be responsible for the behavior of those around them, Mr. Shenker said, or else they were embracing a “mob mentality.” Sullivan & Cromwell wouldn’t say if it had already dropped candidates because of the policy.

“People are taking their outrage about what’s going on in Gaza and turning it into racist antisemitism,” Mr. Shenker said.

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COMMENTS

  1. Spoken English: Speech Event

    A speech event, however, is defined in terms of speaking, at least in the sense of being governed by the norms relating to this: The term speech event will be restricted to activities, or aspects of activities, that are directly governed by rules or norms for the use of speech. Hymes 1986:56.

  2. Competition Events

    Speech Speech involves a presentation by one or two students that is judged against a similar type of presentation by others in a round of competition. There are two general categories of speech events, public address events and interpretive events. Public address events feature a speech written by the student, either in advance or with limited prep, that can answer a question, share a belief ...

  3. Discourse Analysis: Lesson 3: Speech Event

    Lesson 3 in this course discusses what the speech event is and gives good examples.

  4. 18.2 Special-Occasion Speeches

    Many entertaining speeches fall under the category of special-occasion speeches. All the speeches in this category are given to mark the significance of particular events. Common events include weddings, bar mitzvahs, awards ceremonies, funerals, and political events. In each of these different occasions, speakers are asked to deliver speeches relating to the event. For purposes of simplicity ...

  5. Speech Acts in Linguistics

    Speech Acts in Linguistics. In linguistics, a speech act is an utterance defined in terms of a speaker's intention and the effect it has on a listener. Essentially, it is the action that the speaker hopes to provoke in his or her audience. Speech acts might be requests, warnings, promises, apologies, greetings, or any number of declarations.

  6. Ceremonial Speaking

    A keynote speech is delivered to set the underlying tone and summarize the core message of an event. Keynote speeches include after-dinner and motivational speeches.

  7. 15.2: Understanding Entertaining Speeches

    15.2: Understanding Entertaining Speeches. In broad terms, an entertaining speech is a speech designed to captivate an audience's attention and regale or amuse them while delivering a message. Like more traditional informative or persuasive speeches, entertaining speeches should communicate a clear message, but the manner of speaking used in ...

  8. Speech Events and Natural Speech

    The term speech event will be restricted to activities, or aspects of activities that are directly governed by rules or norms for the use of speech. An event may consist of a single speech act, but will often comprise several.

  9. Speech Acts

    Speech Acts. We are attuned in everyday conversation not primarily to the sentences we utter to one another, but to the speech acts that those utterances are used to perform: requests, warnings, invitations, promises, apologies, predictions, and the like. Such acts are staples of communicative life, but only became a topic of sustained ...

  10. 18

    Summary. The study of speech acts began with Austin and was prefigured by Wittgenstein. 1 While Frege and Russell focused primarily on the semantics of the expressions of the artificial, formal languages used in logic and mathematics (to articulate truth-apt statements and theories), 2 Wittgenstein (in his later work) drew our attention to the ...

  11. The Components of Speech Events and Speech Situation

    THE SPEECH EVENT The speech event may be defined as a piece of linguisticinteraction, a communicate happening consisting of one ormore utterances.For example, the kind of exchange which takes placebetween a traveller and a ticked collector is a speech event,as are lengthier exchanges such as that between a door - to -door salesman and his ...

  12. 17.2: Background of Special Occasion Speaking

    A special occasion or ceremonial speech, regardless of the level of formality, should have a purpose that is clear to the speaker and the audience members. A ceremonial speech can do a variety of things, such as celebrate an event, commemorate a person, entertain an audience, or inspire people (O'Hair, Stewart, & Rubenstein, 2001). Each type of ceremonial speaking occasion has its unique ...

  13. Understanding Reasons for a Public Speaking Event

    Preparing for your public speaking event should include reflections on the reasons why you are doing it in the first place. Learn more on what speaking events are and the factors of importance ...

  14. Informative Speeches about Events and People

    Speeches about Events. Merriam Webster defines an event as "something that happens.". You might give a speech about an event that happens only once or rarely, such as a lunar eclipse, or an event that occurs on a regular schedule, such as the World Cup or an annual professional convention. Many event speeches tell the story of a historical ...

  15. Speaker Points: The Ultimate Guide

    Speaker points in speech events are designed to create a more nuanced view of each competitor compared to the entire tournament rather than just that room. For example, if seven amazing speakers face off, one must come in last.

  16. Speech events in English Language

    Speech events represent speech genres upon when linguistic choices are made. Here the form is defined in terms of the "style" or register prevalent in the event.

  17. Biden tells Democratic governors he needs more sleep and plans to stop

    President Joe Biden told Democratic governors during a meeting at the White House on Wednesday that part of his plan going forward is to stop scheduling events after 8 p.m. so that he could get ...

  18. No, Biden Did Not Mistakenly Read 'End of Quote' During Speech About

    No, Biden Did Not Mistakenly Read 'End of Quote' During Speech About Supreme Court Ruling Online users criticized U.S. President Joe Biden in July 2024 after he properly advised viewers he had ...

  19. PDF The Components of Speech Events and Speech Situation

    Speech Event is the occurrence or ongoing linguistic interaction in one form of speech or more that involves two parties namely speakers and opponents of speech, with one point of speech in a particular time, place and situation [1], based on the explanation which was intended by the speech event was the ongoing interaction involving two ...

  20. Speech event Definition

    definition. Speech event means an activity conducted primarily for the expression of political, social, religious, cultural, or other constitutionally protected speech. Speech events may include rallies, picketing, protesting, marching, demonstrating, or debating matters of public concern on any City street or other property.

  21. Biden facing intense scrutiny as campaign ramps up unscripted events

    President Joe Biden's team has telegraphed a strategy to put the president forth for more casual, unscripted events and an accelerated public schedule as he seeks to shift the narrative away ...

  22. Individual events (speech)

    Individual events (speech) Individual events in speech include public speaking, limited preparation, acting and interpretation are a part of forensics competitions. These events do not include the several different forms of debate offered by many tournaments. These events are called individual events because they tend to be done by one person ...

  23. President Joe Biden Mocked for Shouting 'Ho, Ho, Ho' at White ...

    President Joe Biden was mocked at the White House 4th of July celebration, during which he unexpectedly greeted people by saying, "Ho, ho, ho!" — a phrase commonly associated with Santa Claus ...

  24. Interpreting as a Communicative Event: A Look through Hymes' Lenses

    Hymes' framework for understanding a communicative event ma y offer a more com-. plete and more complex characterization of the similarities and differences of these. two interpreting events ...

  25. Speech Acts And Speech Events, By Dr.Shadia Yousef Banjar.Pptx

    The document discusses speech acts and speech events. It provides definitions and examples of key concepts: 1. Speech acts are the basic units of linguistic communication and can take the form of requests, apologies, greetings, etc. 2. Speech events are longer interactions composed of multiple speech acts that share a common purpose, topic ...

  26. Election 2024: Biden's Verbal Stumbles in Spotlight as He Hosts July 4

    Election 2024: Biden's Verbal Stumbles in Spotlight as He Hosts July 4 Events. The president delivered brief remarks at an Independence Day event and attended a fireworks display.

  27. Chet Hanks clarifies meaning of 'White Boy Summer' after release of

    Chet Hanks is clarifying the meaning of his viral catchphrase "White Boy Summer" after a report found the term has been used by extremist groups.

  28. NATO

    Available after the event on natomultimedia.tv and https://wdcnatosummit2024video.com. Multiple live sounds: Original, English, French, Ukrainian, Russian - locally, via satellite & online. Photos and transcript will be available afterwards on the NATO Website ... Keynote speech by the NATO Secretary General at the Defense Industry Forum ...

  29. The Analysis of Speech Events and Hymes' SPEAKING Factors in ...

    Speech is used in many different ways among different groups of people and each group has its own norms of linguistic behavior. In order to analyze the language of specific groups, it is necessary to rely on some clearly defined frameworks for ethnographical study of speech. Hymes (1974) proposed three levels of analysis, namely, speech situation, speech event and speech acts that 'speech ...

  30. How a Wall St. Law Firm Wants to Define Consequences of Gaza-War

    Sullivan & Cromwell is requiring job applicants to explain their participation in protests. Critics see the policy as a way to silence speech about the war.