Indirect Speech Acts

The Speech Acts of Irish - Utterance, Situation, and Meaning - Brian Nolan

Brian Nolan [+-]
Technological University Dublin (retired)
Dr. Brian Nolan is a retired Head of School of Informatics and Engineering at the Technological University Dublin, in Ireland. His research interests include linguistic theory at the morpho-syntactic semantic interface, argument structure and valence, constructions in grammar, event structure in language, the architecture of the lexicon and computational approaches to language processing, computational linguistics, speech act theory, context and common ground. His linguistic work has been in the functional linguistic model of Role and Reference Grammar and he has published extensively internationally. In 2012 Dr. Nolan published his book with Equinox on the linguistic structure of Irish in a Role and Reference Grammar account entitled The structure of Modern Irish: A functional account. In 2013, Benjamins published his co-edited volume Linking constructions into functional linguistics – The role of constructions in grammar in their Studies in Language Companion series. His co-edited Benjamin volume on computational linguistics and linguistic theory, Language processing and grammars: The role of functionally oriented computational models was published in 2014, also in their Studies in Language Companion series. He also co-edited a Benjamins book on ‘Causation, transfer and permission’ in linguistic theory, which appeared in early 2015. In January 2017, Benjamins published his co-edited book on complex predication entitled Argument realisation in complex predicates and complex events: Verb verb constructions at the syntax semantic interface. In 2019, Dr. Nolan co-edited a volume with Cambridge Scholars Publishing on the ‘Linguistic perspectives on the construction of meaning and knowledge: The linguistic, pragmatic, ontological and computational dimensions’.


Indirect speech acts as they occur in Irish are considered in chapter 11, Indirect speech acts. An indirect speech act (ISA) is an utterance that contains the illocutionary force indicators for one kind of illocutionary act but which is uttered to perform another type of illocutionary act. A (non-exhaustive) selection of ISAs are considered: a) Question on ability à yielding a request for action X; b) Yes-no question à yielding a directive request for action X; c) Assertion with proposal à yielding a directive yes-no question; and d) Assertion à yielding a request for information. While ISAs are a puzzle consisting of two speech acts in one, they still arise from general principles of collaborative discourse under the reasonable assumption that the interlocutors are rational and cooperate with each other. A way to treat utterances whose force differs from what their force indicators (IFID) is to assume that they have both a literal force, and an indirect force that is inferred in virtue of knowledge available to the interlocutor H. Our account makes use of the notion of a mental model, represented as a conceptual graph, over which H traverses in search of a relevant meaning once the initial literal meaning of the utterance has been evaluated and found wanting in context. Along with relevance, the cognitive operations of salience, prominence, attention, and expectation, play also an important role in guiding the traversal of the conceptual graph of the situation. The situational context plays a decisive role in the interpretation of an ISA utterance.

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Nolan, Brian . Indirect Speech Acts. The Speech Acts of Irish - Utterance, Situation, and Meaning. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. Apr 2024. ISBN 9781800504288. Date accessed: 07 Jun 2023 doi: 10.1558/equinox.44652. Apr 2024

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