Speech Acts

Lecturer: Manfred Krifka, ZAS Berlin, HU Berlin
Room: 1.403
Speech Acts are the smallest units with a communicative function of their own. A name like Susan refers to a person and does not have a communicative function other than as a building block for a larger utterance, but used with appropriate prosody as in Susan!, it can serve as an independent social act by which the speaker attracts a person’s attention. Similarly, a clause like Susan sang denotes a communicatively inert proposition, but used in an assertion, a speaker can make a public commitment to its truth. Hence, speech acts sit right at the contested border of semantics and pragmatics.
The course will start out with the classical approaches to speech acts and then focus on recent semantic and pragmatic theories. It will present a theoretical view in which communicative acts are modeled within an extended framework of dynamic semantics, as mappings from information states to information states. Novel aspects include an integration of the social commitments of interlocutors, and of the possible continuations of information states, which are modulated by questions. Also, there will be a focus on how morphosyntactic and prosodic means are used to express and to modify speech acts, and how speech acts work in conversation.
Prerequesite: A good understanding of truth-conditional semantics; an understanding of dynamic semantics is helpful.
Course material

Mon Aug 5th

  • -

    The classics: Austin, Searle, Vanderveken

Tue Aug 6th

  • -

    The dynamic perspective: Stalnaker

Wed Aug 7th

Thu Aug 8th

  • -

    The nature of assertion: expressing commitments

Fri Aug 9th

  • -

    Questions: eliciting commitments

Mon Aug 12th

  • -

    Bias, focus and topic in questions and answers

Tue Aug 13th

  • -

    Directives, commissives and declarations

Wed Aug 14th

Thu Aug 15th

  • -

    Conditional speech acts and expressives

Fri Aug 16th

  • -

    Speech acts in conversation