“Could you just hand me the hammer, please?”
“Dude, I just love your hat.”
“Hello Peter. How are you?”
Speech acts happens every day, the quotes was just some examples of some speech acts that we use or hear every day. Getting a glass of water is an action. Asking someone else to get you one is also an act.
In this section, I will explain what a speech act is, and what characterizes a speech act.
When we speak, our words are very much affected by the situation, the speaker and the listener. Our words do not have meaning in and of themselves. People perform speech acts every single day, for example, when we offer an invitation, or refusal. A speech act can be one single word, as “Oh!” is an utterance, no communication is intended, it’s just a sound caused by a surprise. An utterance is a natural unit of speech, bounded by breaths or pauses.
Speech acts are difficult to perform in a second language, as the learners may not know the cultural norms in the second language, or they may use some of their first language rules and conventions into the second language, because they might think that their rules are universal. But no. For example, something that works in Danish might not have the same meaning as in English.
If Valdemar, was going to say “Det siger sig selv.” but in English it would be “It says it self.” which gives absolutely no meaning at all for the hearer, unless the hearer is Danish too. And the hearer might just be confused and don’t know what the speaker is talking about .
There is different kinds of speech acts. In the following section, I will write about four different kinds of speech acts, which is:
illocutionary act, perlocutionary act, utterance act and propositional act.
The first one, that I will account for is the illucutionary act.
An illucutionary act is a complete act, which is made in a typical utterance. It’s the performance of an act in saying something (vs. the general act of saying something). The illucutionary force is the speaker’s intent. A particular illucutionary force, where by the speaker: asserts. suggests, demands.
The next one is perlocutionary act, which is speech acts that have an effect on the feelings, thoughts or actions of either the speaker or the listener. In other words, they seek to change minds. e.g., inspiring, persuading, convincing, scaring.
An utterance act is a speech act that consists of a verbal employment of units of expression such as words and sentences.
Example: “Oh!” – is an utterance, because that communication is not intended – it’s just a sound caused by surprise)
The last one I’m going to account for is the propositional act.
A propositional act is a speech act that a speaker performs when referring or predicating in an utterance.
Examples: “You go home.”, “Do you go home”, “Go home!” or “How I wish you’d go home!”.
Indirect speech act.
One common way of performing a speech act is to use an expression which indicates one speech act, and performs this act, but also performs a further speech act, which is indirect. For example: A mom says to her son “Jim, can you open the window?”, thereby asking Jim, whether he will be able to open the window, but also requesting that he do so. The request is performed indirectly, by means of a performing a question, it counts as an indirect speech act.
But, indirect speech acts are commonly used to reject proposals as well as to make requests. For example, a speaker asks, “Would you like to meet me for coffee?” and another replies, “I have class.”. The second speaker used an indirect speech act to reject the proposal. It’s indirect because the literal meaning of “I have class” does not entail any sort of rejection.
But why is it important to have knowledge about speech acts?
Well. When we speak, we are following learned rules, and we have to have knowledge about those rules to understand them.
When a person is learning a new language, then the person tend to have difficulity understanding the intended meaning communicated by a speech act, or producing a speech act using appropriate language and manner in the language being learned.
Speech acts makes every language more personal, and it gives all the different languages, different cultural norms. If we didn’t have any speech acts at all, then it would be a lot easier to learn a new language, but there wouldn’t be any cultural norms to follow, which would make all the languages seem more like the same.
It’s also really important to know about the speech acts of a new language you’re going to learn. If you don’t know anything about speech acts, then you might say something that gives absolutely no meaning at all for the hearer.
An example is, that I was at vacation in Alanya, and I was at a restaurant with my parents, and the waiter comes over, and notices that we’re Danes. Then the waiter says “Are you dog hungry?”, and of course I don’t understand the meaning of it, neither did my parents.
But then we get it, he was trying to say “Er i hundesultne?” but just translated it directly into English, without knowing that it wouldn’t give any meaning at all. But if he knew just a bit about speech acts, he would know that you can’t just transfer the cultural norms of one language, into another.
In this paper, I have explained what a speech act is, and I’ve explained about some different types of speech acts. I’ve given some examples of what illocutionary act, perlocutionary act, utterance act and propositional acts is, and what features they all have.
I also gave an example of what indirect speech act is, and it showed that you can request to people, and refuse questions from people, in an indirect way.
My conclusion on speech acts is that they’re very important for people who’s learning a new language, and people who’s speaking a second language. If you don’t understand the detail of what is being said, then you’ll have a very hard time understanding and talking the language. There is cultural norms and idiomatic expressions, which learners might not know. And if learners who’s speaking a second language, who don’t know what speech acts is, then they might transfer their first language rules and conventions into the second language.
I’ve concluded that by understanding the detail of what is being said, you can hence understand and communicate better with others.