Talk:Speech act

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Basic English[edit]

Shouldn't Ogden's Basic English be compared/contrasted to Searl's philosophy either here or on the Basic English page?


Reinach may be credited to have developed a large part of speech act theory in the context of social acts as performative utterances, but his aim was the philosophy of law, not the philosophy of language. So I doubt he had the slightest intention to develop a speech act theory, so it is unclear to me whether he had such a comprehensive theory of speech acts; to be fair, though, it is true that he had a pretty good grasp at performatives, and indeed he may deserve a better treatment. See discussion in Reinach's Talk page. Louie 17:11, 1 April 2006 (UTC)

Thanks for your response. I don't think there is a great difference (or at least a great gap) between "philosophy of law" and "philosophy of language", especially if you are talking about private law. Anyway, Reinach was most of all a phenomenologist, a direct follower of Husserl, and he was concerned first with some phenomena existing outside law. Then he used his study in the philosophy of law. Best! Velho 18:18, 1 April 2006 (UTC)

I simply cleared the entry, for brevity sake, to avoid redundant information. People may find additional information following the cross references. That's what I like from the Columbia Encyclopaedia. Louie 01:11, 2 April 2006 (UTC)


I quoted this on the Finnish version, but thought to bring it up here as well as seemingly this is the source for the Finnish version when it comes to the history of speech acts -segment. Karl Bühler indeed does use terms Sprechhandlung and Sprechakt but atleast on his Axiomatik... he does suggest former solely as a translation for the dichotomy made by de Saussure and von Humboldt earlier on, namely that of parole/langue and energeia/ergon respectively. Hence, attributing him as an innovator for a given expression seems a far fetch. Also, Bühler cites on his own essay an article wrote a year earlier by some A. A. Grünbaum titled Sprache als Handlung which would suggest that it would be this Grünbaum person who ought to get the merit. For Sprechakte Bühler refers to a single instance of an utterance, not to a speech act by any means. All in all, I doubt you can ever find the "true" source of such a term as it is non-technical by all means. -- (talk) 08:24, 13 January 2010 (UTC)

As a sort of an addendum to this, it can be said with quite some certainty that Bühler certainly was not the first to coin the term Speech Act. Already at 1920s, a Dutch mathematician Gerrit Mannoury used the term "taaldaden" on a number of articles. This origin of speech act theory is explored atleast by H. Walter Schmitz on his 1984 article Searle ist in Mode, Mannoury nicht: Sprech- und Hörakt im niederländischen Signifik-Kreis (in Zeitschrift für Semiotik, Band 6 1984 pp. 446-463) and the use of term Sprachakt as a translation of its Dutch counterpart taaldaden can be found from Mannoury's own article from 1934 titled Die signifischen Grundlagen der Mathematik (in Erkenntnis 4, pp. 288-309 and 317-345). Schmitz points this out on page 447:

Mannourys Sprachakttheorie -- er spricht selbst in einer deutschsprachigen Publikation von "Sprachakten", was eine wörtliche Übersetzung des niederländischen Terminus "taaldaden" ist (---).

Akward translation of a sort could read something as follows:

Mannoury's Theory of Speech Act -- on an article published in German, Mannoury himself speaks of "Sprachakten" as a literal translation of his Dutch term "taaldaden" (---)

(as the translation is made by a Finn who doesn't speak or write all that good English or German, I warmly suggest taking the translation with a pinch of salt.) Hence, I suggest removing Bühler from the history section and replacing him with Mannoury as there are valid grounds to consider Mannoury's contribution an actual theory of speech acts whereas Bühler's is closer to the concept of parole in Saussurean dichotomy or langue/parole. (-- (talk) 16:31, 24 March 2010 (UTC))

Who was first?[edit]

I think we have here a true disagreement. To my view, C. S. Peirce developed the widest framework for speech act theory, by means of the pragmatic theory of meaning, stated as early as 1878: "the meaning of any sign is the disjunction of all its possible practical consequences"; consequently, any sign implies a "thirdness", an objective action-defining law. I doubt you can get more committed to the claim that any sign (not just "speech acts") has practical bearings, legal included. Thus I could claim that Peirce was "first" to develop a comprehensive theory; yet I cannot say Peirce was "the first speech-act theorist", because Peirce did not have that much influence (he did not hold his academic post long enough to spread his ideas), among other things. Velho's insistence on "x was first" seems to me somewhat partisan, against the intentions of the Wikipedia. I'm not making any change, but I hereby strongly protest against Velho's six-word revert. :-) Louie 04:56, 2 April 2006 (UTC)

Actually, and to further complicate matters, the first one appears to have been Thomas Reid:
"The term ‘social act’ and some of the theory of this sui generis type of linguistic action are to be found in the fifth of Thomas Reid’s Essays on the Active Powers of the Human Mind (1788, chapter VI, Of the Nature of a Contract)."
"A man may see, and hear, and remember, and judge, and reason; he may deliberate and form purposes, and execute them, without the intervention of any other intelligent being. They are solitary acts. But when he asks a question for information, when he testifies a fact, when he gives a command to his servant, when he makes a promise, or enters into a contract, these are social acts of mind, and can have no existence without the interventionof some other intelligent being, who acts a part in them. Between the operations of the mind, which, for want of a more proper name, I have called solitary, and those I have called social, there is this very remarkable distinction, that, in the solitary, the expression of them by words, or any other sensible sign, is accidental. They may exist, and be complete, without being expressed, without being known to any other person. But, in the social operations, the expression is essential. They cannot exist without being expressed by words or signs, and known to the other party."
(Reid 1969, 437-438)
From Mulligan, K. Promisings and other social acts - their constituents and structure. in Mulligan, K., editor Speech Act and Sachverhalt: Reinach and the Foundations of Realist Phenomenology. Nijhoff, Dordrecht/Boston/Lancaster 1987.
Cheers! Cat 16:11, 2 April 2006 (UTC)

I don't want to claim that Reinach was "the first" and don't want to be a "partisan". I think only that Louie's suppression of the words "in 1913, long before" was wrong. I argued that every common reader of an encyclopedic article wants to know "who was the first" and, therefore, that the date of Reinach's work should be kept. That's all I meant.
I also think that putting together Reinach and "earlier treatments by some church fathers and scholastic philosophers, as well as Thomas Reid, and C. S. Peirce" is unfair, since Reinach's work was the first to see and to explain extensively that we can "do things with words" and that a sentence can become true just because it is uttered.
Best, Velho 17:10, 2 April 2006 (UTC)

I didn't make any changes since I think the current wording does the job: you say Reinach made his proposal in 1913, which is true; and that's long before Austin/Searle, and that's true too. Perhaps I was a little bit annoyed by what I perceived as unreasonable insistence on claiming Reinach had the credit to be "the first". That's arguable, as Cat's remarks make quite clear; but the current wording doesn't go that far. My apologies for any misbehavior.--- Cheers! Louie 17:30, 2 April 2006 (UTC)

I think that Reinach gave the first systematical treatment to "social acts" which included "speech acts". The point is that it was the first systematical treatment, which qualifies the statement. Others have mentioned similar phenomena, like Peirce and Reid did (what the heck, proabably already Aristotle did!), but Reinach was the first to conccentrate on them and articulate a system in which he developed a detailed account of various forms and aspects of speech acts. It is quite difficult to claim who was the first to discover something in philosophy, but some minimal agreement should be possible here. 1) There was an acount of speech acts before Searle (and Austin and Grice and Strawson) 2) Reinach had a systematical account of speech acts within the context of social acts 3) Others before Reinach made isolated statements about something like social acts/speech acts, but not in a systematical way Hence I would say that there is no great problem in affirming that Reinach gave "the first systematical treatment" to speech acts. However, I do not really think this is so important at all. What is important here is to understand/explain the phenomenon of Speech Acts. History can help, but only so much. Who was the first is not such a big deal. What surprises (and concerns) me more is that the people working in the field ignore their predecessors so often instead of trying to learn from them. Cat 06:59, 3 April 2006 (UTC)

I'd like to emphasize Cat's last sentence:

"What surprises (and concerns) me more is that the people working in the field ignore their predecessors so often instead of trying to learn from them."

Velho 13:16, 3 April 2006 (UTC)

Is this a case of POV? I see it the other way around: speech acts include social acts (there are non-social speech acts, e.g. interjections), knowledge is a type of action, and semantics is a part of semiotics; so Reinach's social act theory did a fairly substantive subset of speech act theory, which is only a subset of pragmatics. Thus, the first comprehensive treatment of speech acts was, indeed, Searle's. It's not perfect, and indeed it could have learned some things from Reid, Peirce, and Reinach.
On the other hand, I agree with you. It is amazing how much stuff from earlier philosophers pop up, rediscovered, after decades, perhaps centuries, of neglect. That's what I like from studying scholastic philosophy. They look so much like us... Louie 16:02, 3 April 2006 (UTC)

You want a POV? You get a POV! (From: Mulligan, K. Promisings and other social acts - their constituents and structure. in Mulligan, K., editor Speech Act and Sachverhalt: Reinach and the Foundations of Realist Phenomenology. Nijhoff, Dordrecht/Boston/Lancaster 1987.)

There is fairly widespread agreement about what the discovery of speech acts consisted in. Levinson (1983, 243-44) distinguishes three main points. First, the recognition that all utterances not only serve to express propositions but also perform actions. Secondly, the recognition of a privileged level of action – the illocutionary act – which is intimately associated with utterances of certain types. Finally, the recognition of a type of utterance that directly expresses illocutionary force. Each of these three points was made by Reinach but the way he makes them and the framework in which his account is embedded sets it apart from those of Austin, Searle and their successors. In particular, as we shall see, Reinach’s understanding of the type of linguistic action involved in a promise or request is much sharper than that displayed by many more recent theories because of his grasp of a double contrast: the action of promising contrasts both with other types of linguistic and non-linguist action and with what he often calls internal experiences and what I shall call mental acts and states.

And again (from Smith, B. (1990). Towards a history of speech act theory in Burkhardt, A., editor (1990). Speech Acts, Meanings and Intentions. Critical Approaches to the Philosophy of John R. Searle. de Gruyter, Berlin/New York.):

It is rather in the work of the Munich phenomenologist Adolf Reinach (1883-1917) that there is to be discovered the first systematic theory of the phenomena of promising, questioning, requesting, commanding, accusing, etc., phenomena which Reinach, like Reid (though almost certainly independently), collects together under the heading "social acts". Reinach's work provides a rich taxonomy of the various different speech action varieties and of their possible modifications. It contains a detailed treatment of the quasi-legal status of speech actions and of the relations between legal and ethical obligations. And it contains a discussion of one feature of speech actions which seems hardly to have been dealt with in the Anglo-Saxon literature - that feature whereby such actions may be performed by proxy, as when an action of promising or commanding or inviting is carried out by one person in the name of another.

I really don't have anything to say myself, so now I'd like to emphasize Louie's last sentence:

"That's what I like from studying scholastic philosophy. They look so much like us..."

Velho 18:19, 3 April 2006 (UTC)

About Cat's quotation "...that feature whereby such actions may be performed by proxy..."
Reinach discussed this subject only because he was a lawyer. This is an example of what I was saying before, namely that there is no great difference between philosophy of law and philosophy of language. "Powers of attorney" have been a philosophical subject for centuries. Velho 18:30, 3 April 2006 (UTC)

Concerning Mulligan's Three Points (all utterances perform actions; illocutory force of some utterances; some utterances explicitly express illocutory force), I think they all may be found explicitly in Peirce. He published little, though; so he may have developed the theory first, but he can't get the credit. You should read Peirce, I think.
Furthermore, I think Reid made the same three points (clumsiness aside), earlier by all means, yet in a more rudimentary and less comprehensive way. First is first; so Reid was first.
Then, Mulligan and Smith are themselves "phenomenologists"; so they have the right to be partisan, and claim the credit for their hero. That's fine with me, though their "consensus" looks somewhat biased to me.
Wikipedia aims to be as objective as possible, and we should try to avoid taking sides. I've done my part accepting Reinach's emphasis at your request, even though I think Reid/Peirce were "first", and Austin/Searle were truly "comprehensive". Yet I have the least intention to make such claims in the body of the article. End of POV.--- Cheers! Louie 18:44, 3 April 2006 (UTC)
You say: "Then, Mulligan and Smith are themselves "phenomenologists"; so they have the right to be partisan, and claim the credit for their hero. That's fine with me, though their "consensus" looks somewhat biased to me." This is certainly true, but this is exactly the crux of the matter: (anglo-saxon) analytical philosophers largely ignore their predecessors, and then the only people willing and capable to study and publish about them then are regarded as "partisans" supporting their "heroes". I hope that here in the Wikipedia at least we will be able to come to some form of consensus that does justice to both points of view and hence results to be more neutral. Take a look at Searle's Intentionality, for instance:
Entire philosophical movements have been built around theories of Intentionality. What is one to do in the face of all this distinguished past? My own approach has been simply to ignore it, partly out of ignorance of most of the traditional writings on Intentionality and partly out of the conviction that my only hope of resolving the worries that led me into this study in the first place lay in the relentless pursuit of my own investigations.
I agree rather with Karl Schuhmann, Representation in early Husserl:
The originality of philosophers of the Anglo-American brand is often a function of their avowed disinterest in what their predecessors have said and done. To the informed reader this sometimes offers the rather bizarre spectacle of a huge waste of time and energy in their efforts to invent the wheel. Continental philosophers on the contrary generally know what they ought to know, better. But it is an all too human inclination to think up excuses which allow one to get around the detailed and difficult study, often in a foreign language and a foreign terminology, of what earlier thinkers have contributed to the progress of thought.
Imagine what would have happened if Searle had studied Reinach, wouldn't that have considerably enhanced his position? Shouldn't we then try to ameliorate these shortcomings by acknowledging that our understanding of Speech Acts can be significantly improved by studying Reinach's work? This detracts nothing from all of Searle's efforts, except perhaps "exclusinveness" or "originality" which are certainly less important in philosophy than clarity or thoroughness. Cat 14:05, 4 April 2006 (UTC)
You remind me of something I heard happened in a well known school in the East Coast: some Professor was trying to develop some point of epistemology, and one student noticed that the very same point was made by Kant. "Really?---said the instructor---Tell me about it!" Another professor---student with Dewey---was trying to develop an original comprehensive metaphysics. Another grad student pointed out that it looked oddly deweyean. End of the Lecture.--- Imagine the fate of Scholastic philosophers.
Amnesia blows up people's brains. That's what I like from Wittgenstein's remark: "The work of the philosopher consists in assembling reminders for a particular purpose." (PU §127)--- Beware, though, that thru historical research we may end up giving up philosophy for an exotic form of literary criticism.--- Cheers! Louie 16:04, 4 April 2006 (UTC)
Regarding Cat's "(anglo-saxon) analytical philosophers largely ignore their predecessors", I've been studying "Hart's" distinction between an internal and an external legal point of view. In fact, this distinction comes from Max Weber, who talked about a "legal" and a "sociological" points of view. One of Hart's biographers (Nicola Lacey, A life of H. L. A. Hart. The nightmare and the noble dream, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2004, pp. 230-231) notes that there was a copy of Weber's book (Economy and Society) in Hart's library and that it was "heavily annotated" in this part. But Hart didn't cite or quote Weber. What do you think? Velho 18:31, 4 April 2006 (UTC)
I have somewhere in my archive---forgot the reference---an article by a Dominican showing that Hume's laws of association are exactly those outlined by Aquinas, and pointing out that Hume's library indeed had a copy of the Summa, heavily annotated. I wouldn't go as far as suspecting plagiarism, but it might be that Hume's laws of association should be credited to Aquinas. What Velho says doesn't surprise me. It would be great if people gave credit wherever credit is due, but often that doesn't happen...
In any event, most of the time who did it first doesn't quite matter to me. "I do not wish to judge how far my efforts coincide with those of other philosophers. Indeed, what I have written here makes no claim to novelty at all, and the reason why I give no sources is that it is a matter of indifference to me whether the thoughts that I have had have been anticipated by someone else." (Tractatus, Vorwort) What matters is whether some theory is true.
Having said that, I think one good thing of reinventing wheels is that you don't hang on previous design defects. Often you find people trapped in bad preconceptions hindering a good theory. That's too bad, and too common too.--- Louie 16:12, 5 April 2006 (UTC)


The consensus appears to be that Reinach gave the first systematic treatment to Speech Acts, whether we can consider it "comprehensive" is up for discussion. I hope both of you get around to read some more about/by Reinach before jumping to conclusions. Then we can get on with improving the articles dealing with Reinach and Speech Acts. Probably we're going to get this kind of discussion all over again with Pfänder, Marty and Bühler. Cat 16:30, 3 April 2006 (UTC)

I like the way you put it. I'd just add published: Reinach published the first systematic treatment of Speech Acts; whether is it comprehensive is another matter. I completely agree. Louie 19:11, 3 April 2006 (UTC)
Furthermore, whether Reinach meant it to be a speech act theory is also open to debate. We might see it in hindsight; but Reinach himself may have had no clue.
In short: Reid may have given the first unsystematic description of social acts as performatives; Reinach published its first systematic treatment; and Austin made it a speech act theory.--- Cheers! Louie 16:04, 4 April 2006 (UTC)

Having reached this consensus, I propose to propagate the following wording of the Reinach sentence to other languages. It should say:

Adolf Reinach may be credited to have developed a fairly comprehensive account of social acts as performative utterances well before Austin/Searle, though his work had little influence, perhaps due to his untimely death.

I still believe the date is redundant, given the cross reference to the article on Reinach, and that no other dates are given in this paragraph.--- Cheers! Louie 16:21, 5 April 2006 (UTC)

I hope that we can extend the article somewhat, making it more balanced and complete overall. We could add a brief section about honorable predecessors (Peirce, Reid), then a section on Reinach and then the main section on Searle. Lots of informative and interesting things have been said here in the discussion page and some of them could easily be adapted and brought over to the article. Cat 11:06, 6 April 2006 (UTC)

I don't think a whole new section is a good idea. It could make the article too long, and in any event, appropriate crossreferences to the Philosophers' entries could do the job. So, if we can find the way to fix this paragraph and make the appropriate crossreferences, we can make it work nicely and easily.

I've read Reinach and Reid, following Smith and Mulligan. Now it seems to me that Reid was really the first, though Reinach was certainly more thorough in his description, yet both still pretty far from a true speech act theory. Peirce's account now seems to me far too general as to count as a true precedent to speech act theory. From what I gathered I think the fairest way to fix the sentence could read as follows:

Thomas Reid (1788) may have given the first description of social acts as performatives, while Adolf Reinach (1913) made a more systematic account. However, their (most likely independent) work did not seem to have much influence in later developments.

What do you guys think?--- Louie 16:27, 9 April 2006 (UTC)

Frankly, I think that Reid, although merited, is likely not the person you are looking for. From e.g. Hans Aarsleff's translation of de Condillac's Essay on the origin of human knowledge you can see from Introduction written by Aarsleff (p. xii ff.) the expansion of "social" from 18th century onwards. One could say that by reading through all the essays written during that time period all around Europe you are likely to find even earlier predecessor for the concept of "speech as a social act". In a sense you could even say that de Condillac has one with his cries signifying a given thing to the community of early man. I think that it would be worth using Foucauldian archaeology in here and just admit that it was the episteme of an era which promoted social explanations for language. You can find these from all over intelligentsia of Europe from that time period.-- (talk) 08:24, 13 January 2010 (UTC)

Discussion propagation[edit]

The "first man on the moon" claim went into the Nederlands version. I made a minimal change (from "the first" to "a"). Cat, please check the grammar of that change. Louie 17:01, 2 April 2006 (UTC)


I've been following this discussion. Congratulations to you all for the way you have dealt with this problem. Banno 20:07, 6 April 2006 (UTC)

Remarks about the order and structure of the article[edit]

I've read this article with great interest as something new to me. Unfortunately I've noticed a several drawbacks in the structure of the article. I started making some cosmetic changes, but soon noticed that the problems go beyond my ignorant efforts. So I am asking you to fix it.

  1. The article starts with the phrase There are several different conceptions of what exactly "speech acts" are. and then dives headlong into "illocutionary act". After a brief digresion into "History" section, it goes into "Indirect speech acts" which has a subsection of these "interlocacts" (suggesting that they are a subclass of indirect acts, correct?).
    1. Question #1: where are the aforeannounced "several different conceptions"?
    2. Question #2: There already is the illocutionary act article. Why so much discussion of it here? Either it is an unnecessary repetition or much of the text must be moved from here to there, according to Wikipedia:Summary style.
    3. By scrolling up and down I finally spotted
      1. the mention of locutionary act, which was given only a cursory treatment,
      2. and then a saw a "perlocutionary act"
    Finally I noticed that the three of them are mentioned earlier, unwikilinked.
    IMO all of them must be listed first thing at the very top of the article in the summary. BTW, are there any other types of speech acts?
  2. Are there other linguistic schools that adhere to different terminology?
  3. I spotted the article "Performative utterance", also referenced with J.L. Austin. What is the difference between the terms "Speech act" and utterance? This article further says (Austin later deals with them under the name illocutionary acts). What does this mean? Does this mean that "Performative utterance" and illocutionary act are the same? If yes, then why two articles? If not, where is the difference?
In general an utterance might fail for meaning, in which case it wouldn't count as a speech act. Austin may also have believed that a successful performative implies an illocutionary act in the same way that a meaningful utterance implies a speech act. MaherCoen (talk) 15:39, 15 August 2008 (UTC)

There is still more of it. I would ask you very much to review the whole this subsection of linguistics from the point of view of coherence and cohesion of wikipedia articles. Meanwhile I would strongly recommend to add references to general statements, especially the ones that express opinions of general character about some things (I tagged one such phrase in the "History" section). (IMO the statements that describe facts and give definitions may be safely attributed to the books and links provided at the bottom.) Thank you, `'mikka 02:04, 23 March 2007 (UTC)

I do agree with this. I was looking for a definition of what a speech act is, but there isn't one in this article. Micrology 19:32, 21 October 2007 (UTC)

I have added one. I also agree with the above and I have added a section lower down on this page echoing and developing one of Mikka's principle criticisms. MaherCoen (talk) 12:28, 15 August 2008 (UTC)

This is BridgeBuilder- I'm writing this note to indicate that tonight I have restored three paragraphs to this "Speech Act Theory" article that were deleted earlier this year by someone who apparently had a concern that this part of the entry was plagiarized. I'd like to make it clear that the words and word are my own- I sent a message indicating this to the person who'd marked the content for deletion (without reply, apparently), and so now I am restoring this section. I am also responsible for the Winograg & Flores citation in the bibliography. I am restoring this because the issue is of considerable importance- Winograd & Flores has been cited as one of the most influential books in computer science- and their analysis is still an important source of insight in many areas, including (among other things) an understanding of 'conversations for action' between patients and healthcare providers. Please forgive any clumsiness in formatting of this entry- Thank you- BridgeBuilder (talk) 00:29, 4 September 2008 (UTC)

Missing Derrida/Searle debates?[edit]

I've been reading about J. L. Austin and have finished studying one of his essays in the Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. The bio the give on him devotes several paragraphs to a certain debate between Derrida and Searle. According to the anthology, the debate was heated enough to polarize Anglo-American philosophers from "French theory." I would certainly be interested in hearing more about this, and if I learn enough to contribute, I may, but it could be many months... JECompton 07:16, 15 October 2007 (UTC)

unfortunately that polarization is so complete it seems that even mentioning Derrida is too much ;) -- (talk) 00:57, 12 May 2012 (UTC)

Speech acts are NOT identical to illocutionary acts (in Austin and Searle)[edit]

At the moment, this article repeatedly and wrongly implies or assumes an identity between speech acts and illocutionary acts. According to Austin's HTDTWW, a speech act is to be analysed as a locutionary act (ie the actual utterance), an illocutionary act (which rather seems to be the sole subject of this article), and in certain cases a perlocutionary act as well. Locutionary acts are in turn analysed as comprising phonetic, phatic and rhetic acts, corresponding to the verbal, syntactic and semantic aspects of every meaningful utterance.

Just to make the point clear: My saying to you "Don't go into the water" (a locutionary act with distinct phonetic, syntactic and semantic features) counts as warning you not to go into the water (an illocutionary act), and if you heed my warning I have thereby succeeded in persuading you not to go into the water (a perlocutionary act). This taxonomy is inherited and retained by Searle. For example, "Speech Acts: Illocutionary Acts and Perlocutionary Acts" is the first subheading in the last chapter of his "Mind, Language and Society" (1999).

I have not attempted to make the necessary corrections, partly because I have not myself contributed to the article, but also because it's not obvious whether to fix it, or just rename it and start a new one about Speech Acts generally rather than Illocutionary acts specifically. MaherCoen (talk) 12:05, 15 August 2008 (UTC)

The identity of "speech act" with "illocutionary act" comes from Searle, in his article "What is a Speech Act". Introducing his subject, referring to the sorts of acts associated with a "typical speech situation", he identifies instances of "making statements, asking questions, issuing commands, giving reports, greeting, and warning." The relevant passage: "The members of this last class are what Austin called illocutionary acts and it is with this class that I shall be concerned in this paper... Some of the English verbs and verb phrases associated with illocutionary acts are: state, assert, describe, warn, remark, comment, command, [...]" I agree with your understanding that Austin identified locutionary, illocutionary, and perlocutionary acts as three sorts of acts, and that those can be characterized as the mechanical production of an utterance, the social construal of that utterance, and the observable effects of that utterance, but the focus on the second of these three as a commonly understood sense of the phrase "speech act" does in fact come from one of the central figures in this area of study, and therefore seems legitimate as a (if not the sole) reading of the phrase. I agree that some editing of the article would be helpful (and with other comments above), but I would prefer to review the material before proposing specific changes. --Fader (talk) 15:28, 28 September 2008 (UTC)

Grice's Conversational Maxims[edit]

I find it surprising that there is no reference to Grice's conversational maxims in the section on Searle's "indirect speech acts". While Searle does not cite Grice as far as I can see in his 1975 article on the subject, it seems impossible to correctly understand "It's raining" as a response to "Would you like to play tennis?" without the maxim of relevance - to cite one example. Being new to this forum (Wikipedia generally), I will refrain from making this edit while I become more comfortable with the ins, outs, and other prepositions involved, but I'm noting it here in case anyone is interested in pursuing the matter.

--Fader (talk) 15:37, 28 September 2008 (UTC)

Grice's Conversational Maxims are required to understand Searle's discussion of indirect speech acts, but not the concept of speech acts in general. MalignantMouse (talk) 23:51, 18 February 2009 (UTC)

I've editied the section on Agents and Speech acts because the links seemed broken and also to add some more information from the AAMAS perspective.

--sgt101 (talk) —Preceding undated comment was added at 13:00, 6 January 2009 (UTC).

Misleading Example[edit]

The body of the article includes a list of utterances and their accompanying illocutionary forces. This list includes an indirect speech act, namely "Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention, please?" While it may be clear that this is a request for attention, the encoded content indicates a yes/no question of permission. This is an indirect speech act, and should be included only in the subheading of 'Indirect Speech Acts'. MalignantMouse (talk) 23:54, 18 February 2009 (UTC)

Given no argument or reason not to clarify, I have simplified the two examples under the first heading of "Speech Acts" that were indirect speech acts and made them direct. They now belong where they are. MalignantMouse (talk) 01:56, 28 June 2009 (UTC)
>made them direct
Did you mean "gave them the label 'direct'"? 20:58, 4 August 2016 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by Jacob's Crackers (talkcontribs)

Along the same line, under the heading Indirect speech acts it is suggested that the sentence "Could you please do the dishes?" is a (relatively) direct speech act. ("The content of communication may be identical, or almost identical, with the content intended to be communicated...") The example is on its surface, however, a yes-no question, while it behaves as a directive to wash the dishes. This is a conventionalized, yet indirect act. Note that it is nearly identical in this respect to one of the indirect speech acts illustrated in the next paragraph: "Peter, can you open the window?" Cnilep (talk) 18:55, 25 May 2009 (UTC)

"Could you please do the dishes?" is, however conventionalized, an indirect speech act. I'm unsure as to why you brought this up - did you think it redundant because it was so similar to the Peter-window example, or are you arguing that it's not indirect? MalignantMouse (talk) 01:56, 28 June 2009 (UTC)

Too technical[edit]

I think that this article needs a rewrite. I'm sure an actual linguist could understand it, but as someone without any formal training in language, I have no idea what a speech act is. The intro uses the words locutionary, illocutionary, and perlocutionary without any indication of their definitions, and gives a list of examples which don't seem related (how are promising and congratulating similar?). The first section uses much more linguistic jargon than most articles on language, and although I think I understand what those mean, I could easily be wrong. The rest of the article depends on an understanding an understanding of the words locutionary and illocutionary. I think that somebody knowledgeable about speech acts should rewrite this article in a way that is more clear for a layman. - (talk) 00:51, 24 November 2013 (UTC)

I agree completely; that's why we have the Template:technical tag. JustinTime55 (talk) 21:08, 10 August 2016 (UTC)

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It seems strange that this article does not currently [1] mention the concept of a misfire, considering how fundamental this was to the development of this topic in How To Do Things With Words. Andrewa (talk) 11:13, 3 July 2016 (UTC)