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Beyond politeness and deniability: Towards a multi-component analysis of indirect speech - Marina Terkourafi (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

Date: 4 December 2012 Time: 5.00-6.00 pm

Venue: Fylde, LT 3

In the standard analysis of Indirect Speech Acts (Searle 1975), the primary illocutionary act that the speaker intends to perform is said to be an implicature (Grice 1975/1989) of the secondary illocutionary act that the speaker actually utters. This view of indirectness takes direct speech as a cognitive baseline, a kind of default from which the speaker must have one of several reasons to diverge. The most common such reason is thought to be politeness (Searle 1975; cf. Brown & Levinson 1978/1987) though other reasons such as relationship negotiation have recently also been explored (Pinker et al. 2008, Lee & Pinker 2010). In this paper, I argue that this picture of indirectness, though correct, is basically incomplete. Outside of linguists' theories about pragmatics, themselves originally steeped in logic, there is nothing 'basic' about direct speech. Direct speech does not come first in acquisition (Ervin Tripp 1977) and likely did not pre-date indirect speech in language evolution (Bax 2002). Rather, evidence from ontogenesis and phylogenesis alike supports the idea that indirect speech can be an efficient means of putting forward what we might call a 'proto-meaning', that is, a meaning which is not yet fully formed in the speaker's mind (and so could not in principle have been expressed directly) until processed and acted upon by the hearer. If that is correct, then a complementary motivation for indirect speech lies in its potential to enable this discursive shaping of meaning between speaker and hearer in ways that enhance their cognitive alignment and that could never have been possible with direct speech. Paying due attention to the discursive properties of speech thus affords us with lucid and more comprehensive accounts of such time-honored pragmatic phenomena as indirect speech.

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Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Graduate School, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
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