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Indirect Speech Acts

Nicholas Asher and Alex Lascarides
Synthese
Vol. 128, No. 1/2, Pragmatics (Jul. - Aug., 2001), pp. 183-228
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20117151
Page Count: 46
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Indirect Speech Acts
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Abstract

In this paper, we address several puzzles concerning speech acts, particularly indirect speech acts. We show how a formal semantic theory of discourse interpretation can be used to define speech acts and to avoid murky issues concerning the metaphysics of action. We provide a formally precise definition of indirect speech acts, including the subclass of so-called conventionalized indirect speech acts. This analysis draws heavily on parallels between phenomena at the speech act level and the lexical level. First, we argue that, just as co-predication shows that some words can behave linguistically as if they're 'simultaneously' of incompatible semantic types, certain speech acts behave this way too. Secondly, as Horn and Bayer (1984) and others have suggested, both the lexicon and speech acts are subject to a principle of blocking or "preemption by synonymy": Conventionalized indirect speech acts can block their 'paraphrases' from being interpreted as indirect speech acts, even if this interpretation is calculable from Gricean-style principles. We provide a formal model of this blocking, and compare it with existing accounts of lexical blocking.

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