Describing a speech act
Write an analytical essay to describe the speech act “Complimenting” in the English language.
The focus of this assignment is on?
• describing a speech act in your home language?
• understanding the literature related to speech acts
You’ll describe a particular speech act in your home community and home language in terms of one or more of the theoretical frameworks mentioned earlier in class
(Natural Semantic Metalanguage or the CCSARP Project or Politeness theory) with reference to readings relating to that act and to the framework you’re using.
When writing up the results of your analysis, here’s a suggested structure:
An introductory paragraph will explain briefly what you are doing in the research paper.
The body of the paper should contain:
• a short description of the speech act and the settings and speech events it is used in your home ?society, referring to literature on the subject ?
• the framework you are adopting for analysing the speech act (probably Natural Semantic ?Metalanguage or CSARP) and the background necessary to understand it,
including assumptions of ?what constitute normal and abnormal ways of carrying it out (or polite and impolite ways). ?
• a semantic analysis of the meaning of the word used to describe the speech act, or your description ?of what speakers are doing when they carry out this act if there
is no label for the act ?
• a discussion of normal and abnormal ways of carrying out the speech act/conversational ?management strategy?This will be followed by a short conclusion and a
complete list of references . ?Sources and referencing ?It is very important to give sources for claims that you make – even if the source is your experience.
• Be very careful about using sources (such as websites) that, unlike journals, are not peer-refereed. Always cite a peer-refereed source over something unrefereed
like a blog-post or Wikipedia.
• If you cite sources on the web, give the title and author and other normal citation material (journal title , etc) if known, as well as the URL (a permanent URL if
such exist – online journal articles usually have permanent url or digital object identifier (“doi”)), and the date you accessed it. ?It is crucial that if you use
someone else’s words you put direct quotation marks around that you are quoting and give the source and page reference.
• For the assignment, we’ll be using the program TURNITIN, so you’ll get a chance to check to see if you have failed to quote properly. I
• For linguistics assignments, use Harvard in-text referencing. It is up to you as to how you format the list of references, so long as you are consistent, and give
the basics of author, year, title, place and publisher for books, and of author, year, title, journal title, volume/issue and page numbers for articles.
Suggested thinking procedure
1. Consider a particular speech act that is used in your home society, e.g. compliments, requests, apologies. Look at it in the light of the observations you and your
fellow students have made about it, and what you have read about it. Think about the kinds of settings and speech events it is used in, and the roles and relationship
between the participants (cf Weeks 1, 3 lectures).
2. Consider if there is a label for the speech act in the language of the speech community you are describing. E.g. in English the act of saying good things about
someone to their face is labelled as ‘to compliment someone’, or ‘to pay someone a compliment’. The act of speaking before someone else has finished their turn is
called ‘interrupting’. If there is a label, look at definitions for that label in dictionaries, preferably the best you can find (Learners’ Dictionaries such as the
Collins Cobuild Dictionary often have better definitions than mainstream dictionaries).
3. If there is a label, try expanding that definition in terms of what you think are the thoughts, beliefs and assumptions of the speaker when they carry out that act,
and what the intended effect on the hearer is (as in Hee-Soo Kim’s paper).?Kim, Heesoo. 2008. The semantic and pragmatic analysis of South Korean and Australian
speech acts. Journal of Pragmatics 40:257-278.
4. If there is no single word label, describe what you think are the thoughts, beliefs and assumptions of the speaker and the intended effect on the hearer. Try to
come up with a label (e.g. in English we have no word for a speech act which involves ‘asking for something from a relation with the expectation that it will be given
to you because of your relationship’, but many Australian languages have a single word to describe this).
5. Consider the speech events that involve the speech acts or conversational management strategy described by the labels (e.g. a speech event with a head act of
‘request’ may involve a number of statements leading up to that request). Choose ONE EXAMPLE of a speech event involving the speech act or conversational management
strategy that you decided on in 1. – it could be from your experience, or your
class-mates’ observations, or an example from a conversation transcribed on the web, or a fictional example (e.g. from a film, or even from song lyrics). Make sure you
give the source and any relevant information following Dell Hymes’ SPEAKING grid (Week 3).
6. Read at least 2 papers about the speech act, ideally in the speech community you want to study, but, failing that, in other speech communities.
7. On the basis of the papers, and of your experience, take the example of this speech act in a particular setting that you chose in 5. What do you think constitutes a
normal way of carrying out the speech act, and what constitutes an abnormal (impolite or hyperpolite) way of carrying out the speech act?
8. List the assumptions that you are making in deciding what is normal and what is abnormal.
9. Do the normal or abnormal ways of carrying out the speech act vary according to characteristics of the speaker and hearer (social variables), or to their
relationship (role variables), or to characteristics of the situation (situational variables)?
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