5. Speech acts in conversation and discourse pragmatic.

Daniel Vanderveken - University of Quebec, Trois-Rivières



Until now philosophers have overall studied illocutionary acts that individual speakers attempt to perform at a single moment of utterance. Could we enrich speech act theory so as to deal with discourse? Wittgenstein and Searle pointed out difficulties. Most conversations lack a  proper conversational purpose; their background is indefinitely open. However in order to pursue any conversation speakers must make verbal exchanges with a proper conversational goal. In my view there are 4 conversational goals: to  express common attitudes (expressive goal), to describe how things are (descriptive goal), to deliberate on what to do (deliberative goal) or to change things by way of declarations (declaratory goal). The logic of discourse should only study the structure and dynamics of language games whose type is provided with an internal conversational goal. I will analyze the felicity conditions of such language games. Salutations, presentations, consultations, negotiations, agreements and conventions are joint illocutionary acts that last. Next I will compare my approach to others as regards methodology and issues.

Like Montague, I believe that pragmatics should use the resources of formalisms (proof, model as well as game theories) and philosophical logic in order to construct a theory of meaning and use. I will explain how to further develop intensional and illocutionary logics, the logic of attitudes and of action in order to characterize our ability to converse. One important issue is to analyze the logical form of intentional actions and to explicate the minimal rationality of speakers and the generation of individual and collective speech act tokens in discourse. We need a theory of discourse representation. By considering previous utterances and  conversational goals, the theory of meaning becomes more dynamic. It can better determine the force and propositional content  and speakers’ moves at each moment of utterance.

Speakers often mean to perform non literal illocutionary acts. In order to construct speaker meaning we also need to improve Grice’s approach whose maxims only apply to assertive utterances in conversations whose goal is informative. We should generalize conversational maxims and analyze the kinds of inference that lead to attempted illocutions. Illocutionary logic can explicate the conversational maxims of quality and quantity and certain figures of speech. I will conclude by making a few remarks about conversation verbs and replies to capital speech acts in a conversation.


Doutoranda em Filosofia pela Université du Québec à Montréal – Filosofia da Linguagem.