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Теорграмматика / Блох М.Я. Семенова Т.Н. Тимофеева С.В. - Theoretical English Grammar. Seminars. Практикум по теоретической грамматике английского языка - 2010

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Seminars on Theoretical English Grammai


[57] Peter has sold them to a diamond merchant from Antwerp. where the topic is assigned to the predicate noun phrase them, although according to some theories of topic the phrase Peter would be assigned topic function. Besides syntactic ordering and stress distribution, we thus have indications from definite articles and pronouns about the topic function of certain phrases.

It should be stressed that (con-)textually identified individuals determining topic function need not be "expressed" by the same lexical units:

[58] Now, Fairview had had its golden age (...) The little town's methods of production could not compete with the modern factories (...) (Chase, p. 5).

In this passage from the same crime story taken as an earlier example, part of the complex noun phrase of the second sentence, viz the little town is topic, due to referential identity with Fairview, introduced before. In case the epistemic range of the concept of town includes the existence of factories and hence of methods of production, the whole noun phrase the little town's methods of production would be assigned topic function, as is also indicated by the definite article.

In general, topical noun phrases may be used even in those cases where the referent is not an essential (necessary) part of a previously introduced referent with which it is associated. The definite noun phrase in a later passage,

[59] The more progressive businesses had transferred to Bentonville


would in such a case receive topic function, although no progressive businessmen have been introduced above.

Theoretically speaking this is possible only if we assume that a proposition like "Fairview has progressive businessmen" is introduced as a missing link. This would mean that some topics still have an IMPLICIT COMMENT function. Conversely, we might speak of IMPLICIT TOPIC function in those cases where previously identified referents are assigned to a previously identified property or relation:

[60] Paul stole the diamonds!

where the phrase Paul (with specific stress) has comment function if the topic is "Somebody had stolen the diamonds". In case we should, for theoretical reasons, be reluctant to assign comment function to referring phrases, and especially to those referring to previously iden-

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tified referents, sentences of the type exemplified by [60] may be considered as having a relation as comment, viz IDENTITY, [...] as is also expressed in the natural language variants of [60]:

[61]It was Paul, who stole the diamonds.

[62]The one who stole the diamonds was Paul.

Note that in such examples (initial) stress does not only mean that a phrase which would have topic function in normal ordering now has comment function, but also that CONTRAST and implicit DENIAL are involved. In those cases where it is assumed by the hearer that x = a, and it is asserted by the speaker that x = b, the noun phrase (viz its last main category) referring to b has marked stress. The reverse applies to explicit internal (phrasal) negation, as in:

[63] Paul did not steal the diamonds.

where steal has marked stress: the speaker assumes some belief in the hearer to the effect that the relationship g between Paul and the diamonds, is that of stealing: g = "steal", and it is asserted in the comment that g * "steal". Taking natural language negation as an expression of a specific speech act, as the "converse" of assertion, namely of DENIAL, the whole sentence would have topic function and the "new" element would be a change in illocutionary force.


At this point it becomes necessary to say something more about the precise status of such categories as topic and comment. It has been shown that they cannot possibly be syntactic, but must at least have a SEMANTIC nature. It has also been shown that there are no meaning relations involved: phrases may be assigned topic function even if related to phrases with different meaning in previous sentences. The topic-comment distinction essentially is a structure relating to the REFERENTS of phrases: in general a phrase is assigned topic function if its value in some possible world has already been identified as a value of expressions in preceding implicit or explicit (con-)textual propositions.

[...] any expression in a sentence which denotes something denoted before is assigned topic function, whereas the other expressions are assigned comment function.

This is the most general statement about topic-comment functions in sentences. This proposal, however, should be made more specific. First


Seminars on Theoretical English Grammar


of all, it might be assumed that all (formal) INFORMATION is PROPOSITIONAL, whatever the precise cognitive implications of this assumption. That is, we reconstruct knowledge as a set of propositions. A simple argument and predicate like "the book" or "is open" are not, as such, elements of information, only a proposition like "the book is open".

[...] In still simpler terms: at some point i of the discourse the participants know a common set of facts, namely those denoted by the (propositions expressed by the) previous sentences. Note that such atomic propositions may be expressed simply as phrases of sentences. That is, the fact "that there is a girl" is expressed in the verb phrase of the sentence Peter met a girl. In a following sentence The girl is from Italy this information is also expressed, or rather embedded in the definite expression the girl ("The only x such that : is a girl"). If this proposition denotes the same fact as the one denoted in the previous sentence, then the phrase expressing this proposition is assigned topic function.

This approach to topic-comment structures, however, is clearly too rigid. First of all, it would become problematic to assign topic function to those phrases which are not likely to have underlying propositional structure, like the pronoun in She is from Italy. Secondly, the notion of (propositional) transmission of information should rather be made explicit in pragmatic terms. Here we are concerned first of all with giving a semantic characterization of topiccomment structure. Finally, it may be assumed that the assignment of topic function to a phrase, PRESUPPOSES propositional information, without expressing it as such. Thus, even in She is from Italy it is presupposed that there exists a certain female human being (or other object pronominalizable with she).

We may therefore uphold the hypothesis that all categories may be assigned topic function, where the topic is assigned to contextually bound elements of the atomic or complex proposition. These bound elements may denote objects, but also properties, relations, facts or possibly functions. The "free" (comment) elements would then be assigned to the expressions denoting properties of (known) objects, relations between (known) objects, objects of (known) properties or relations, properties of facts, etc., as was indicated earlier. According to these principles, any phrase with the referential character mentioned would be assigned topic function.


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Note that, strictly speaking, this formal condition also holds for

those examples where the surface structure phrase denoting an individual which has already been introduced (and which hence is known to the hearer) seems to have comment function, as in I met him, where him has heavy stress. That is, both the speaker and the referent of him have been identified, and hence are assigned topic function. Comment function, then, is assigned to that part of semantic structure which is not yet introduced [...]. In other words, it is the identity of Peter with the one I met which is the (asserted) comment of this sentence. English has only limited possibilities to express such comments, for instance by stressing the phrase expressing part of the relation. In this case the sense is ambiguous: the stress may either be interpreted as expressing the fact that there were several people I could have met, but that it actually was (the known) man, e.g. Peter, or else it may be interpreted as expressing the fact that the speaker denies or contradicts an assumption of the hearer [...]. The first use could be called "contrastive" or "selective", the second "contradictive" or "corrective", which means that the specific stress is semantically determined in the first usage, and pragmatically in the second. Contrastive selection is not limited to cases where the predicate (relation) is already known, as may be seen in: Finally I listened to him, and ignored her.

It follows that rule [64] is still theoretically correct if assumed to operate on expressions of some semantic language: topic-comment assignment is not always unambiguous for phrases in surface structure. The rule seems to apply correctly when only one such phrase is expressed:

[65]Peter is ill.

[66]Peter met a girl.

[67]That Peter met a girl was unexpected.

As soon as we have several phrases denoting identified individuals, the situation is less straightforward. Earlier it was suggested that in that case we might assume several topics, or one complex topic:

[68] The boy went with the girl to the cinema.

Here, two or possibly three referents have been identified. The simplest solution is to assume as topic the triple ["the boy", "the girl", "the cinema"], and to assign comment function to the predicate this triplet belongs to, viz "to go" and the past tense. This assumption is


not in accordance with the intuitive way in which topics are established, e.g. by question tests like "What about the boy?", or "What did the boy do?", which would identify the boy as the phrase expressing the topic function. Instead of assigning a particular relation to a pair or triplet, we then seem to assign a complex property ("going to the cinema with the girl") to a certain object, as in the classical sub- ject-predicate distinction. Along the same line, the pair ("the boy", "the girl") would have topic function in [68] when it answers the question "What did the boy do with the girl?". Such questions are means of expressing a certain communicative situation: they indicate where the interests of the hearer are, what he wants to know or expects to be informed about, given a certain context and part of discourse. In an explicit account it should be made clear how such questions "follow from" a certain part of the discourse. Whereas the knowledge deficit of hearers, or rather the speaker's assumptions about what the hearer may want to know should be treated in pragmatic terms, this account should first of all be semantic.

Take as sentences previous to [68] the following: [69] Mary was glad to go out that night. [70] Peter was glad to go out that night.

It is understood that the boy and the girl (or their pronominal forms) are referentially identical with Peter and Mary, respectively. Given [69] as previous discourse, we could say that [68] is saying something about the girl, at least primarily. Similarly for the boy after [70]. Apparently, the topicality of "the boy" or "the girl" depends on the topicality of referentially equivalent phrases in the previous sentence, as is also the case in the test questions establishing a certain epistemic context. If this sort of "relative" establishment of topics held, we would have to conclude that "the boy" is assigned topic in [68] after a sentence like Peter met a girl this afternoon, in which "a girl" is not topic but part of the comment according to rule [64]. And the same for "the girl" after a sentence like That afternoon Mary met a boy. After such sentences, as after [70] and [69], respectively, the sentence [68] would be interpreted as being primarily about the boy or the girl, respectively.

However, apart from other difficulties, the rule of relative topic assignment (if there is more than one topical phrase in a sentence,

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then the phrase co-referential with the last topical phrase has topic function) meets with difficulties. That is, after the sentence Peter met a girl this afternoon we may have the sentence The girl was very pretty. According to the rule, this would mean that "the girl" would be assigned topic function in [68], although it may be maintained that the sentence is primarily about the boy - intuitively speaking at least. This intuition may be based on the fact that the girl has been introduced after the introduction of the boy, and relative to it, viz as the "object" of the meeting relation. This intuition is not always accurate, as shown by this simple story:

[71] Once upon a time there was an old king. He had seven daughters. One of them was called Bella. She loved her father very much. [...]

Although the daughter Bella has been introduced relative to her father the king, we would not say that her father in the fourth sentence has (primary) topic function: the sentence is intuitively about Bella, introduced in the previous sentence. Note that the sentence He was her best friend would be unacceptable as a fourth sentence in [71 ], whereas the sentence He loved her most of all would be acceptable, as well as the full version Her father was her best friend. The first of the acceptable sentences would re-establish the "father" as the topic, or at least the pair ("the father", "the daughter"). In the second acceptable sentence the expression her father may not be pro-nominalized, apparently because it does not express a topic but part of the comment, where she or her best friend are topic (or derived topic).

The difficulty arising in these cases seems in part due to the fact that the establishment of topic function in individual sentences with several bound elements also depends on what could be called the topic of the passage, or the topic of discourse in general. Thus, in [71] we intuitively know that in the third sentence the topic of the discourse changes to the daughter. This is not the case for "intermediary" sentences such as She was very pretty after which "Peter" can still stay topic of the discourse taken as an earlier example. How topics of (parts of) discourse are to be denned is a problem for the next chapter. It will be provisionally assumed however that if a phrase has topic function and if a phrase in the next sentence is co-referential with it, then the topic will be "continued". A change of topic seems to follow automatically with reference to previously identified things referred to by comment-phrases:


Seminars on Theoretical English Grammar

[72]a: I am looking for my typewriter.

b:It is no longer on my desk.

Whereas the contextually identified "I" is assigned topic function in [72]a the topic is changed to the argument referring to the typewriter in [72]b. It will, however, be difficult to maintain that since "I" is assigned topic in [72]a this topic remains the same in the subsequent sentence:

[72] c: / do not see it in my office.

which seems to be also about the typewriter (as is indicated by the pro-nominalization it). As before, we thus must assume that sets or ordered pairs may be topics in a sentence (if no further information is established about topicality by the whole passage/discourse).

Note, incidentally, that arguments referring to identified members of the context (e.g. speaker and hearer) need not be explicitly introduced into the discourse in order to be topic. With normal ordering and stress they always have topic function.

Note also that not all definite noun phrases must express topic function. Definite noun phrases are also used in those cases where there is obviously only one object of the kind in the universe of the particular discourse. In order to become topic, however, such individuals must first be introduced into the set of referents:

[73] Leonard ran off with the maid.

Here "the maid" may well belong to the comment.


It is not easy to draw unambiguous CONCLUSIONS from these observations about the topic-comment articulation in sentences, not even for sentences in (con-)text. We have a clear formal criterion, viz [64], possibly corresponding to a cognitive principle of information expansion, but our intuitions do not always seem to match with these rules. At the same time it is not simple to distinguish at this point between sentential topics, on the one hand, and sequential or discourse topics on the other hand. [...] Besides the referential conditions stated above, the assignment of sentential topic function also seems to be determined by rules of topic continuity and topic change, and further by pragmatic factors like "interest", "importance" or "relevance", rather vague notions to be further discussed in Chap-

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ter 8. It has been clear in this last section that certain problems of discourse semantics are still very puzzling: even if there are some fairly general rules, there are many very subtle differences which seem to obey other constraints.

(pp. 114-126)


1.How do topic-comment and subject-predicate distinctions correlate?

2.Should topic and comment be viewed as semantic, pragmatic, logical or formal?

3.What are the functions of topic and comment in a sentence?

4.Is there any correspondence between topic an presupposition? Do these notions fully coincide? What differentiates them?

5.What procedures help recognize the topic and the comment of a sen tence?

6.What is "topicalization"? What is its function?

7.What is the significance of propositions for informational processing?


Johnson L. Meaning

and Speech Act Theory

"Words have meaning." This seems to be about as simple and clear an assertion of a factual state of affairs as any statement that one can make. On closer inspection however, it merely raises the question as to what "meaning" is. If in saying: "Words have meaning" one intends to convey the idea that meaning is a property of words in the same way that a dog has four legs and a tail, then I would suggest that the speaker has a rather inaccurate notion of what meaning is. In order to clarify the nature of meaning, this paper will examine how speech act theory explains some of the many different ways in which meaning is communicated through speech acts. However, before doing that, it is important to give some consideration to the ontological status of words and meaning so as to avoid some of the common misconceptions which seem to be associated with this type of analysis.

19 - 3548



Seminars on Theoretical English Gramrm


First, it should be noted that words are not "objects" or "things" that have properties of their own in the same way that actually existing things do. Words are relational entities. Which is to say that words are composed of parts that are not integrated by any form or structure intrinsic to the word itself. The symbols (marks/sounds) which taken together constitute a word, make the word real insofar as it exists outside the mind; but, as vibrations in the air or as marks on paper, words exist as relational entities and not as actual things. This is due to the fact that the medium which carries the word is not proportionate to the idea or concept which constitutes the form of the word. All that the air or paper and ink can carry is the symbolic representation of the actual form which is understood within the mind, and not the form itself.

When a word is spoken or written it becomes a relational entity which lacks the power to do or to cause anything. While it is true that the vibrations in the air or the marks on a piece of paper can stimulate the senses, a word as such cannot cause knowledge. As Augustine noted:

We learn nothing by means of these signs we call words. On the contrary, as I said, we learn the force of the word, that is the meaning which lies in the sound of the word, when we come to know the object signified by the word. Then only do we perceive that the word was a sign conveying that meaning.

The person who hears or sees the word must already know what it means if she is to be able to understand it. That is why, if someone does not understand the meaning of a word, you must explain it using other words which she does understand, give examples, or point to some real thing so that she can come to know what it is that you are talking about. If human beings could directly cause knowledge in one another, then we would communicate through a direct spiritual contact such that one person would be able to directly infuse a specific form into the mind of another. Since that is not how we communicate however, it is clear that our words do not directly cause knowledge to appear in the mind of another. Instead, our words are tokens or signs which can only function as a formal cause in that if the other person already knows what the word means, she will be able to recognize it and form the appropriate concept in her own mind.

Seminar 10. Actual Division of the Sentence


Communication between human beings, therefore, involves an active receptivity on the part of the hearer and not a mere passivity. The spoken or written word does not directly actualize some potency in the mind of the receiver. Rather, it prompts him or her to look at things in a new way so as to be able to form new concepts and thereby grow in understanding. Thus, words are not in themselves "things" which cause knowledge, but relational entities which carry the value of meaning. It is meaning which must be present for communication to occur. It follows that, although words are not actual things, and as such, are not the efficient cause of the knowledge one gains through th'e use of language, words do have value. Their value lies precisely in the meaning which they carry.

It is important to note that the concept which gives a word its meaning is only joined to the word in the mind of the person who understands it. The spoken or written word is in itself, just a symbol which must have a concept attached to it; first, by the person who speaks or writes the word, and secondly, by the person who hears or reads the word. So it is that the meaning which a word has is totally subject dependent, both from the standpoint of the person who speaks a word, and from that of the person who hears it.

The meaning of a word is something which is simply projected onto the token which carries it. This is done, not only by the person who first speaks the word, but also by the person who hears it. Therefore, if any meaningful communication is to occur between persons, there must be at least some intersubjective agreement as to what the words mean, given-the context in which they are used. The fact that there are many different languages and many different words which all can be used to refer to the same thing, shows just how subjective the whole process of communication through the use of words really is. If it were not for definitions, grammar, and all the other rules concerning how to use a particular language, we would hardly be able to communicate with each other at all.

Given the relational status of words, and the subject dependency of the meanings which they carry, one should anticipate a degree of complexity to the word - meaning relation that would render any simplistic or reductionist theory of meaning untenable. It is for this reason that speech act theory becomes very helpful at this point be-



Seminars on Theoretical English Grammar


cause it reveals how a difference in use also entails a difference in meaning. The distinction which J.L. Austin makes between locutionary, illocutionary, and perlocutionary acts illustrates this point very well. Austin writes:

We first distinguished a group of things we do in saying something, which together we summed up by saying we perform a locutionary act, such which is roughly equivalent to uttering a certain sentence with a certain sense and reference, which again is roughly equivalent to "meaning" in the traditional sense. Second, we said that we also perform illocutionary acts such as informing, ordering, warning, undertaking, etc., i.e. utterances which have a certain (conventional) force. Thirdly, we may also perform perlocutionary acts: what we bring about or achieve by saying something, such as convincing, persuading, deterring, and even, say, surprising or misleading. Here we have three, if not more, different senses or dimensions of the "use of a sentence" or of "the use of language" (and, of course, there are others also).

The illocutionary force is of course, distinct from "meaning" in the sense in which Austin uses the word. Even if the force of an expression is determined primarily by using the expression according to some established convention, however, it also seems to be the case that the force is attached to and carried by an utterance in much the same way as the sense and reference are, except that the force is attached through a social convention, while sense is attached through a linguistic convention, and reference is attached intentionally by the speaker.

For example, if I say to a friend: "I promise that I will help you paint your house on Saturday." I use the sentence to refer to myself (I), another person (you), an activity (paint), an object (your house), a time (Saturday), and a condition (help). Thus, I intentionally fix the reference of these words, which in turn means that specific definitions of words are applicable in this situation and others are not. The word "promise" is added in order to clarify the illocutionary force of the sentence so that my friend knows that I am undertaking an obligation to help him and am not merely expressing an intention or making a prediction about what I will probably do on Saturday. All of this taken together and spoken within an appropriate context is what I mean by the sentence and is the meaning which the sentence has when I speak it.

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It is true that the meaning of an utterance is not complete apart from an inclusion of the illocutionary force as an aspect of the meaning of the utterance.

The principle that the meaning of a sentence is entirely determined by the meaning of its meaningful parts I take as obviously true; what is not so obviously true, however, is that these include more than words (or morphemes) and surface word order. The meaningful components of a sentence include also its deep syntactic structure and the stress and intonation contour of its utterance. Words and word order are not the only elements which determine meaning.

The speech act or acts performed in the utterance of a sentence are in general a function of the meaning of the sentence. The meaning of a sentence does not in all cases uniquely determine what speech act is performed in a given utterance of that sentence, for a speaker may mean more than what he actually says, but it is always in principle possible for him to say exactly what he means.

When speaker meaning and the literal meaning of a sentence coincide the meaning of a sentence is that which is in accord with all of the relevant linguistic and social conventions which apply to the normal use of the sentence. If a speaker uses a sentence metaphorically, however, he gives the sentence a metaphorical meaning such that it does not have a literal meaning unless a hearer misinterprets the speaker and takes the sentence literally and gives it a literal interpretation. In which case, the hearer has misunderstood the speaker by paying more attention to the linguistic conventions associated with the sentence than to the intentions of the speaker.


1.What speaks for the fact that a word is a relational entity?

2.What do flexibility and intersubjectivity of the word meaning involve?

3.What is meant by locutionary, illocutionary, and perlocutionary acts?

4.What are the constituents of sentence meaning?

5.What determines the meaning of a sentence?



Seminars on Theoretical English Grammar



Searle J.R.

Speech Acts. An Essay in the

Philosophy of Language

Chapter 2. Expressions,

Meaning, and Speech Acts

The hypothesis then of this work is that speaking a language is engaging in a rule-governed form of behavior. To put it more briskly, talking is performing acts according to rules. In order to substantiate that hypothesis and explicate speech, I shall state some of the rules according to which we talk. The procedure which I shall follow is to state a set of necessary and sufficient conditions for the performance of particular kinds of speech acts and then extract from those conditions sets of semantic rules for the use of the linguistic devices which mark the utterances as speech acts of those kinds. That is a rather bigger task than perhaps it sounds, and this chapter will be devoted to preparing the ground for it by introducing distinctions between different kinds of speech acts, and discussing the notions of propositions, rules, meaning, and facts.

2.1 Expressions and Kinds of Speech Acts

Let us begin this phase of our inquiry by making some distinctions which naturally suggest themselves to us as soon as we begin to reflect on simple speech situations. (The simplicity of the sentences in our examples will not detract from the generality of the distinctions we are trying to make.) Imagine a speaker and a hearer and suppose that in appropriate circumstances the speaker utters one of the following sentences:

1.Sam smokes habitually.

2.Does Sam smoke habitually?

3.Sam, smoke habitually!

4.Would that Sam smoked habitually.

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Now let us ask how we might characterize or describe the speaker's utterance of one of these. What shall we say the speaker is doing when he utters one of these?

One thing is obvious: anyone who utters one of these can be said to have uttered a sentence formed of words in the English language. But clearly this is only the beginning of a description, for the speaker in uttering one of these is characteristically saying something and not merely mouthing words. In uttering 1 a speaker is making (what philosophers call) an assertion, in 2 asking a question, in 3 giving an order, and in 4 (a somewhat archaic form) expressing a wish - or desire. And in the performance of each of these four different acts the speaker performs certain other acts which are common to all four: in uttering any of these the speaker refers to or mentions or designates a certain object Sam, and he predicates the expression "smokes habitually" (or one of its inflections) of the object referred to. Thus we shall say that in the utterance of all four the reference and predication are the same, though in each case the same reference and predication occur as part of a complete speech act which is different from any of the other three. We thus detach the notions of referring and predicating from the notions of such complete speech acts as asserting, questioning, commanding, etc., and the justification for this separation lies in the fact that the same reference and predication can occur in the performance of different complete speech acts. Austin baptized these complete speech acts with the name "illocutionary acts", and I shall henceforth employ this terminology8. Some of the English verbs denoting illocutionary acts are "state", "describe", "assert", "warn", "remark", "comment", "command", "order", "request", "criticize", "apologize", "censure", "approve", "welcome", "promise", "object", "demand", and "argue". Austin claimed there were over a thousand such expressions in English9.

The first upshot of our preliminary reflections, then, is that in the utterance of any of the four sentences in the example a speaker is characteristically performing at least three distinct kinds of acts: (a) the

8J.L. Austin. How to Do Things with Words (Oxford, 1962). I employ the expres sion, "illocutionary act", with some misgivings, since I do not accept Austin's distinction between locutionary and illocutionary acts.

9Austin, op. cit. p. 149.

uttering of words (morphemes, sentences); (b) referring and predicating; (c) stating, questioning, commanding, promising, etc.

Let us assign names to these under the general heading of speech acts:

(a)Uttering words (morphemes, sentences) = performing utter ance acts.

(b)Referring and predicating = performingpropositionalacts.

(c)Stating, questioning, commanding, promising, etc. = perform ing illocutionary acts.

I am not saying, of course, that these are separate things that speakers do, as it happens, simultaneously, as one might smoke, read and scratch one's head simultaneously, but rather that in performing an illocutionary act one characteristically performs propositional acts and utterance acts. Nor should it be thought from this that utterance acts and propositional acts stand to illocutionary acts in the way buying a ticket and getting on a train stand to taking a railroad trip. They are not means to ends; rather, utterance acts stand to propositional and illocutionary acts in the way in which, e.g., making an "X" on a ballot paper stands to voting.

The point of abstracting each of these kinds is that the "identity criteria" are different in each case. We have already seen that the same propositional acts can be common to different illocutionary acts, and it is obvious that one can perform an utterance act without performing a propositional or illocutionary act at all. (One can utter words without saying anything.) And similarly, if we consider the utterance of a sentence such as:

5. Mr Samuel Martin is a regular smoker of tobacco. we can see reasons for saying that in certain contexts a speaker in uttering it would be performing the same propositional act as in 1-4 (reference and predication would be the same), the same illocutionary act as 1 (same statement or assertion is made), but a different utterance act from any of the first four since a different sentence containing none of the same words and only some of the same morphemes, is uttered. Thus, in performing different utterance acts, a speaker may perform the same propositional and illocutionary acts. Nor, of course, need the performance of the same utterance act by two different speakers, or by the same speaker on different occasions, be a performance of the same proposi-

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tional and illocutionary acts: the same sentence may, e.g., be used to make two different statements. Utterance acts consist simply in uttering strings of words. Illocutionary and propositional acts consist characteristically in uttering words in sentences in certain contexts, under certain conditions and with certain intentions, as we shall see later on.

So far I make no claims for dividing things up this way, other than its being a permissible way to divide them - vague though this may be. In particular, I do not claim that it is the only way to divide things. For example, for certain purposes one might wish to break up what I have called utterance acts into phonetic acts, phonemic acts, morphemic acts, etc. And, of course, for most purposes, in the science of linguistics it is not necessary to speak of acts at all. One can just discuss phonemes, morphemes, sentences, etc.

To these three notions I now wish to add Austin's notion of the perlocutionary act. Correlated with the notion of illocutionary acts is the notion of the consequences or effects such acts have on the actions, thoughts, or beliefs, etc. of hearers. For example, by arguing I may persuade or convince someone, by warning him I may scare or alarm him, by making a request I may get him to do something, by informing him I may convince him (enlighten, edify, inspire him, get him to realise). The italicized expressions above denote perlocutionary acts.

Correlative with the notion of propositional acts and illocutionary acts, respectively, are certain kinds of expressions uttered in their performance: the characteristic grammatical form of the illocutionary act is the complete sentence (it can be a one-word sentence); and the characteristic grammatical form of the propositional acts are parts of sentences: grammatical predicates for the act of predication, and proper names, pronouns, and certain other sorts of noun phrases for reference. Propositional acts cannot occur alone; that is, one cannot just refer and predicate without making an assertion or asking a question or performing some other illocutionary act. The linguistic correlate of this point is that sentences, not words, are used to say things. This is also what Frege meant when he said that only in the context of a sentence do words have reference - "Nur im Zusammenhang eines Satzes bedeuten die Worter etwas."I0 The same thing in my terminology: One only refers as part of

G. Frege. Die Grundlagen der Arithmetik (Breslau, 1884), p. 73.



Seminars on Theoretical English Grammar


the performance of an illocutionary act, and the grammatical clothing of an illocutionary act is the complete sentence. An utterance of a referring expression only counts as referring if one says something.

(pp. 22-25)


1.What makes communicative behaviour orderly?

2.What types of speech acts are singled out by J. Austin? What modifica tion does J.R. Searle introduce into J. Austin's classification of speech acts? Define different types of speech acts.

3.What is specific for perlocutionary acts?


Qraustein Q., Hoffmann A., Schentke M.

English Grammar. A University Handbook

2.2.Content and Form of Sentences


Sentences were explained [...] as the prime object of our grammatical description. They combine information and situation in a dialectical unit, which can be used in various ways in communication.

The content of sentences is outlined as

-communicational frame,

-prepositional content.

Its formal reflection - together with the elements and constituents [...] is described in terms of

-communication types,

-relation types.

2.2.1. Communicational frame

Every description of some state-of-affairs (in the form of a sentence) is made in a communicational situation - speaker/writer, hearer/ reader, situation, intention. This embedding in a communicational situation is called the communicational frame of the sentence (CF):


Seminar 10. Actual Division of the Sentence ...



Prepositional content









Somebody tells




in a certain

with a certain








































Communicational frame

The communicational frame reflects what the speaker/writer wants to effect with his utterance and how the hearer/reader is influenced by it, where and when the speaker/writer utters something about objective reality and his psychic attitude to either hearer/reader or objective reality or both.

The communicational frame may be analysed into the following properties and relations contained in it:

(1)Partner-oriented relations between speaker/writer and hear er/reader,

(2)Context-oriented relations between speaker/writer and prep ositional content,

(3)Speaker-oriented properties of the speaker/writer himself.

(1)Partner-oriented relations affecting the sentence as a whole include the speaker/writer's intent to inform the hearer/reader (which is called assertion), to have this information confirmed, negated or completed by the hearer/reader (which is called inquiry) or to make the hearer/reader implement the action plan contained in this information (which is called request). These types of intent are reflected by declarative, imperative sentences, questions (communication types of sentences) and their phonological/orthographical features:

I've just stepped off the plane. How the hell should I?

Ask the stewardess, ask the captain, ask a dozen of people!

Again affecting the whole sentence, the speaker/writer's perspective of communication selects certain parts of the information to make them the theme of communication, or not, as the case may be. This is reflected by re-ordering of sentence parts, voice, non-specified constituents and others:

At first you think of it as just a matter of growing bigger. Then ...

you may think of it as "learning tricks", vs.: You think of it at first...

You may think then ...


Seminars on Theoretical English Grammar

We have been informed of the killing, vs.: They have informed us ... The whole of the sentence is subject to the speaker/writer's tendency towards comprehensibility and economy for the benefit of the hearer/reader, which is reflected by expansive, effective, circumstantial complex sentences, reductions, (pro)nominalizations, etc.:

Our ancestors stood up because they had found more useful things to_ do with their hands than walking on them, vs.: They had found more useful things todo ... The things could be done with their hands (comprehensibility of expressing an explicative relation, reduction by means of to-phrase), they had found more useful things to do ... vs.: The things were very useful to do... Walking on hands was not so useful (comprehensibility of expressing a comparative relation, reduction by means of ing-phrase), our vs.: the writer and the reader have ancestors (pronominalization by "we", comprehensibility of expressing an explicative relation, reduction by means of nominalization), they vs.: the ancestors (pronominalization by "they", not expressing a relation type). The speaker/writer's partner-oriented volition mainly concerns the verb phrase/verb and is reflected by modal verbs and their analogues, respectively:

Shall I put those on here? (obligation - command) ... the Well Hall...

should be made safe (obligation - advice) / am to speak to you

(obligation - invitation) May I ask you a question? (permission - polite) You can sleep here if you like (permission - informal) (2) Context-oriented relations are, for instance, reflected through the speaker/writer's local and temporal situation within noun, adverbial and prepositional phrases, respectively. His local situation (person and locality) is reflected by pronouns, determiners, local adverbs, etc.: There were two others aboard that plane vs.: this plane A t first you think of it as just a matter of growing bigger vs.: I think of it Then I will be able to wear a small earring vs.: now I am able... His temporal situation (tense and temporality) is reflected by verbs, temporal adverbs, prepositions, etc.:

He's celebrating that period millions of years ago when man's ancestors got up off all fours vs.: this period ... now when I get up... [...}

The verb phrase is again affected by the speaker/writer's valuation of the propositional content as possible, necessary, existent or

Seminar 10. Actual Division of the Sentence ...


not, as the case may be. This is reflected by mood, modal verbs and their analogues, adverbs, etc.:

Long live the workers' revolution! vs.: live

You may think of it as "learning tricks" (possibility) You 've got to wear boots as well (necessity)

It's really more complicated... than that (existence)

Within the verb phrase, the speaker/writer's affirmation and confirmation intensify or simply confirm an utterance. This is done by special finites in combination with stress and intonation:

/ longed to speak out, and in the end I did speak. He was discretion itself. All top people are.

The war is really over, isn't it, eh Mother?

The speaker/writer's decision on countability, definiteness and comparability of objective quantity and quality concerns only noun and adjective, or adverb, respectively. It is reflected by number, determiners and degree of comparison:

substances... escaping... into food, water and the air vs.: in British waters (countability)

... even if these tenants receive a subsidy ... the subsidy (definiteness) will only go to pay, or partly pay, those considerable rent rises.

Her face went white vs.: The washing was whiter (comparability) than ever.

Countability may be looked upon from the aspects of continuity or discontinuity, that which is formless or has form, and thus is nonarticulate or articulate, and if so, mass or unit/specimen. These aspects are contained in the meaning of nouns and expressed by various types of determiners:

much water (continuous, formless, non-articulate, mass = noncountable) vs.: many people (discontinuous, having form, articulate, specimen = countable)

(3) Of speaker-oriented properties, the speaker/writer's emotionality concerns sentence, phrase and word and is reflected by exclamation, re-ordering and by phonological/orthographical features:

"Good God!" I said. "Did I do that? ... I'm terribly sorry. " vs.: "Well, that may happen. Sorry. "

There were four people on the platform and the first of them . . . I recognized at once, vs.: I recognized the first of them at once.


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