Lesson 1: Terms and Scope

Speech Acts

One important area of pragmatics is that of speech acts, which are communicative acts that convey an intended language function. Speech acts include functions such as requests, apologies, suggestions, commands, offers, and appropriate responses to those acts. Of course, speakers of these acts are not truly successful until the intended meaning they convey are understood by listeners.

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Identification of intended speech acts.

Duration: 00:41

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Can you identify each of the following speech acts intends to convey: a request, an apology, a suggestion, a command, an offer, a rebuke, or an invitation?

Speaker / Listener Speech Act
mother to daughter "Your room is a mess."
incoming traveler to hotel clerk "Can I have a room on the top floor?"
one student to another "You can use my eraser. Yours is almost gone."
student 1 to student 2, just after 1 tells 2 she failed the exam "Do you want to study together for the next test?"
student 2 to student 1, just after 1 tells 2 she failed the exam "Do you want to study together for the next test?"
a young woman to her boyfriend "You know, they have a sale on diamond rings at the mall this weekend."

Speech acts occur in everyday talk in every society, with various ranges of explicitness. For second language learners, it is important to know which speech acts are different in the first and target language, how they are different, and what is not appropriate to say.