• Commissive: Speaker commits to a future behavior
  • Directive: Speaker directs listener to a future behavior
  • Assertive: Speaker states a fact or opinion
  • Expressive: Speaker expresses emotion
  • Declarative OR SPECIAL/OFFICIAL: official speech act

Searle posits five illocutionary points: 1) Assertives: statements that may be judged true or false because they purport to describe a state of affairs in the world; 2) Directives: statements that attempt to make the auditor’s actions fit the propositional content; 3) Commissives: statements which commit the speaker to a course of action as described by the propositional content; 4) Expressives: statements that express the sincerity condition of the speech act; and 5) Declaratives: statements that attempt to change the world by representing it as having been changed (Mind 148-50).http://rhetorica.net/speech.htm


Pragmatics is the study of the way language is used. It is the study not of sentences, but of utterances: sentences (complete and incomplete) spoken by particular people in particular circumstances.

Observations about how language is used:

  1. sentences can imply information that is not stated explicitly
  2. we don't just say things, we do things by uttering sentences
  3. who is participating can determine the effect of what is said
  4. a correct answer to a question may not be appropriate
  5. speakers don't always mean what they say


"Conversational maxims": Paul Grice

Maxim of Quantity

Maxim of Quality

Maxim of Relation (Maxim of Relevance)

Maxim of Manner

Cooperative Principle (Grice 1967/1989: 26-27)

Make your contribution such as is required, at the stage at which it occurs, by the accepted purpose or direction of the talk exchange in which you are engaged.

Quantity maxims

    1. Make your contribution as informative as is required (for the current purposes of the exchange).

    2. Do not make your contribution more informative than is required.(parsimony)

Quality maxims

Supermaxim: Try to make your contribution one that is true.

    1. Do not say what you believe to be false.

    2. Do not say that for which you lack adequate evidence.

Maxim of Relation

Be relevant.

Manner maxims

Supermaxim: Be perspicuous

    1. Avoid obscurity of expression.

    2. Avoid ambiguity.

    3. Be brief (avoid unnecessary prolixity)

    4. Be orderly