The Syntax, Semantics and Philosophy of Speech Acts (Workshop 2)

Convener: Friederike Moltmann

While there was considerable initial excitement about the development of speech act theory in the 1960s by Austin, Alston, Searle and others, speech acts had not been subject to the same amount of theoretical work that was produced in other areas in the study of meaning (broadly understood). In fact, both formal semantics and syntax have for a long time focused instead on abstract, proposition-based views of meaning (such as Montague Grammar). Today there is an increasing awareness of conceptual problems and limitations of the abstract proposition-based view of meaning as well as an increased interest in linguistic expressions and constructions that relate to speech acts, which have given rise to new work in formal syntax and semantics (and pragmatics), and philosophy of language. Relevant recent theoretical developments include the theory of commitment spaces (Krifka), act-based conceptions of propositional content (Hanks, Soames), the theory of attitudinal objects (Moltmann), and the syntax of perlocutionary aspects of speech acts integrating the role of the addressee (Marcu, Wiltschko). Contributions to this special session may relate to the following topics:

–  speech act indicators and their formal semantics

–  the semantics of speech act verbs, verbs of saying, and propositional attitude verbs

–  act-based and cognitive conceptions of propositional content

–  the action-product distinction of Twardowski

–  the formal syntax of speech acts (locutionary, illocutionary, and perlocutionary acts)

–  the semantics of questions and imperatives

–  the semantics of mood

Some References

Hanks, Peter (2015): Propositional Content. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Fogal, Daniel, Daniel Harris & Matt Moss (Eds.) (2018): New Work in Speech Acts. Oxford: Oxford UP.

Krifka, Manfred (2015): Bias in Commitment Space Semantics: Declarative questions, negated questions, and question tags. In Proceedings of Semantics and Linguistic Theory SALT 25: 328-345.

Marcu, Daniel (2000): Perlocutions: The Achilles’ heel of speech act theory. Journal of Pragmatics 32: 1719-1741.

Moltmann, Friederike (2017): Levels of linguistic acts and the semantics of saying and quoting. In S.L. Tsohatzidis (Ed.): Interpreting Austin: Critical Essays. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 34-59.

Moltmann, Friederike (2014): Propositions, Attitudinal Objects and the Distinction between Actions and Products. In: Gupreet Rattan and David Hunter, eds., The Nature of Propositions and their Grasp or Understanding, Canadian Journal of Philosophy. 

Moltmann, Friederike & Mark Textor (Eds.) (2017): Act-Based Conceptions of Propositional Content. Historical and Contemporary Perspectives. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Wiltschko, Martina, & Johannes Heim (2016): The syntax of confirmationals. In G. Kaltenböck, E. Keiyer & A. Lohrmann (Eds.): Outside the Clause: Form and function of extra-clausal constituents. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 305-340.