Speech acts: The contemporary theoretical landscape

Daniel W. Harris, Daniel Fogal, Matt Moss

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This introduction is both a capsule history of major work in speech-act theory and an opinionated guide to its current state, organized around five major accounts of what speech acts fundamentally are. We first consider the two classical views, on which a speech act is the kind of act it is mainly due to convention (Austin), or to intention (Grice). We then spell out three other broad approaches, which conceive of speech acts primarily in terms of their function, or as the expression of mental states, or as constituted by norms. With these five families of views laid out, we relate them in turn to the apparatus of conversational score and discourse context; to the project of speech-act taxonomy; and to the theory of force. Last, we review applications of speech-act theory to matters legal and political, and to ethically significant phenomena like silencing, derogation, and coercion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationNew Work on Speech Acts
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages39
ISBN (Print)9780198738831
StatePublished - Aug 23 2018


  • Austin
  • Content-force distinction
  • Context
  • Convention
  • Grice
  • History of analytic philosophy
  • Pragmatics
  • Semantics
  • Speech acts

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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