Speech acts and arguments

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Speech act theory seems to provide a promising avenue for the analysis of the functional organization of argument. The theory, however, might be taken to suggest that arguments are a homogenous class of speech act with a specifiable illocutionary force and a single set of felicity conditions. This suggestion confuses the analysis of the meaning of speech act verbs with the analysis of the pragmatic structure of actual language use. Suggesting that arguments are conveyed through a homogeneous class of linguistic action overlooks the way in which the context of activity and the form of expression organize the argumentative functions performed in using language. An alternative speech act analysis would treat folk terminology as a heuristic entry point into the development of a technical analysis of the myriad argumentative functions and structures to be found in natural language use. This would lead to a thorough-going pragmatic analysis of the rational and functional design of speech acts in argumentation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)345-365
Number of pages21
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 1989
Externally publishedYes


  • argument
  • context
  • indirection
  • rational model
  • speech acts

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Linguistics and Language


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