Reimagining Illocutionary Force

The Philosophical Quarterly (forthcoming)
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Speech act theorists tend to hold that the illocutionary force of an utterance is determined by one interlocutor alone: either the speaker or the hearer. Yet experience tells us that the force of our utterances is not determined unilaterally. Rather, communication often feels collaborative. In this paper, I develop and defend a collaborative theory of illocutionary force, according to which the illocutionary force of an utterance is determined by an agreement reached by the speaker and the hearer. This theory, which builds upon linguistic and sociological work on adjacency pairs and conversational interaction, can accommodate the complexity of speaker intentions (which may be disjunctive, indeterminate, and/or inconsistent over time), and renders speech act theory more compatible with theories of common ground.

Author's Profile

Lucy McDonald
Cambridge University


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