LINGUIST List 13.1919

Mon Jul 15 2002

Review: Pragmatics, Kubo & Vanderveken (2002)

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  1. Bingyun Li, Kubo Susumu, Vanderveken Daniel (2002) Semantics/Philosophy of Lang: Essays in Speech Act Theory.

Message 1: Kubo Susumu, Vanderveken Daniel (2002) Semantics/Philosophy of Lang: Essays in Speech Act Theory.

Date: Sat, 13 Jul 2002 15:34:37 +0000
From: Bingyun Li <bingyunli163.com>
Subject: Kubo Susumu, Vanderveken Daniel (2002) Semantics/Philosophy of Lang: Essays in Speech Act Theory.

Kubo Susumu, Vanderveken Daniel (2002) Semantics/Philosophy of Lang:
Essays in Speech Act Theory.

John Benjamins, vi+324pp, Paperback,1556198361,USD 31.95 - EUR
35.00,345,Hardback,1556198353,USD 75.00- EUR 83.00
Pragmatics and Beyond New Series, Volume 77 

Book Announcement on Linguist:
http://linguistlist.org/get-book.html?BookID=2750 

Bingyun Li, Fujian Teachers University

[For another review, see http://linguistlist.org/issues/13/13-920.html --Eds.]

OVERVIEW

Although human interest in speech act theory can be traced back to the
end of the 19th century or even earlier, it is generally acknowledged
that John Austin is 'the founding father of speech act theory' and
that his student John R. Searle has made 'the most thorough and
recognized systematization of this theory of language' (Cooren 2000:
18; cf. Sbis� 1995), the basic tenet underlying which is that to
speak is to act. And recent years have witnessed an increased
enthusiasm in this very line of inquiry, which can also find
expression from the present volume under review. Building on John
Searle's now-classic 'How performatives work', this volume 'contains a
series of contributions by philosophers, psychologists, computer
scientists and linguists on language use and comprehension in general
and speech acts in particular' (p. 1). In what follows I will present
a summary of each chapter before voicing my general evaluation.

This book contains 13 chapters, closes with notes on each chapter,
references, notes on contributors, subject index and name
index. Chapter 1 is an introduction, where the two editors Vanderveken
and Kubo 'offer a brief historic survey and present current issues of
speech act theory regarding the structure and functions of language'
(p. 1). As the editors point out, the contemporary philosophy of
language is characterized by two different polemical camps: one is led
by such logicians as Frege and Russell, the other is that of the
ordinary language philosophers formed by Grice, Searle and others
(cf. p. 4). And it is Searle, Grice and Vanderveken that have helped
speech act theory grow into an important branch of the contemporary
theory of language. It is expressed with mixed feelings that the
current speech act theory be enriched 'so as to formulate a more
general but equally powerful theory of conversation, capable of
analyzing their logical and dynamic structure as well as their
conditions of success and satisfaction' (p. 15). Herein lies one of
the future directions in which the speech act theory could be
hopefully and fruitfully pursued. This introductory chapter ends with
brief contents of the contributions that follow.

The following chapters are divided into three parts. Chapters 2 to 5
comprise the first part 'General Theory'. In 'Universal grammar and
speech act theory' (pp. 25- 62), Vanderveken argues that 'the logical
form of illocutionary acts imposes certain formal constraints on the
logical structures of a possible natural language as well as the mind
of competent speakers' (pp. 25-26). Vanderveken outlines several
reasons that speech act theory exerts influence on universal grammar
philosophically, pointing out that there are two kinds of linguistic
universals, namely, material and formal universals, which are
ontological, logical, semantic, pragmatic and cognitive. Overall, this
chapter is well presented. On the one hand, it reiterates several
claims the author has made before; on the other, it is alive with new
ideas as regards illocutionary logic with its hopeful extension to the
interpretation of conversations.

In Chapter 3, 'Verbal moods and sentence moods in the tradition of
universal grammar' (pp. 63-84), Andr�f© Leclerc discusses, among
others, two main approaches to verbal moods adopted by the Grammaire
g�n�rale et raisonnn�e of Port-Royal. One is the non-reductionistic
approach, where 'grammatical moods (verbal moods rather than
indicative and non-declarative sentences)', viewed as markers of the
acts of thought, 'are literal conventional means to express acts of
thought other than categorical judgement' (p. 81). However, this
approach is deficient in that 'not all utterances are to be evaluated
in terms of truth-conditions, truth-values' (p. 81). And this
situation can be revamped in the reductionistic approach, adopted by
such grammarians as Buffier, Beauz�e, Beattie, and Destutt de
Tracy. Leclerc concludes that 'moods do not mark any illocutionary
force of a very complex form' (p. 84). This chapter aims at finding
some support of speech act theory from the classical Universal
Grammar.

In Chapter 4 (pp. 85-107), John R. Searle deals with the question:
how exactly do performatives work? For Searle, a theory of
performatives should take it as its task 'to explain how the speaker
can intend and the hearer can understand a second speech act from the
making of the first speech act, the statement' (p. 85). As claimed by
Searle, only 'explicit performatives' called by Austin are
performatives; besides, it is crucial to make a distinction between
performative utterances, performative sentences and performative
verbs. And there are eight conditions of adequacy that a correct,
coherent and complete account of performatives should meet
(pp. 89-90). The discussion then moves on to performatives as
assertives and as declarations. And in discussing the relationship
between performatives and literal meaning, Searle sharply and rightly
point out that 'the performative utterance is literal. The speaker
utters the sentence and means it literally' (p. 101), wherein lies the
crux of the whole argument. Therefore, at this point, a reminder
seems in order here. Some of present-day scholarship appears to have
spent much time on questions or problems only to find that they are
self-evident as such from the very beginning. In other words, it seems
a human nature to tend to complicate simple problems. In the present
reviewer's opinion, this chapter by Searle has, among others, further
clarified and revamped some of the currently fashionable views which
are in fact either incorrect or incomplete.

In Chapter 5 (pp. 109-117), Candida Jaci de Sousa Melo aims to enrich
the typology of 'possible directions of fit between mind, language and
the world'. She argues that there are four directions of fit between
the mind and the world instead of three as considered by Searle: the
mind-to-things direction of fit, the things-to-mind direction of fit,
the double direction of fit between the mind and things and, the empty
direction of fit. In point of fact, her argument does not hold much
water or even is 'utterly mistaken' as described by Anne Reboul, in
her review of this book on LINGUIST.

Part 2 is titled 'Discourse and Interlocution', consisting of 4
chapters. In Chapter 6, 'Speech acts and the logic of mutual
understanding' (pp. 121-133), Alain Trognon starts with 'the
interactional process of mutual understanding to show that it relies
on semantic properties of speech acts' (p. 122). He then demonstrates
that 'semantic properties of speech acts explain the role sequencing
in the process of mutual understanding' (pp. 126-132). For this paper,
interested readers can be referred to the other review on this volume
on the list, where it is heavily and properly criticized like the
previous one.

The next chapter, Chapter 7 (pp. 135-150), Steven Davis makes a
distinction between 'utterance acts and speech acts'. Davis shows that
illocutionary act tokens are not identical to utterance act tokens,
claiming that 'token identity theories are false and thus will not fit
them into a causal explanatory theory that coheres with a materialist
view of the world' (p. 150). This chapter is excellent, cogent and
coherent and would be embraced by many scholars.

Chapter 8 (pp. 151-174) represents part of the author Tomoyuki
Yamada's 'long-term ambition' (p. 151) of formulating 'a
philosophically sound and mathematically rigorous theory of
illocutionary acts that provides an empirically adequate treatment of
speech act phenomena both in English and in Japanese' (p. 151). In
this paper, by way of drawing on some concepts and devices in
Situation Theory viewed as a suitable framework, Yamada argues for an
ascription-based theory of illocutionary acts. He touches upon
illocutionary commitment and conventional effects, illustrates basic
ideas of an Austinian theory of content and discusses meaning as
constraint.

In Chapter 9 (pp. 175-205), Bernard Moulin and Daniel Rousseau
attempt to propose 'a conceptual framework to model and simulate
conversations supporting interactions between artificial agents and
person/machine interactions' (p. 182). In reviewing some previous
approaches used to model conversations, Moulin and Rousseau remark
that, though these approaches attach much importance to a variety of
conversation characteristics and propose alternative solutions, they
fail to coherently and adequately account for all the characteristics
of natural conversations. The authors view conversation as a
cooperative activity and argue that interagent communication takes
places at three different levels, viz. the communication level, the
conceptual level and the social level. More important, they introduce
the notion of 'conversational objects' 'as a way to structure in
shared memory the contributions that locutor-agents make to the
conversation by performing their communicative acts' (p.204). The
discussion then moves on to mental models and conversation modeling,
conceptual objects and relations, conversational objects and agents'
positionings and, monitoring conversation and initiative. Finally,
Moulin and Rousseau work out the general structure of a communicative
act (p. 202) and it is at this point that I would like to say that the
present chapter probably sheds some light on how we human beings can
account for the extremely complex processes a conversation may go
through.

Part 3 of this volume, containing four chapters like the second part,
is devoted to speech acts in linguistics. In Chapter 10,
'Illocutionary morphology and speech acts' (pp. 209-224), Susumo Kubo
extends the study of Kubo (1993) in the framework of Illocutionary
Categorial Morphology (ICM) in order to gain a theoretical
generalization of morphopragmatics for illocutionary force
understanding (p. 210). Kubo first analyzes the meaning of Japanese
illocutionary affix 'teyaru' and then proposes a compositional
treatment of illocutionary affixes in ICM, which 'consists of a set of
basic and derived categories, combinatory formation rules and an
illocutionary force percolation rule' (p. 219). Kubo concludes that
the compositional mechanism he advocates 'can generally predict and
recover the illocutionary force of utterances with IAF [illocutionary
affix]' (p. 224). This paper is another good example of how we can
integrate morphology into the exponentially expanding field of pragmatics.

In Chapter 11, 'Speech-act constructions, illocutionary forces, and
conventionality' (pp. 225-238), Masa-aki Yamanashi tackles the
pragmatic aspects of quotation phenomena in natural
language. Yamanashi observes three cases of quotation phenomena: the
quotation of locutionary acts, that of illocutionary acts and indirect
speech acts reflected in the quoting part. For the third type,
Yamanashi argues that 'some pragmatic constraints must be imposed on
the relation between the quoted and quoting parts' (p. 231) and that
whether pragmatic forces can be encoded or not relies on 'the extent
to which they are conventionalized' (p. 234). And in discussing hedged
performative constructions, Yamanashi points out that 'when they are
quoted, the literal meaning of their modal expression cannot be
linguistically encoded in the quoting part of the indirect discourse'
(p. 235; cf. p. 237). This paper is well- conceived and well-presented
and would contribute to enhancing human understanding of quotations
in natural languages.

In Chapter 12, 'Speech act theory and the analysis of conversations:
Sequencing and interpretation in pragmatic theory' (pp. 239-261),
Jacques Moeschler aims to make clear where philosophers and linguists
entertain divergent thoughts about the possible extension of speech
act theory to discourse analysis and to show how speech act theory can
be extended to the analysis of conversations. According to Moeschler,
'appropriateness' is the basic notion of discourse analysis and there
are two types of appropriateness: contextual appropriateness and
cotextual appropriateness. He demonstrates that principles of
conversational pragmatics are falsifiable and that pragmatic aspects
of discourse must be accounted for by general pragmatic principles
(pp. 250-251). The discussion then shifts to two approaches to meaning
and communication, namely, illocutionary logic and Relevance
Theory. And Moeschler claims that 'a radical pragmatic theory of
utterance interpretation makes correct predictions about sequencing
in conversation without having to formulate any sequential constraints
on interpretation' (p. 253). In other words, a non discourse- based
approach to the sequencing problem within the framework of relevance
theory can solve to some degree the sequencing and interpretation
problems classical solutions within discourse analysis and
illocutionary logic have encountered.

The last chapter, Chapter 13 (pp. 263-283) co-authored by Marc
Dominicy and Nathalie Franken, is devoted to providing a comparative
analysis of imperative sentences (advice, permissions, good wishes,
audienceless and predetermined cases, threats, dares and irony)
approached by speech acts and relevance theory. The authors show that
speech act theory gives a better and more efficient account of
elementary conversational exchanges and that contrary to relevance
theory, speech act theory does not consider 'non-serious' utterances
as inherently echoic. These two theories are also different in the
identification of 'speech acts'. On the other hand, both speech act
theory and relevance theory, among other things, involve analyses of
non-truth- conditional connectives and employ words or predicates like
'desirable', 'beneficial', 'good'. In one word, these two theories are
both different from and interrelated to each other.

OVERALL EVALUATION To sum up, most of the current key issues in
research on speech act theory are clearly reflected in this
collection of papers. The editors do not aim and do not need in fact,
to provide a coherent and unified account of how we can approach
speech act theory. In point of fact, it is probably the diversity
shown in our dealing with the subject matter in question that can
result in the best possible solution. One thing crucial is that the
approach we adopt should be conducive to better understanding our
thoughts and actions. And I agree with Xie (forthcoming a) when he
points out that all human activities can in reality be narrowed down
to pursuing the aim of arriving at 'a better understanding of the
world within us, around us and, beyond us'. This volume, broadly
speaking, caters to human obsessions with the very nature of
communicating with people we encounter and should be of particular
value to students of linguistics, philosophy of language and
cognition.

Since this is a collection of papers contributed by various scholars,
it is little wonder that these papers are varied and inconsistent in
terms of both themes and quality. One should be reminded that this
book is not reader-friendly in the sense that some, if not many, of
the chapters are hard to follow, as a result of failing to present
their arguments in a clean and clear manner and of resorting to
esoteric figures and terminology from time to time. Just as Xie
(forthcoming b) points out in a recent review, 'Most present-day
researchers seem to have subscribed to the idea that profound ideas
should be illuminated in a profound manner. However, one thing they
may not be aware of is that, in so doing, they have more or less
sacrificed readability to profundity, whereby distancing themselves
from the general readership.' Therefore, I am wondering if scholars
have ever thought about taking some time out of their 'labor of love'
to ponder on how to make their work understood to the general
public so as to engage a wider readership without losing its academic
flavor. It really pays to bear the widest possible readership in mind,
after all.

REFERENCES

Cooren, Fran�ois. 2000. The Organizing Property of
Communication. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Sbis�, Marina (1995) Speech act theory. In Verschueren, Jef; Jan-Ola
�stman; and Jan Blommaert (eds.). Handbook of Pragmatics:
Manual. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Xie, Chaoqun (forthcoming a) A review of Laura Hidalgo Downing's
Negation, Text Worlds, and Discourse: The Pragmatics of
Fiction. Journal of Literary Semantics.

Xie, Chaoqun (forthcoming b) A review of Giuseppe Mantovani's
Exploring Borders: Understanding Culture and Psychology. Journal of
Cognition and Culture. 

ABOUT THE REVIEWER 

Bingyun Li teaches at Fujian Teachers University, China. Her current
research interests are mainly in the areas of pragmatics,
communication, culture, and discourse.
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