Communicative Functions 1 Speech Act Theory

What are the communicative functions expressed in children's speech? This approach to the child's language is based on the theory of speech acts proposed by Austin and Searle, among others, and has been very influential in child language research. These philoso phers argue that many utterances do not simply make an assertion, but they also operate as performati-ves—that is, they perform an act (e.g., promise or refuse). Each utterance has three components: the illocutionary intent, or goal of the speaker; the locutionary act, or the actual form of the utterance; and the perlocutionary effect, the influence on the listener. In this way, we can account for the many different utterances that can be used, both direct and indirect, literal or metaphorical, to convey the same message. Thus, one of the questions that derives from this approach to language is how children come to use and interpret indirect and nonliteral uses of language.

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