Asserzione e gradi di forza illocutoria / Assertion and gradual variations in illocutionary force
AbstractWhile assertive speech acts are standardly divided into types corresponding to the performative formulas that make their illocutionary force explicit, in ordinary conversation people are usually faced with “non-prototypical” cases, performed in issuing utterances such as “The pen might be on the table” or “I seem to remember that the pen is on the table”, which do not correspond to clear-cut cases of illocutionary act-type. The aim of this paper is to deal with the nuances and complexities of the “assertive family” by taking the illocutionary force of assertion as the starting point to account for its other members, particularly non-prototypical ones. In the first part, I examine whether the three main approaches to assertion, according to which asserting amounts, respectively, to (i) expressing a belief, (ii) making a move governed by a certain rule and (iii) undertaking a commitment, can be extended to achieve this goal, and argue that they cannot. In the second part, I propose an alternative approach to assertion, inspired by J.L. Austin’s conception of the illocutionary act and its effects, that seems to provide a more promising framework accounting for assertive speech acts, be they prototypical or not, in terms of gradual variations of strength in their illocutionary force.
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