Speech acts as a linguistic category: The case of discourse formulae

2021. №2, 7-27

Ekaterina V. Rakhilina a, b
Polina A. Bychkova a, @
Svetlana Yu. Zhukova a
а HSE University, Moscow, Russia;
b Vinogradov Russian Language Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia; polyatomson@gmail.com


The paper suggests an approach to conversion of the philosophical speech acts classification into a typological category. The main challenge of this task lies in great variation of the form used to express the illocutionary force. Although the core speech acts are often associated with certain formal features (cf. intonation patterns or particular word order for questions), they do not allow to capture finer distinctions, like the difference between a compliment and an announcement. Furthermore, these features do not apply to the indirect speech acts, in which the form does not directly correspond to the meaning. To overcome this obstacle, the authors suggest to consider as markers the linguistic units outside the speech act: namely, discourse formulae, a special class of idiomatic responses like You bet!, No way!, Tell me about it! A list of over 700 discourse formulae was investigated for Russian, and corpus evidence shows that their use relies on the illocutionary force of the preceding utterance. Studying discourse formulae cross-linguistically makes it possible to reveal universally relevant pragmatic oppositions among their contexts. A case study is presented in this paper, dealing with a brief selection of stimuli contexts for English and Russian discourse formulae used for refusing and prohibiting. The results indicate that discourse formulae can be regarded as a linguistic tool for verification of the standard classification of speech acts and further contribution to it.

For citation:

Rakhilina E. V., Bychkova P. A., Zhukova S. Yu. Speech acts as a linguistic category: The case of discourse formulae. Voprosy Jazykoznanija, 2021, 2: 7–27.


The study was funded by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of Russia (075-15-2020-793).