A semantic metalanguage for the description and comparison of illocutionary meanings

Anna Wierzbicka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


In this paper, the author argues that the illocutionary force of an utterance constitutes an integral part of its meaning. She proposes a unified descriptive framework which makes it possible to integrate illocutionary analysis with the syntax and semantics in the narrower sense of these terms. A wide range of constructions are examined and their illocutionary force is fully spelled out. The analysis takes the form of decomposition of illocutionary forces into their components, which are formulated in a kind of simplified natural language based on a postulated system of universal semantic primitives. It is argued that decomposition of illocutionary forces offers a safe path between the Scylla of the orthodox performative hypothesis and the Charybdis of the 'autonomous grammar' approaches to speech acts which once again try to divorce the study of language structure from the study of language use.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-107
Number of pages41
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1986


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