Pragmatic Analysis of Teachers’ Language: Towards an Empirically Based Approach

Kaska Porayska-Pomsta, Chris Mellish, and Helen Pain

This paper provides a foundation for a pragmatically and empirically based model of the mechanisms involved in teachers’ speech act generation. Apart from some standard types of speech acts such as questioning or asserting, teachers also make use of some complex acts which combine the qualities of other known types of speech acts. These complex acts may be crucial to our understanding of the relation between language and cognition and therefore it seems important to analyse and to classify such cases appropriately. Unfortunately traditional approaches to speech act classification (e.g. Austin, 1962; Grice, 1975; Searle, 1979) do not provide a fully satisfactory basis for such an analysis because they treat speech acts in terms of discrete categories. On the other hand, although a number of alternative, more socially-based approaches (Givón, 1989; Brown and Levinson, 1978; Spencer-Oatey, 1992) are very inspiring, they are often left in the sphere of speculations and untested intuitions. To remedy this problem we propose an exploratory study of which the aim is to provide empirical foundations for a new model of teachers’ speech act generation.

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