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									Speech Act and
 Commitment

  Claire Beyssade
  Institut Jean Nicod, Paris
      CNRS ENS EHESS
                      Aim
• Revisit speech act analysis using the notion of
commitment.


• Propose an analytical framework to capture the
contribution to the speech act value associated with
any linguistic expression such as :
    - clause type
    - tags or constructions
    - prosodic marks …

                                                       1
                       Outline
1) Background: ‘Commitment’ in Dialogue Theory
- Hamblin
- Gazdar
- Gunlogson
2) Proposal: Speech Act Revisited
- Speaker’s Commitment
- Call on Addressee
- Typology of moves
3) The case of questions
- Declarative questions and bias
- Tags (n’est-ce pas, please…)
- Rhetorical questions

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1. Background about commitment
1.1 Hamblin (1970)
Commitment and fallacies frequent in
everyday reasoning.

Commitment is a propositional attitude,
different from belief, associated with
assertions.



                                          3
1. Background about commitment
1.1 Hamblin (1970)
Commitment is not belief
Speaker may commit herself to something,
which she doesn’t believe.
To commit oneself = to act as if one believes a
proposition p.

Belief: a private state of mind
Commitment: a public stance

                                              4
1. Background about commitment
1.1 Hamblin (1970)

Commitment and assertion:
Asserting is to present oneself as
being "willing to defend [ the
proposition that makes up the content
of the assertion] if challenged to do
so." (Walton 2000: 335)

                                    5
1. Background about commitment
1.1 Hamblin (1970)
The content of commitment is:
- propositional
- provisional

By asserting, Speaker commits herself to a
proposition, that she is subject to default or
retraction, should new information come in that
refutes it or calls for a revision of opinions.

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1. Background about commitment
1.2 Gazdar (1981)
Gazdar defines Speech Acts as moves that
change Speaker’s commitment.

”An assertion that  is a function that
changes a context in which the speaker is
not committed to justifiable true belief in 
into a context he is so committed".
(Gazdar, 1981: 69)

                                            7
1. Background about commitment
1.2 Gazdar (1981)
Gazdar extends commitments to non propositional
contents.

"A promise that  is a function that changes a
context in which the speaker is not committed to
bringing  about into one in which he is so
committed.
A permission to  is a function that changes a
context in which  is prohibited into one in which
 is permissible". (Gazdar, 1981: 69)
                                                8
1. Background about commitment
1.3 Gunlogson (2001)
• Commitment and declarative questions in English:
(1)   It’s raining (falling contour L%)
(2)   It’s raining (rising contour H%)
• A compositional analysis:
- the declarative type conveys commitment,
- the contour (L% vs H%) specifies who is committed.
The falling contour commits Speaker in (1) and the
rising contour commits Addressee in (2).

                                                     9
1. Background about commitment
1.3 Gunlogson (2001)


• Commitment is still used to analyze only
declarative utterances and assertions.
 (It is one of the limits of her analysis)


• Commitment is associated to the clause type.
 (We retain this idea in our proposal)


                                             10
1. Background
1.4 From clause type and speech act?
No 1-1 relation between clause type and speech act
value.

(3)   A:    You will go home tomorrow
      B:    a. How do you know?
            b. Yes.
            c. Okay.

The well-know problem of polyfonctionality (Gazdar
1981)

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1. Background
1.4 From clause type and speech act?
• New issue: from clause type to commitments
(Gunlogson)

• Account for interaction and distinguish two aspects in
a speech act:
- What does the Speaker do, in terms of commitment?
- What does she call on Addressee, what does she
project in terms of discourse continuation?



                                                      12
1. Background
1.4 From clause type and speech act?
Steedman revisites Gunlogson’s analysis: Speaker
commits herself and attributes commitments to Hearer.

"I'll assume that the speaker's knowledge can be
thought of as a database or set of propositions
[...], divided into two subdomains namely:
-a set S of information units that the speaker
claims to be committed to and
- a set H of information units which the speaker
claims the hearer to be committed to "(2003)

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2. Proposal

From our perpective, given an utterance, one should ask:
• What does the utterance commit the Speaker to?
• What does the utterance call on Addressee to get committed to ?

(4) Tu es venu hier, n’est ce pas ?
    You came yesterday, didn’t you ?

- The clause type specifies what Speaker is committed to.
- Various constructional devices (lexical, syntactic) specify what
Speaker calls on Addressee to get committed to.



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2. Proposal
2.1 Speaker’s commitment
We claim a 1-1 relation between clause type and Speaker
commitment.

• A clause type is assocated with a type of content.
• In root clauses, the clause type marks Speaker ’s
commitment.

We classify the types of content and introduce a distinction
between the content conveyed by an declarative clause, the
content conveyed by an interrogative clause, the content
conveyed by an imperative clause…

                                                               15
2. Proposal
2.1 Speaker’s commitment
1) Ginzburg and Sag’s ontology (2000).
Four different types of phrasal content: proposition,
question, outcome, facts.


2) Groenendijk & Stokhoff (1984), Groenendijk
(1999), Aloni & van Rooy (2002), Veltman on
imperatives…
Questions and partitions, commands and to-do-lists…


                                                        16
2. Proposal
2.1 Speaker’s commitment
• Types of commitment
• commitment to a proposition: being ready to stand
for the truth of that proposition

• commitment to a question: being interested in the
issue raised by the question

• commitment to an outcome: being positively oriented
towards the actualization of a potential state of affairs
(the outcome) (Stefanovitch 2003)

                                                       17
2. Proposal
2.1 Speaker’s commitment

Clause types    Speaker is committed to…


Declarative     a proposition


Interrogative   a question


Imperative      an outcome



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2. Proposal
2.2 Call on Addressee
Various constructional devices specify the
type of content of the call-on-Addressee:
tags, construction, prosody…

(5)   Tu viendras demain, n'est-ce pas ?
      You will go tomorrow, won't you?
(6)   Tu viendras demain, s'il te plaît.
                 ….          please.

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2. Proposal
2.2 Call on Addressee
(7)A.: Sans indiscrétion, Marie est arrivée
         SANS INDISCRETION, Marie has arrived
   B.: # Ah bon / je ne le savais pas / ...
        ‘Oh really / I didn't know that / …’

(8) a. Why don’t you be quiet! (Green, 1975)
    b. Veux-tu bien te taire !

(9) a. Si on allait au cinéma.
    b. Pourquoi pas partir en Espagne
                                                20
2. Proposal
2.2 Call on Addressee
• Utterance convey two context changes: the former
pertains to Speaker and the latter to Addressee.


• We propose to analyze the Addressee-oriented
aspect of utterances in terms of commitment:
Speaker wants Addressee to get committed.
The commitment Speaker wants Addressee to endorse may be
a commitment to a proposition, a commitment to a question or a
commitment to an outcome.

                                                           21
2. Proposal
2.3 Typology of moves

A speech act = two updates
• Speaker commits herself either to a
proposition, or to a question or to an
outcome.

• Simultaneously, she calls on Addressee
to commit himself to a proposition, to a
question or to an outcome.

                                         22
2. Proposal
2.3 Typology of moves

This give us the key to classify move types,
distinguishing:
- simple moves:
   the content of both updates are identical,
   cases of prototypical assertions, questions or requests
- complex moves:
   both updates may have different types,
   cases of confirmation requests, corresponding to dot types à
   la Asher & Reese (2005)



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2. Proposal
2.3 Typology of moves

 Three types based on the declarative type


Clause        Content         of Content of what Speaker
              Speaker’s          calls on Addresse to be
              commitment         committed
Declarative   Proposition p      Proposition p (Default)
                                 Question p?
                                 Outcome p!



                                                           24
2. Proposal
2.3 Typology of moves

 Three types based on the interrogative type


Clause          Content      of Content of what Speaker
                Speaker’s       calls on Addresse to be
                commitment      committed
Interrogative   Question q      Question q (Default)
                                Proposition q’
                                Outcome q!



                                                          25
2. Proposal
2.3 Typology of moves

 Three types based on the imperative type


Clause       Content        of Content of what Speaker
             Speaker’s         calls on Addresse to be
             commitment        committed
Imperative   Outcome o          Outcome o (Default)
                                Proposition o’
                                Question o!



                                                         26
3. Questions
3.1 Declarative questions and Bias
The effect of bias is brought about by complex moves, which
combines:
- an update whose content is propositional and
- an update whose content is of another type.

(1)    Il pleut ?
       It’s raining?

• Speaker’s commitment to a proposition p (il pleut)
• Speaker calls on Addressee to get committed to the
corresponding question ?p (est-ce qu’il pleut?)

 Case of type shifting.
                                                              27
3. Questions
3.2 Tags and Bias
(5)    a. Tu viendras demain, n’est-ce pas?
          You will go tomorrow, won’t you?

• Speaker’s commitment to a proposition p (tu viendras demain)
• Speaker calls on Addressee to get committed to the
corresponding question ?p (est-ce quetu viendras demain)

• Tag questions are biaised.
• Tag are incompatible with interrogative clauses.

(5)    b. * Est-ce que tu viendras demain, n’est-ce pas?


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3. Questions
3.3 Rhetorical questions
Both updates may have two different types, and two different contents.
One compute the content of the call-on-Addressee from the content of
speaker’s committment, via some inferences.

(10)    a. Qui viendra si ce n’est Marie ?
        b. A quoi bon s’en faire ?
        c. Qui mieux que moi peut le savoir ?
        d. Pourquoi se donner le moindre mal ?




                                                                   29
3. Questions
3.3 Rhetorical questions
• Biased question: asking a question that conveys
to the addressee that the questionner considers
one resolution likely.

• Rhetorical question: use of an expression with
the interrogative form with the force of an
assertion.
Maximal bias.



                                                   30
3. Questions

• yes-no question:
                     Contexte

      yes



                        no




                                31
3. Questions

• biased question:
                     Contexte

      yes



                        no




                                32
3. Questions

• rhetorical question:
                         Contexte

       yes



                            no




                                    33
3. Questions

• rhetorical question:
                         Contexte

       yes



                            no




                                    34
3. Questions
3.4 Indirect speech act
Both updates may have two different types, and two different contents.
One compute the content of the call-on-Addressee from the content of
speaker’s committment, via some inferences.

(11) a. Peux-tu me passer le sel ?
    b. * Es-tu capable de me passer le sel ?
    c. Le pape est-il catholique ?
    d. C’est une vraie porcherie. (non litteral et indirect)




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                   Conclusion
It seems fruitful to take it that utterances have two
sides:
• the former pertains to Speaker’s commitment,
• the latter pertains to the commitment Speaker calls
on Addressee to acknowledge.

The performative hypothesis: too coarse to capture the details
of the dialogical impact of linguistic expressions.
We have proposed to introduce finer-grained dimensions.



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              Selected references
M. Aloni & R. von Rooij. 2002. The dynamics of questions and Focus, Proceedings of Salt 12.
N. Asher and B. Reese. 2005. 'Negative bias in polar questions'. In E. Maier, C. Bary, and J.
    Huitink (eds), Proceedings of SuB9, 30–43.
C. Beyssade & J.-M. Marandin. 2006. ’French Intonation and Attitude Attribution'. In Denis P. et
    al. (eds) Issues at the semantics-pragmatics interface, Selected papers from TLS8.
    Somerville: Cascadilla Press.
C. Beyssade & J.-M. Marandin. 2006. ‘The speech act assignment problem revisited:
    Disentangling Speaker’s commitment from Speaker’s call on Addressee’ CSSP’s
    proceedings. http://www.cssp.cnrs.fr/.
C. Beyssade et al. 2004. 'Les sens des contours intonatifs en français : croyances compatibles
    ou conflictuelles ?’, Proceedings JEP-TALN: 73-76.
M. Egg.2007. Meaning and use of rhetorical questions.
G. Gazdar. 1981. 'Speech act assignment', in Joshi, Webber and Sag (eds.), Elements of
    Discourse Understanding. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 64-83.
J.Ginzburg. To app. A Semantics for Interaction in Dialogue, CSLI Publications and University of
    Chicago Press.
J. Ginzburg and I. A. Sag. 2000. Interrogative investigations. Stanford: CSLI.
G. Green, 1975. How to get people to do things with words. Syntax and Semantics 3, 107-141.


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                Selected references
J. Groenendijk. 1999. The logic of interrogation. Proceedings of SALT 9, 109-126.
J. Groenendijk. & M. Stokhof. 1984. Studies on the Semantics of Questions and the Pragmatics of
    Answers, Ph. D. Diss, Amsterdam.
C. Gunlogson. 2001. True to Form: Rising and Falling Declaratives as Questions in English, PHD
    Thesis, published in 2003, New York: Routledge.
C.L. Hamblin. 1970. Fallacies, Methuen, London.
M. Krifka. 2002. Embedded Speech Acts’, talk at Workshop In the Mood, Graduier
     -tenkolleg Satzarten: Variation und Interpretation, Universität Frankfurt am Main.
P. Portner. 2005. ‘The Semantics of Imperatives within a Theory of Clause Types', in K. Watanabe and
     R. B. Young (eds.), Proceedings of Semantics and Linguistic Theory 14. Ithaca, CLC Publications.
J.R. Ross. 1970. ‘On Declarative Sentences’, in Jacobs & Rosenbaum (eds.), Readings in English
     Transformational Grammar, Waltham Mass.
M. Steedman, 2003, Information-Structural Semantics for English intonation, LSA Summer Institute
     Workshop on Topic and Focus, Santa Barbara July 2001.
A. Stefanowitsch. 2003. 'The English Imperative: a Construction-based Approach', ms.
P. F. Strawson. 1964. ‘Intention and convention in speech acts', Philosophical Review 73: 439-60.
D. Walton, 2000. The place of dialogue theory in logic, computer science and communication studies,
     Synthese 123: 327-346.


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1.4 What the relation between clause
type and speech act ?
Crucial distinction (Green 1975)
(7)      a. Have you taken away the garbage
         b. Why don’t you be quiet
Both (7a) and (7b) can be taken as directives, but:
• (7a) is a directive when certain situational conditions hold
        (= hint)
-• (7b) is a directive in any situations
        (= grammatical instruction)
We only deal with built-in instructions (clause types and tags).



                                                                   39
         Revision 2: Call on Addressee
                                            (2/2)
     Call-on-Addressee captures the interactive aspect of utterances.
                                                                              
                                                                              
                                   SG                       propositions      
             Commitment            QUD                      questions         
       DGB                                                                    
                                                    Speaker outcomes      
                                   To - Do - List   
                                                          
                                                                              
                                                            Addressee outcomes 
                                                                                        
                                                                              
       
             Call - on - Addressee
                                                                                 
                                                                                      
                                                                                        
                                              Figure 3
     The content of Call on Addressee may be either a proposition, or a
     question, or an outcome.

                                                                                             40
3.4 The specificity of
exclamatives
(14)    Comme Jean est beau!
        How beautiful John is !

• Only one update, in Speaker’s Commitment.
• Speaker doesn’t call on Addressee to endorse the scalar content
of her utterance, the fact that John is beautiful at an inusual degree.
 Cf. Potts on emotives and evaluative adjectives such as honky,
damn, etc.).
 Cf. Bonami & Godard on adverbs such as malheureusement.




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