Driven & Verspoor - A Cognitive Typology of Speech Acts

The Structure of Concern Project compares many theoretical models from many disciplines to the Adizes PAEI model, arguing that they must all be reflecting the same underlying phenomenon. One concern structure model is described below.

Driven and Verspoor’s Cognitive Explorations of Language and Linguistics is an introductory linguistic textbook that is part of larger European project to produce parallel texts in seven European Languages, and to have students participate in international exchange programs, such that their course of instruction would be similar regardless of the host country chosen (Driven & Verspoor, 1998). In that text, the authors get at some characterizations of speech acts using first a five part typology and then a three part typology. The distinctions drawn are relevant to concern structure thinking, and are summarized below.

The first typology is John Searle’s, who classified speech acts into the following five categories:

  1. assertive: asserting or stating a fact.
  2. directive: issuing an order or command.
  3. commissive: promises or commitments we make to others.
  4. expressive: expressions of thanks, well-wishes, congratulations, condolences and other gestures of social involvement.
  5. declarative: the speaker creates a new social fact by declaring it to be the case, the classic example is a person conducting a marriage ceremony, telling the couple “I now pronounce you married”.

The authors cluster these five categories into three super-categories, as follows:

  1. (E) informative speech acts: assertive speech acts plus information questions that elicit information.
  2. (P) obligative speech acts: directives and commissives, both of which impose obligations, either on hearer or on self.
  3. (A) constitutive speech acts: expressive and declarative, both of which require an appropriate social occasion or context to have any force.

In PAEI terms, assertion and inquisition, the functions of informative speech acts, fit naturally with the information search activity that constitutes E-type activity; questioning things and developing new assertions about states of affairs. Obligative speech acts have a P-type cadence, although commissives would also be relevant to I (expressing social solidarity). Both directives and commissives are preludes to action or tasks, rather than being conversational in their development. The final of the three categories, the contextually-dependent constitutive speech acts, have the conventional support that would be both congenial for A and necessary for settling A-type uncertainty. Expressive speech acts would be necessary for I-type work as well.

1. Driven, R., & Verspoor, M. (1998). Cognitive Exploration of Language and Linguistics. Amsterdam/Philedelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
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