A linguistic description of utterances in conversation

Tsui, Amy Bik-May (1986). A linguistic description of utterances in conversation. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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This thesis is an attempt to characterize the utterances in conversation. Following the principles of Sinclair & Caulthard (1975), it proposes a descriptive framework which is based on the concepts of 'class', 'structure' and 'system'.

Chapter One argues against the position that utterances are multi-functional and the illocutionary forces they carry are largely indeterminate, hence they are not describable in categorial terms. It points out that such a position is a misconception arising from the lack of consistent criteria when characterizing utterances. It then examines studies in three major areas which would give insight to the setting up of a descriptive framework: speech act theory, conversational analysis and discourse analysis.

Chapter Two gives an overall account of the descriptive framework. Its basic theoretical assumption is that conversation is describable in terms of a hierarchical rank scale, consisting of acts, moves, exchanges, sequences and transactions. Utterances are characterized as different primary classes of acts according to which element of structure of an exchange they operate at . Three primary classes are identified: those operating at the head of an Initiating Move are Initiating Acts, those operating at the head of a Responding Move are Responding Acts and those operating at the head o:f a Follow-up Move are Follow-up Acts. For each primary class, subclasses are identified according to their predictive assessment of what follows. The choices of subclasses which are available at each element of structure are presented in the form of a system.

Chapters Three to Six discuss the four subclasses of Initiating Act, Elicitations, Requestives, Directives and Informatives respectively. Chapter Seven discusses Responding Act and its subclasses; and Chapter Eight discusses Follow-up Act and its subclasses.

In Chapter Nine, the entire descriptive framework is applied to a piece of conversation. Its merits and limitations are discussed.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
College/Faculty: Faculties (to 1997) > Faculty of Arts
School or Department: School of English, Drama and American & Canadian Studies, Department of English Literature
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
URI: http://etheses.bham.ac.uk/id/eprint/7569


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