- Speech Act – Any actual event of speaking, according to John Austin. His influential speech acts theory contains other important buzzwords, listed below.
- Locutionary Act/ Illocutionary Act – Each speech act has both of these. Locution is the act of saying something, while illocution is the act of doing something with speech. John Searle categorized illocutions into specific types, such as declarations, questions, directives, representatives, expressives, and commissives.
- Felicity Conditions – Another of Austin’s buzzwords, used to describe the significance of context for the success of any speech act. A speaker must meet these conditions, which include preparatory and sincerity conditions, in order to successfully speak.
- Performative – Again, Austin’s term for a verb that actually performs the illocutionary act that it names. In “I promise to bring the drinks,” the word promise is serving as a performative verb. In “I will bring the drinks,” there is no performative verb used.
- Indirect Speech Act – When the syntactic form of an utterance does not match the illocutionary force. These can be difficult for language learners, though their use can lead to powerful implications. An example is, “I wouldn’t mind some help.”
- Conversational Maxims – Now we’re on to a different linguistic philosopher – Paul Grice. There are four maxims that when not met lead to a violation of the cooperative principle.
- Maxim of Quantity - This suggests that an utterance should have just the right amount of information; not too much or too little.
- Maxim of Quality – An utterance should be truthful and based on sufficient evidence.
- Maxim of Relation – Don’t change the subject.
- Maxim of Manner – If you don’t say something how you’re expected to, then there must be a reason why. If I ask you, “Who won the game?” And you yell the answer at me, then your yelling is communicating something beyond the words you use.
- Cooperative Principle – People that are speaking are trying to communicate. When one of the maxims is violated, this implies communication beyond the words that are used. People that intentionally flout a maxim are trying to cooperate by using these violations to communicate. This is different from when a person intentionally flouts a maxim in order to deceive, or when a person accidentally flouts a maxim, because of being out of touch with a listener’s needs.
Correct question formation can be extremely difficult for those in the language learning process. One reason for this is that questions are often denoted by tone rather than syntax. “You going?” can be understood (often) as easily as the grammatically correct “Are you going?” Incorrect syntax often gets the job done as well. “Is you going? can be understood and answered nearly as easily as the correct formation. Question words (especially helping verbs) are often omitted in casual conversation, with intonation serving the purpose of changing a statement into a question.
According to some of current linguistic theory wh- questions involve an abstract relationship between two positions in syntactic structure (Deevy and Leonard, 2004). Much has been written about the theory that normally developing children transform a hidden “deep structure” into the surface structure that we actually hear (e.g. Chomsky, 1957). In actural experience the acquisition of question formation with helping verbs appears to go through three developmental phases: 1) use of tone only, e.g. “I have it?”; 2) addition of helping verb, e.g. “I can have it?” 3) placing the helping verb in the correct position, and including contractions, when necessary, eg. “Can’t I have it?” Future research may demonstrate that the acquisition of questions occurs as a process rather than an instantaneous transformation of a deep structure.
Every part of any language can be dived into discrete, learnable units of meaning, with the smallest unit being the phoneme. These units exist to accomplish communicative goals. The realization that language has components that serve functions provides a starting point for teaching. To what extent these units are dependent upon nature or nurture is not as relevant to the language learner as is the fact that because these units have been ill-defined, their full potential in language teaching has not been realized.
The most basic units of meaning are phonetic. These are sounds attached to meaning, such as the /s/ sound, the /f/ sound, and so on. As with later, more complex languge parts, early parts are learned to assist a person in communicating words and concepts with those parts. A child that can not make the /s/ sound is likely to be frustrated when communicating any idea with any word containing the /s/ sound. This provides a natural impetus for the child: learn that sound or continue to be frustrated each time an /s/ is required.
Children learn functional units of language as a short cut to learning their language. Specifically, word endings and allowable combinations are learned before being mixed and matched to previously learned words and word endings. So, in order to understand or produce a word, it isn’t necessary to have already used that word. The child merely has to learn the parts and arrangements. Consider these words:
walk, walked, walking, walks
talk, talked, talking, talks
To be able to comprehend and use these eight words, only five things must be learned. 1) walk; 2) talk; 3) -ed ending; 4) -ing ending 5) -s ending.
This fully explains why children produce constructions like “goed.” The child doing this has learned 1) go and 2) -ed ending. This child has not yet learned specific exceptions to how words should be combined.