The field of speech act theory has seen increasing attention in recent years, as determining the illocutionary force of an utterance, or what its speaker means to accomplish by uttering it, has become important in the design of computational systems that process human speech. Many scholars of language, including J. L. Austin and John Searle, have proposed systems of classifying speech acts by their illocutionary features. However, these schemes are often non-hierarchical, and thus cannot fully describe the similarities between categories; and they tend not to consider the politeness features of utterances, an aspect of illocution which can have a great impact on a speaker’s choice of utterance. In this thesis, I develop a hierarchical taxonomy of English-language speech acts based on existing literature, and lay out the politeness-related features that differentiate speech act categories, with the aim of producing a classification system useful in computational applications.
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Thesis advisor: Hedberg, Nancy
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