Archive for the ‘Speech acts’ Category

Gentle mockery

May 11, 2016

Today’s Calvin and Hobbes:

Calvin in one of his roles, as a 6-year-old boy in love with the clash of titans and destruction on a massive scale (he also has his moments of knowledge and opinion beyond his years, about art, for instance), and Hobbes in one of his roles, as an affectionate older-brother figure (he also has his moments as a tiger with tigerish instincts and as a playmate for Calvin). But what is Hobbes’s gently mocking speech act here.

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Look who’s talking!

April 1, 2016

Interplay between the characters (Richard) Castle and (Kate) Beckett in a re-run from the show (season 1 epsode 8, “Ghosts”, originally broadcast 4/27/09) when they come across a suspect’s room littered with photographs of and clippings about another character:

(1) Look who’s stalking!

Ouch, the pun, on

(2) Look who’s talking!

— an expression that might remind you of the movie. From Wikipedia:

Look Who’s Talking is a 1989 romantic comedy film written and directed by Amy Heckerling, and stars John Travolta and Kirstie Alley. Bruce Willis plays the voice of Mollie’s son, Mikey. The film features George Segal as Albert, the illegitimate father of Mikey.

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Three from the New Yorker

March 11, 2016

Two from the 2/29/16 issue, one from the 3/7/16 issue, all having to do with language, but in different ways. Michael Maslin (who’s appeared here twice before) on the 29th, with the opposite of giddyup:

(#1)

(A horse in a tree! How can that be?)

David Thompson (new on this blog) on the 29th:

(#2)

— a cartoon you very much need to be tuned into popular culture to understand.

And Harry Bliss (who already has a Page here) on the 7th:

(#3)

— not a question at all, but a loud complaint (in a sushi restaurant) by a customer who seems to have expected guacamole.

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Answering a question with a question

October 2, 2014

Today’s Dilbert, with Dilbert and the pointy-headed boss:

Well, responding to a yes-no question with a question could just be a request for information — that would be taking the boss’s question “at face value” — but quite often the second question (conversationally) implicates that the answer to the first question is “yes” (why, the reasoning begins, would the second question have been asked in the first place?)

Saying but disavowing

October 1, 2014

From the NYT on Monday (9/30), “Some Judicial Opinions Require Only 140 Characters: Justice Don Willett of the Texas Supreme Court Lights Up Twitter” by Jesse Wegman:

One of Justice Willett’s tweets in 2013 showed a Bundt cake covered in chocolate sauce. The caption — “I like big bundts & I cannot lie” — was a pun on a line in “Baby Got Back,” a hugely popular and sexually explicit 1990s rap song. (When asked about that tweet, he said in an email, “Believe me, I’d never tweet the actual lyrics, or anything close to them.”) He said he has heard no complaints about that tweet, or any other.

Of course, the justice would never utter those words (and openly accept the sexist import of the rap song), but he’ll do his best to allude to them so clearly that anyone in the know will get the message. He’s saying, as clearly as he can, but disavowing the substance of what he’s saying. I’m not sure what the right term is for this speech act, but it certainly deserves one.

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Hypothetical indirection

September 14, 2014

Today’s (re-run) Calvin and Hobbes:

 

Hobbes poses a hypothetical question to Calvin: suppose you knew …, then what would you do? Stated as a question, but functioning (indirectly) as a threatening instruction to do a specific thing (not named in the question, but inferrable from the context): do this, and today will not be the last day of your life — that is, DO THIS!

The philosopher at the cinema and in the marketplace

May 31, 2014

Anthony Lane, reviewing The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in the May 5th New Yorker:

I lost count of the scenes in which Gwen and Peter thrash out the question of whether they should be a couple, and there is a sigh of relief in the cinema when she, deploying what philosophers would call a performative utterance, says simply, “I break up with you,” leaving us to wonder if she pulls the same trick in bed: “And now we approach the orgasm.”

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“illegal”

May 22, 2014

Yesterday’s Classic Doonesbury from 1974 (#1, here) looked at the foul mouth of Richard Nixon (and his aides) from Watergate days. Today (again from 1974) we get the President defining the limits of what counts, in U.S. law, as a prosecutable defense (in ordinary language, what counts as illegal):

(Bonus from the Watergate tapes: Nixon’s paranoid anti-Semitism, in his bitter ravings about the Jews.)

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Speech act ambiguity

April 20, 2014

From an esurance commercial on tv, entitled “Hank” (the key bit is boldfaced):

Hank: My daughter thinks I’m out of touch. So I asked her how I saved 15 percent on car insurance in just 15 minutes.

Neighbor: Huh. (shakes head)

Hank: (looks at phone) “IDK?” What does that mean?

Neighbor: “I don’t know.”

Hank: And I’m the one who’s out of touch. LOL.

The neighbor is answering Hank’s question, a request for information, asking about what “IDK” means. Hank understands this instead as an assertion, by the neighbor, that he doesn’t know what “IDK” means. (Hank then thinks the neighbor is out of touch.)  Both understandings involve assertions, but about different aspects of the conversational exchange.

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My Hobby Comics

March 24, 2014

Some bounty from the Stanford Linguistics in the Comics freshman seminar, a collection of xkcd cartoons with subheaded metatext “My Hobby”, searched out by Kyle Qian. Kyle found about 1,300 xkcd cartoons online, 36 of them subheaded this way, and he posted 7 of them with discussion. (I’ll put off posting about his comments until he gives me permission. The cartoons are in some sense public, but Kyle’s analysis is certainly not.)

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