A Journal of Observations on Language

Speech Acts

Posted on: September 16, 2010

This is the right topic for you to talk about apologies, thanks, insults, etc.  It is always tricky to figure out when and how you accomplish any of these “speech acts” in English.  Even naming (what to call the person you are talking to) can be hard in many situations.


89 Responses to "Speech Acts"

Thank you.

There is an interesting thing about answering questions. I heard a funny story of a student come to America, when she was invited to an American family, the host ask her: “you haven’t eat dinner, have you?” she want to say she haven’t eat, but she think this sentence in Chinese way, so she answered “yes”. The host wants to confirm what she said by rephrasing “so you already eat.” And the students answered “no”, it confused the host, so they repeating this conversation for a long time. The thing happened here is a difference from Chinese and English. In Chinese, if she wants to answer that she hasn’t eaten, she will say “yes, I haven’t eat.”, and in short, it will be “yes”, but in English, she should say “no, I haven’t eat”, in short it will be “no”. It confused me a lot when I first learned it, and now it become a joke. And sometimes I still can’t get the right answers or I have to think for a while about it.

American fillers
Hey guys!
Today, I’m interested in the way young people speak English in the American society. Indeed, they have a special fashion of speaking and my observation is that it common to all the American youth: black, white, Asian and so on.
It is about the use of fillers such as ‘like’, ’kind of’, ‘you see what I mean?’, and other expressions like: ‘it is so cute’, ‘awesome’, etc. But today, I will insist on the use of ‘ LIKE. ‘
There are many people who tend to use the word “like” to punctuate their sentences and that influence me as a non native speaker. Before coming in the US I haven’t heard myself using the filler ‘like’. After spending some time in the US, I found myself using that word. I also notice that some of the international students use the filler ‘like’ very much, I don’t know why. I think that, they acquire that filler unconsciously. And now they cannot say a single sentence without mentioning it. Even if we all use this expression ‘correctly’, we don’t have the metalinguistic knowledge of them. As far as I’m concerned, I make an effort to use it in informal situations but I can obviously see that many people use it even in formal situations.

After a recent activity in a corporate presentation at work I have come to realize that there are a few speech acts that I am particularly poor at and need to work on. One such activity was a self evaluation in which all the employees in the class were asked to fill out a survey regarding listening and comprehension. Some of the questions asked were as follows:
Do you frequently pretend you are listening to someone when your mind is really on other things?
Do you sometimes think of what you are going to say or how your are going to reply while someone else is talking to you, and therefore do not comprehend everything that is being said?
Would your friends describe you as a good listener? your coworkers? your boss? your parents?

After filling out the survey and answering numerous questions such as these, I realized that I am a bad listener and I scored very poorly on the self evaluation. I feel that listening is speech act that is often underrated and unrecognized, but something that is of the utmost importance, especially for those of us that are studying to be teachers.

Today at work a member of our corporate team came in to gice a customer service training program for the employees at my company. One exercise that she used was of particular interest to me. This exercise consisted of a listener and a speaker.

The corporate team member divided the class in half and designated half of the employees as speakers and the other half as listeners. The listeners were asked to leave the room while the speakers were asked to come up with a detailed story that could be explained in under two minutes. Unbeknown to the speakers, the listeners in the hallway were each given a particular role to perform while listening to the stories of the speakers.

For example, as a speaker, while I was giving a detailed account of an amazing meal that I prepared for me and friend last week, the designated listener assigned to listen to my story continued to turn her head and look behind her as to show a lack of interest in my story. Frustrated, I hesitantly continued to share my detailed account of preparation and cooking techniques to an unresponsive audience.

Another group in the class underwent a similar situation as the listener in this case got up to get a drink of water right in the middle of the speakers story. Rude and distasteful actions for any receiver of a communicative act.

After a few minutes we, the speakers, got the hint and realized that the exercise had been intentionally sabotaged. The point of the exercise was that we as employees need to listen to our customer’s concerns and questions and further, we need to show them we are listening through our actions, facial expressions, and other body language.

At the end of the course the corporate suit gave a statistic that I find unbelievable, but nevertheless, she told the class that while the average person is awake for over 16 hours, only five of those hours are spent listening. I immediately challenged the factual accuracy of this statistic, which by the way was not factually supported, however I appreciated the point of the activity.

High-Class Insults
I found people really like to divide their language into different levels. Like High-Class, Intermediate level, and beginner. Actually, I don’t like insulting anyone in language. It’s really harmful to people’s relationship. However, for some purpose, people will choose to use insults. And I found some of them did really good job on the use of language itself. Here, I will list some example which comes from famous people in the world.
“He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.” – Winston Churchill
“I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure.” – Clarence Darrow
“He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.” – William Faulkner
“Thank you for sending me a copy of your book; I’ll waste no time reading it.” – Moses Hades
“He can compress the most words into the smallest idea of any man I know.” – Abraham Lincoln
“I didn’t attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.” – Mark Twain
“He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends.” – Oscar Wilde
“I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend. If you have one.” – George Bernard Shaw
“I feel so miserable without you; it’s almost like having you here.” – Stephen Bishop
“He is a self-made man and worships his creator.” – John Bright
“He is not only dull himself, he is the cause of dullness in others.” – Samuel Johnson
“There’s nothing wrong with you that reincarnation won’t cure.” – Jack E. Leonard
“He has the attention span of a lightning bolt.” – Robert Redford
“They never open their mouths without subtracting from the sum of human knowledge.” – Thomas Brackett Reed
“He loves nature in spite of what it did to him.” – Forrest Tucker
“His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork.” – Mae West
“Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go.” – Oscar Wilde
“He has Van Gogh’s ear for music.” – Billy Wilder

When you read these sentences in details, you will find that speaker use many figure of speech like comparison, sarcasm, parallelism, metaphor and etc. Of course, some of them are really humorous. It also emphasizes the way of expressing the information through the insult itself.

I have lived in America for more than three years but everyday greeting is still uncomfortable. In my culture we do greet when we meet people but there is no such interlocution as “Hi, How are you?” “(I’m) fine (or good), (thanks) and you?”. In my culture we just say “Hi” to “Hi” and we don’t wait for the answer like “Good” or “Fine” or even “Terrible”. This is probably because the way of life in Korea is active and fast in comparison with that of other countries. Passing by people without a greeting is too rude and impolite but it is too hectic and tight-scheduled in Korean life to have a short chat with people you see on the way of everyday life. So Koreans say “Hi” but no more than that.

Personally I still feel uncomfortable when I see Americans I know and hear “How are you?”. Why? When I am asked how I am, I think of how I really am now. In the short seconds of time, I think of many things. “You asked me how I am? OK… let’s see… I have two papers to submit this week and have to pick up my baby at the care center at 5 o’clock and I didn’t look good when I left home this morning… do I say ‘good’? or stop for a while and have a short chat with him/her about my current situation to clarify how I am now?” I’m not kidding. When I see American friends and hear “How are you?” I always hesitate for a second for a proper answer about how I am now. So sometimes I stop and say “not good. You know it’s the end of the semester and people are busy” and this leads to a little longer conversation with the person I talk to. Sometimes, honestly, I don’t want those kind of talk about myself, because I’m busy and have to go somewhere I have to be but people are asking how I am!

So when I say just “Good”, instead of “Good. How are you?”, please don’t take me as a rude person but a busy person who is trying to be accustomed to American greetings.

In this entry, I will discuss the different ways to say sorry to someone. Expressing apologies can be really frustrating, especially if you feel really guilty or if you did something bad to someone you really care about .so, you really have to think about the strongest words and the nicest and most convincing ways to apologize. We usually know that the word “Sorry” do not work all the time. so, someone would look for good excuses , expressive words, and strong expressions. Here is a list of some of the expressions I found online :
1. I’m feeling defensive. When I feel defensive, sometimes I say things I don’t mean.
2. I’m not talking to you like you are someone I love. Let me start over because I do love you.
3. I know I’m sounding angry, but I’m feeling extremely threatened. Let me take a deep breath and try again.
4. I know you’re feeling harassed. Please bear with me; I will do better for you.
5. I’m afraid if I say I’m sorry, you’ll make everything my fault.
6. I’m sorry. I think I was using a tone of voice I did not mean.
7. I think I’m overreacting.
8. I guess I haven’t been listening very well. Please give me another chance.
9. Please forgive me?
10. I know I’ve hurt you. What can I do that would help us get happy again?
11. I’ve said some mean things. Can I take them back?
12. I’m making it sound like it was all your fault. I know that’s not true.
13. I know I sound mad now. I’m sorry and I haven’t stopped loving you.
14. I love you, I hate fighting, and I’m sorry for my part of this one!
15. I feel lousy about what just happened. Can we just make up?

In these examples that I found online, I tried to analyze them. The language used here reflect how bad the speaker want the listener to forgive him and also to what extent does he feel guilty. For example in the fifth example: “I’m afraid if I say I’m sorry, you’ll make everything my fault” you can clearly say the speaker is apologizing, but just partially. Because he admits that it is not all his fault. While in the second example “I’m not talking to you like you are someone I love. Let me start over because I do love you” I can say that the language used in this sentence is stronger and more expressive which will definitely help the speaker in convincing the listener.

So, for whatever we did. We have to think well about the most expressive, convincing, and strong words when apologizing.

On speech acts, I have noticed that some words are culturally permitted for females to use, but not males. The meanings of “boyfriend” and “girlfriend” are so clear to everyone, but is it the same case with the usage? I guess not. It is a well-known fact that a male can have an intimate female friend called “girlfriend” and a female can have an intimate male friend called “boyfriend.” The reference of using both words is well established by which sex uses it. However, the case as well as the meaning might change when one gender crosses to use the word that has already been assigned for the other sex.

It is common for girls to refer to one—or more—of her lady friends as a “girlfriend” but it are unusual for boys to refer to a male friend as a “boyfriend.” The original meaning of “girlfriend” is changed from an intimate friend to a close friend when it is used by a girl to refer to her lady friend and it is OK for a girl to have a close lady friend. However, when a guy uses the word “boyfriend” to refer to a male friend, the original meaning of referring to an intimate friend does not change, and therefore, it is not OK for a guy to have an intimate male friend without being described as a homosexual. I wonder why such case culturally and semantically is permitted.

Hey ali,

I actually like your blog entry because I have this experience with this same word “Boyfriend” and “Girlfriend”. Few months ago, I had a female friend who used to talk a lot about her friends back home. One day, she was talking about one girl whom she kept calling my “Girlfriend”. I was really surprised because she doesn’t know me that much and she is telling me that she has a girlfriend. I thought that she might be lesbian and probably has a girlfriend .so, it was weird to talk about that with me while I just met her few days ago. I was really surprised and kept thinking that this girl is lesbian. Few days after, I was with her in the mall while she received a phone call from her friend and I heard her answering saying “I’m in the mall with my girlfriend” . I was really wondering what does she mean by that because I’m just her friend not her girlfriend. Then, I realized that she means my female friend and not “girlfriend” with the meaning of someone with who you have an intimate relationship. it would be interesting though to think about if man can say “my boyfriend “ or not.

Hi, Sandra,
I am glad that you were familiar with the topic I was describing. The case is really confusing and I have been thinking to call one of my American male friends “boyfriend” and see what happens. LOL. Do you think I should do it? LOL, again.

One of the speech acts I have noticed in films, TV and in real life is the way people tend to use the word “guys” to refer to male or female groups. It is normal to hear a guy addressing his male friends with phrases like “come on guys” or “you guys are…” or even “see you guys,” but would be normal to hear a girl saying the same thing to her female friends? Apparently, it is normal. Speakers from both genders use the same word over and over again. Male speakers are excused here from any further questioning since they refer to a group from the same sex in using the word, but I must bring female speakers into the questioning when they use the same word.

Of course the issue needs serious examination, but I can make assumptions here. One of the assumptions is that perhaps female speakers simply find the word easier to use or perhaps most common, and therefore, convenient to use. Another assumption might have to deal with the easiness of uttering the word “guys” than uttering the “girls” since the latter one requires the mouth to roll in order to produce the vowel, whereas the former word does not. Either ways, I think the word “guy” is pronounced more beautifully when it is used by a female speaker than when it is used by a male speaker.

“Guys” is a term of endearment and friendliness. Saying “what’s up guys” is intended that you are comfortable with that saying. If I were to just meet three new people, I would not say, “Hi guys!” When I have met those people, and socialized with them a few times, then I will refer to them as “guys.” The term grew when I was in middle school. I’m not sure about its round-about but it still lives on in my greetings and goodbyes. I feel that even in my classroom I will be greeting my students with “Hi Guys.”

When I was substitute teaching in NY last Fall, I noticed that my greetings and farewells were different with the change in age range. When I was teaching in the elementary schools, I referred to the children as a group “Hi Friends” and when I referred to the high school kids, it was “Hi Guys”

Age, as well as making sure it is understood in a not bias way, is all a part of using the term. New Yorkers, such as myself say “you’s guys” if we want to be joined in something. We will say “you’s guys comin?” or “what’r you’s guys doin?” It’s all a part of the (i’m-a guy, you’re-a guy attitude), where girls are free to be confronted as ‘ a guy’ in that unique context.

This speech act, may very well be, the most empathizing speech act yet. When thinking of an apology to say to a loved one, a hurt one, a friend, or an acquaintance, is sometimes hard to do in person. You can’t think of the right things to say, or many other family members and friends are consoling that person unendingly, so a simple “sorry” may be good enough for the time being of your consoling (in the moment of a sudden death, break-up, or concern). What we tend to do is go to the store and buy a precious card that expresses our deepest sympathy. It can take minutes or hours to find the perfect card that will show your friend, family member or acquaintance how much you truly care. As a third step to this apology speech act, you write a message in this card. Possibly something along the lines when someone has deceased, “I am here for you.” Possibly when someone has lost their job: “When it rains, it pours- so consider me your umbrella.” Possibly a humor note: “My shoulder is yours to to cry on, punch on, and bite. Please be aware that I am just as sensitive as you, but the invite is still available.”

Now, a birthday card, an anniversary card, a valentines day card, and a 99 cents card, are not in your best interest when trying to console someone. It is considered a speech act to me, even if the person does not say one oral word.

Hi Marissa,

I think that you brought up an interesting topic. Many people try to express their thoughts and feelings in different ways. Surprisingly, sometimes as you said, a card will say more than what oral words can say. May be an image that is in the card can reflect what words sometimes cannot express. Also, I always liked when I go through the cards to buy one for birthdays or anniversaries or weddings, I keep going around and read the proverbs or the words that are in the card. I always found them really strong, catching and expressive. Sometimes I have the same feeling that was described in the card or I just want to say the same exact thing that is written there. But when I am in a real situation, I feel that I don’t find the strong words to express them. So, a card is always a good option when coming to express someone’s feelings. One story that I had was when me and my friend were leaving the country to go to different countries. When we were saying good bye for the last time, I was trying to smile and make sure that we don’t cry, and it worked. However, when she gave me this card where it was written “I’m not good in goodbyes, so let’s act as if we are playing hide and seek” it actually was so expressive for what we both wanted to say. And here, the plan of trying “not to cry” didn’t work anymore simply, because the words that were written in the card were so strong .

So, it’s amazing how a card can actually express what a human being sometimes can’t.

Advertising Language in English
When I read the words at the back of the ant product which I brought from Mall, there are always many interesting words advertising this product. It’s really interesting for you to read these words gradually. You will find the advertising words also follow some kind of certain pattern.
One way in which advertisers adapt language to their own use is to take compound words and use them as adjectives. These compounds often later become widely used in normal situations. Examples of these compounds which have become part of the English language are: top-quality, economy-size, chocolate-flavoured, feather-light and longer-lasting.
Language has a powerful influence over people and their behavior. This is especially true in the fields of marketing and advertising. The choice of language to convey specific messages with the intention of influencing people is vitally important.
When I search the Internet, people even list the a study of vocabulary used in advertising listed the most common adjectives and verbs in order of frequency. They are:
Adjectives Verbs
1. new 1. make
2. good/better/best 2. get
3. free 3. give
4. fresh 4. have
5. delicious 5. see
6. full 6. buy
7. sure 7. come
8. clean 8. go
9. wonderful 9. know
10. special 10. keep
11. crisp 11. look
12. fine 12. need
13. big 13. love
14. great 14. use
15. real 15. feel
16. easy 16. like
17. bright 17. choose
18. extra 18. take
19. safe 19. start
20. rich 20. taste
Good and new were over twice as popular as any other adjective.
You can observe how language effect our life by founding the inception in our mind.

Ambiguity in English
Ambiguity is a condition where information can be understood or interpreted in more than one way and is distinct from vagueness, which is a statement about the lack of precision contained or available in the information. Context may play a role in resolving ambiguity. For example the same piece of information may be ambiguous in one context and unambiguous in another.
For instance, the word “bank” has several distinct lexical definitions, including “financial institution” and “edge of a river”. Another example is as in apothecary. You could say “I bought herbs from the apothecary.” This could mean you actually spoke to the apothecary (pharmacist) or went to the apothecary (pharmacy). The use of multi-defined words requires the author or speaker to clarify their context, and sometimes elaborate on their specific intended meaning (in which case, a less ambiguous term should have been used).
More problematic are words whose senses express closely related concepts. “Good,” for example, can mean “useful” or “functional” (That’s a good hammer), “exemplary” (She’s a good student), “pleasing” (This is good soup), “moral” (a good person versus the lesson to be learned from a story), “righteous”, etc. “I have a good daughter” is not clear about which sense is intended.
Syntactic ambiguity arises when a complex phrase or a sentence can be parsed in more than one way. “He ate the cookies on the couch,” for example, could mean that he ate those cookies which were on the couch (as opposed to those that were on the table), or it could mean that he was sitting on the couch when he ate the cookies.
Plus, Spoken language can contain many more types of ambiguities, where there is more than one way to compose a set of sounds into words, for example “ice cream” and “I scream.”
Language can be very changeable and meaningful in daily conversation. If you have some good example, please post on the blog and share with us.


Coming from a different culture holding a complete set of religious, social, and cultural beliefs and values, sometimes I face some difficulties in figuring out certain acts or reactions to certain incidents!

Verbally speaking, in my culture and language (Arabic), we have a lot of compliments or comments if something happened with someone else – for example, if somebody sneezes, we say something like “bless you!” (Just like English) and if somebody coughs, we say something like: I wish health! ( Sahha). On the other hand, here if someone coughed and coughed or even died from coughing, there is no equivalent social comment that one can say!!! This still puzzle me since I feel I’m impolite when somebody coughs and I say nothing!!

Yes. It is not really considered to “keep commenting” if someone coughs multiple times. You almost have to either pat them on the back, or get them water. I would say something like “bless” or “you ok?” when someone coughs, but that’s about it. I do the same thing with a sneeze. I will say “bless” instead of “God bless” when someone sneezes. That is just the way my parents raised me, or maybe I just say it because they do. If someone sneezes profusely, and that can be quite funny, is when you can say something like “bless” the first time, “bless” the second time, “you have alergies?” the third time, grab a tissue for them the fourth time, and walk away the fifth time, ha ha.

All in all, coughing is the complete opposite of sneezing. Coughing is more severe, and studies show that is can be harmful (choking, trouble breathing, etc.). Sneezing is from allergic reactions mostly. Now, hiccups—those are the best. Everyone’s response to a hiccup is not “God bless” or “you ok?” Everyone’s response is a cure! We will say, “Do you want to know the secret of getting rid of them?” And then we go on to make up silly gestures and sounds as they mimic us. But, in all honesty, I do have a wonderful cure. It works every time.

If someone has the hiccups, ask them at random “What is your middle name?” When they reply (*eg) “Maria” you reply “Why did your parents give you that middle name?” Since they are now taking the time to tell you about a little family history, they have forgotten about their hiccups, and *bada-bing–hiccups gone!

I have noticed when I was a BA student a few years ago at KAU in Saudi Arabia that some of my classmates were desperately trying to adapt themselves to either British or American accents because they thought they would master the language better if they did. One of them has even told me that some professors would think of him highly if he adapts the British accent. Another one told me that his professor, who received an American education, would give him more attention as he does to the rest of the class if this student could speak “the American way.”

Aside from gaining attention or leaving an impression, I believe that trying to force the tongue to adapt to cretin accent of speech would affect the way we naturally pick languages. It is true that adults learn the language more than they acquire it, but I think the process of learning should be natural too. The tongue should be left alone to pick whatever accent it can naturally deals with and not the one we impose upon it. In fact, I think having various accents of the English language proves that neither the American nor the British are the supreme ones and that there are many accents out there for the tongue to be free to adapt to whatever accent it feels most comfortable in communicating with. Perhaps not adapting to certain accent would be even a better idea.

I often get interesting reaction from my friends, here in US, when I use the word “yesterday” and “tomorrow”. For example, on a Monday, I said to my friends “Do you remember what topic we discussed in our class yesterday?” They, then, looked at me puzzled. My friend said “Yesterday was Sunday and we did not have any class”. Or on a Friday, I said “I guess we have to read two chapters for our class tomorrow.” As you probably guess my friend will say, “We have no class tomorrow, no class on Saturday.” In the first, I was surprised that my friends were confused with my sentences, but later I realized I used the words incorrectly.

I realize now that I have different concept of “yesterday” and “tomorrow” in my language. In English, “yesterday” always refers to the day before today, so when we say it on Monday, “yesterday” means Sunday. That also applies for the word “tomorrow” which always refers to the day after today. While in my language, the word “yesterday” may mean the day before today, the last time the event took place, and sometimes in the past. So, for example when on Monday I asked, “What topic we discussed in our Grammar class yesterday?” I am referring to the last grammar class we had on last Thursday. “Tomorrow” also has similar meaning as “yesterday”. If I said on a Saturday that “We had to read two chapters for our grammar class tomorrow”, my intended meaning was saying that we have to read two chapters for our next grammar class on next Thursday. That is why when you are in Indonesia and people tell you that they will visit you tomorrow; you need to clarify and check if it is really tomorrow or sometimes in the future. In formal situation like classes, offices or business meeting, “tomorrow” is exact but not in a more casual situation.

It is very interesting for to watch political debates here in the states. I think politicians are very well trained to speak in a manner that is encouraged others to believe in what they say. I remember watching the debate between President Obama and Senator John McCain when I was in Saudi Arabia. The debates were very argumentative and the two of them were trying to convince others that I’m the good president you should elect. When John McCain started talking, I said he is correct. But when Obama started talking, I changed my mind.

This kind of language they use is a strong argumentative way of speaking. Why is it so powerful like that? Is it because of the ideas they represent or is it the word choosing that make politicians great speakers? Yes, it is the rhetoric language but why don’t others use it. Is it because rhetoric means to be selfish? I’m not sure

I reamember one of professors in my undergraduate study, he said to the whole class: you r know how to write but you don’t know how to speak. He started pointing out the different format of saying things in both Arabic and English languages. It was the stress that made the difference and the intonation, too. I was convinced by what he said, so I tried that. I improved my language but there was a turning point that happened later. When I came to the states I realized that people use a new way of speaking to me. When they make stress and their flaw of speaking was very unique. I tried to imitate the way they speak, so it worked.

When students learn English, they always need a teacher who knows how to speak the language very well. It is not necessary to be a native speaker in this case, because many second language speakers know how to deal with the language. It is a big improvement for me to speak with that kind of native speakers’ flaw.

Now that people are constantly texting, emailing, and instant messaging, it seems a new type of writing has emerged which uses abbreviations, numbers and symbols instead of just letters. Instead of taking the time to spell words out correctly, people use any method they can to make communication as short and quick as possible. A typical text between two people may consist of one person sending “luv u” and the other responding with “u 2.”
I worry that this constant use of incorrect spelling is creating bad habits in our youth. They are so used to their texting style of writing they tend to struggle when it comes to any type of formal writing. Comparing this with the documentary we had watched in class a few weeks ago, I believe that a student’s ‘awareness’ of this type of morphological dialect should not go un-noticed, for it may create difficulties in the values of proper spelling for future success. In contrast, it may serve it’s purposes in the classroom as a leisurely and pleasurable way of communication, outside the illusory high school grammar curriculum.

Hey Marissa,

Actually our use of the English language is greatly influenced by our daily conversations online and on texting. I think it is an interesting field to explore how does our Standard English get affected by the abbreviations we use online. I was actually thinking about something else which is the difference between the language we use in online conversations and the language we use when texting. Both of them are characterized by abbreviations. Yet, they are so different. in a chat conversation I would just send a smiley that would interpret what I feel or what I want to say. For example , a smiley with a wondering face (:^) ) will summarize the sentence “ what do you mean ? or how come ? or similar questions in an online conversation . While in texting, we do not tend to use smiley. But instead, in a similar conversation I would send, “what ? ”. it would be really interesting to explore other differences .

 Speech Acts

Speech act is a technical term in linguistics and the philosophy of language. The contemporary use of the term goes back to John L. Austin’s doctrine of locutionary, illocutionary and perlocutionary acts. Many scholars[who?] identify ‘speech acts’ with illocutionary acts, rather than locutionary or perlocutionary acts. As with the notion of illocutionary acts, there are different opinions on the nature of speech acts. The extension of speech acts is commonly taken to include such acts as promising, ordering, greeting, warning, inviting someone and congratulating.

Types of Speech Acts

• Assertion; to convey information
• Question; to elicit information
• Order; to demand action
• Promise; to commit speaker to an action
• Threat; to commit speaker to an action unwanted by hearer
Direct Speech Acts
• Speech acts that perform their function in a direct and literal manner
– Give me the paper
– Can you please help me.
Sentence Type Speech Act Example
Declarative Assertion I have a laptop
Interrogative Question Is this your laptop?
Imperative Order/Request Give me your laptop
– Performative speech acts
 To use certain kinds of verbs to perform linguistic actions.
ex) I declare that I am innocent.
I ask who tracked mud all over the carpet.
(promise, declare, ask, bet, etc.); however, these words are not always used as performative verbs.
cf) John declared his love for Mary.
For reducing these confusion, we can do the “hereby” test.
If a sentence sounds okay with “hereby” added, the verb is being used performatively.
ex) I hereby declare that I am innocent.
*John hereby declared his love for Mary.
Indirect Speech Acts

Acts accomplished by using language in indirect ways. Interpretation of a sentence that performs an indirect speech act is not literal.
– Can you get me a soda?
– Do you have the time?
– It’s kind of hot in here.
– I’ll be back to collect my money in an hour.

Conversational patterns found in American context.

In my culture (Thai culture), it is not comfortable for the speaker to say “No” to offerings, asking for help or invitation from someone. We use negotiation words such as “maybe.” My American friend noticed an example of this when I went to a teashop and the seller was trying to sell raspberry tea to me. She asked if I wanted to smell the tea. My reply was “maybe not.” The seller understood that I wanted to smell it and I eventually bough the tea.
My response to the seller might have implied that I was not certain if I wanted to smell it, I think. Later I became conscious that I did not know how to say no to a nice seller even though I did not want to buy the tea. Personally, sometimes I find myself buying something that I do not really want when the seller persuades me about the product nicely.

When I came to America, I found conversational patterns to refuse something, for example, an invitation. The familiar pattern is “I wish I could” and followed by “ I am sorry” and an explanation of a reason (s). This is one way to refuse without saying “No”. I’ve adopted this pattern to show politeness when I can’t follow someone’s request or invitation.

However, one formulaic sentence I came across when people are refusing something is “I’m good.” At the line of the cashier at K-Mart, a lady who was customer said, “ I am good” when she was being asked by the cahier if she wanted to donate a dollar for an organization. This implied that she did not want to. Another situation was in a restaurant with some American friends. They said, “ I am good” when a server asked if they wanted to refill their water.

I’ve learned and gradually adopted these kinds of patterns in daily life during my study in the United States. The speech patterns I usually used to refuse something might have confused the listeners. I am learning to use polite words suitable to different contexts by observation.

There is a similarity in the the word “Yes” as well. When asked something, the words multiplities consist of: Alright, sure, ok, yea, mm-hmm, I’d love to, please, or an implication (with, or without gratitude). When I say implication, I mean that the “yes” part is left out. (E.g., Q: Do you want a sandwich? A: Salami and Provolone, Thanks!) This just happened to me a few minutes ago when my brother asked if I wanted a sandwich, in which I replied what I wanted –“salami and provolone,” rather than saying “Yes, I’ll have salamni and provolone.”

This night I had a wonderful talk with people from different countries. One of our topics concers about how to request people whose first language is not English to explain what they are saying. All of us thought this problem is really complex than imagination.
In our group, all the native Americans are worrying about to ask second language speakers to repeat what they said again and again. They thought this action did not show respect to people from another country. Native students don’t want to say” Can you say it again?” or ” Sorry. I didn’t understand what you said.”However, the second language speakers are aslo worried about whether they will be understood by Native speakers. They worried a lot when they explained something to native speakers. So the problem comes up.
I believe most of professor and students understand how difficult for second language to use English in their daily life. So they will not judge your pronunciation and accent.(Not all of them.) I think second language speakers should not be afraid to explain what they are going to say. Using a interpretation is a useful way to communicate with peopole and also a good manner for practicing the use of English.
More, I think “I’m sorry” is a very useful phrase in this kind of situation. Because it shows your respect and your understanding at the same time. Yes, I did meet someone who talked in a rude way like “I don’t know what you are saying”. I think the people who can not understand the speaker’s meaning needs to point which part makes them feel confused. I believe it makes sure the conversation can go on to the next stage.

I agree with your opinion. Actually, I felt disappointed until last year when Americans asked me “What’s that?” or “Sorry?” I always thought my pronunciation is terrible, so Americans cannot understand what I say.

However, my thougth changed a little bit this year. I often hear that Americans also are asked “What’s that?” or “Could you say that again?” by other Americans. For example, I waited in a line to buy coffee at Starbucks, an American guy ordered something, but he was asked “What’s that?” by a clerk. Then I rememberd that I was often asked “What’s that?” by a clerk or my friends even when I spoke Japanese in Japan. I didn’t feel disappointed at all in that case. I just repeated what I said.

Why am I scary of asking or being asked “Could you say that again?” only in English? I cannot speak even my native language perfectly, mush less English. I try to think that it is natural for us to ask or be asked with each other.

Sometimes, I tend to hesitate to ask Americans and I pretend to understand what they say. In only that case, however, they ask me my opinions. Then I say, “I’m sorry. Could you say that again?” I feel bad and so they do. Therefore, I try to ask them if I cannot understand what they say immediately.

Tong , we really had the same topic last year. We were discussing that issue with our teacher. The same teacher was trying to stop some students to know what they just said. I used to get upset when someone stops me to start this comprehension check. We all like people listening to us and getting all the ideas we speak about. The problem is sometimes with pronunciation or with the flaw of speaking or even with the stops a speaker makes.

In fact, it is also disappointing to ask others many times to repeat what they said. A friend of mine has this issue most of the time. For example, we called a restaurant to order some food, he asked the lady many times to slow down. And when she asked him questions, he turned over looking for my answer to help him out. He gets more confident when has a friend who speaks very well but I told him that it is OK for his level at this time as an ESL student.

For second language learners, speakers usually make speech mistakes especially in their first levels of learning a second language. One of my friends asked his professor to write him a recommendation letter; unfortunately his request was refused because he wasn’t writing a polite request unintentionally. Here is what my friend wrote:

You need to write me a letter recommendation.

It was impolite way to talk someone superior to you. The student went to his professor office to figure out what prevented the professor from writing this letter for him since the student is a well behaved and well educated pupil. The professor clarified the problematic word for his student in case of future use.

Another example for miscommunication or saying some words unintentionally to be more polite that when I and my friends went to have a dinner in one of the restaurants here in the states. Once we sat down and we were ready to order our meals:

The waitress: Can I get you something o drink
My friend: bring water with slice of lemon
The waitress: with ugly look, sure.

I realized how was it impolite to order something that way without saying please or a modal like can or could the shows politeness. It’s obvious that non native speakers commit some conversational errors that would make them embarrassed or impolite. Luckily, there are some native speakers understand the background or even the proficiency level of the second language speakers. But, what would be the case if there is not people who have mature respect?

Hey Abdullah ,

This topic is actually really interesting. Even though native speakers sometimes understand that this person is from a different background. I think it is really important to learn the culture as a part of a language. Especially if someone is planning to travel or live in that country. It is really important for someone to learn how to say things properly: how to order in a restaurant, how to talk to a teacher, how to talk to a friend. Because, even if it is unintentional as you said, I think that it is not only embarrassing but it can be really hurtful for the native speaker to be addressed impolitely. Despite the difference of languages, I think there is something similar in all languages of the world, which is the fact that we address people in different ways. We don’t talk to a friend like we talk to a teacher. So, I just thought it ‘s the learner’s duty to learn about the culture of that language as well. for example, if a non –native speaker talk to a professor inappropriately, the professor would not say it’s ok he is from a different culture. But I think, he will see this student as being impolite even if the request was addressed that way unintentionally. So, learning how to use the language is a really important thing that we should learn.

Hi Abdulla

I remember one of my friends got asked to say please when he asked a lady something. That was embarrassing. It is really an issue here in the states. I think people here are really over forgiving that if you look a beginner they mostly won’t say any ting about it. The problem is for those who speaks English very well and mostly do not say please or show any kind of respect to others.

Not saying polite words when asking others for anything, is also a cultural issue.Some people come from different cultures that do not require people to use those words every time. It is OK for them to accept you but not all the time. So, in my opinion I think it needs a more cultural background to escape moments of embarrassments.

The difference in asking between English and Japanese

The other day I talked with my Japanese friend who lives in the U.S. She has been working at a translation company in the U.S. for more than 10 years and doesn’t have working experience in Japan. I was very interested her opinions in business mail.

She told me that Japanese sentences are more wordy than English in business email. For example, in English, “Could you translate this document into Spanish by this Friday?” and people can concludes with just regards or thank you. On the other hand, in Japanese, “Could you translate this document into Japanese by this Friday? どうぞよろしくおねがいします(I would like to express my appreciation for your taking care of this matter and are sorry for any inconvenience I may have caused)”. Japanese workers have to say the underlined sentence when they ask someone. To my friend, “どうぞよろしくおねがいします” means nothing. This is because people mutually understand some inconvenience when they work.

I agreed with her opinion, and at the same time I felt that her way of thinking on business is American’s. Japanese way of thinking is that “inconvenience” or “taking someone’s time” is “bad” or “sorry” for others. Therefore, we have to say “どうぞよろしくおねがいします”. This sentence helps to smooth relations between people in Japan. I cannot imagine the sentences without “どうぞよろしくおねがいします” when I ask someone.

Looking back to my writing in English, it is wordy from the point of the western view. Especially, when I ask a professor about something, I really feel uncomfortable closing with only regards or thank you. I always put in the end of email like that “I really appreciate your time and I am sorry to bother you”, and then I write “Best regards”.

To learn foreign languages is to know their culture. I realize this mean now.

I have found out something about the phonology, morphology and lexicon of Jamaican. According to Wikipedia, Jamaican Patois, known locally as Patois (Patwa) or Jamaican, and called Jamaican Creole by linguists, is an English-lexified creole language with West African influences spoken primarily in Jamaica and the Jamaican diaspora.

Wiki explains that there are around 21 phonemic consonants and between 9 and 16 vowels of Jamaican.
Labial Alveolar Post- alveolar Palatal2 Velar Glottal
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
Stop p b t d tʃ dʒ c ɟ k ɡ
Fricative f v s z ʃ (h)1
Approximant ɹ j w
Lateral l

1. The status of /h/ as a phoneme is dialectal: in Western varieties, it is a full phoneme and there are minimal pairs (/hiit/ ‘hit’ and /iit/ ‘eat’); in Eastern varieties, the presence of [h] in a word is in free variation with no consonant so that the words for ‘hand’ and ‘and’ (both underlyingly /an/) may be pronounced [han] or [an].
2. The palatal stops [c], [ɟ] and [ɲ] are considered phonemic by some accounts and phonetic by others. For the latter interpretation, their appearance is included in the larger phenomenon of phonetic palatalization.

According to a Comparative-Typological Study, the word formation in Jamaican including reduplication, compounding, calquing, and multifunctionality is presented below.

(i) inflectional reduplication where the word class and semantic properties of the base are preserved. The general pattern in this group produced ‘augmentation for adjectives, iteration, continuation or intensity for verbs, accumulation or plurality for nouns’
(ii) productive derivational reduplication where the semantic properties of the base are not fully preserved, and/or a change in word class is occasioned by the process. From their focus on productive derivational reduplication, they found that this type ‘produces adjectives denoting “X”-like quality from nouns and verbs as well as adjectives’.
(iii) unproductive derivational reduplication which consists mainly in deverbal reduplicated nouns e.g. kriep ‘to scrape’ > kriep-kriep

JC has VN and VV compounds, which both appear to be cross-linguistically uncommon – VV compounds appear to be rare in European languages and VN N compounds are also scarce in JC’s lexifier.

The hides semantic calques of substrate items such as JC god-horse ‘mantis’it is not clear whether similar forms exist in other potential substrates. The example raises issues of linearization of elements similar to issues occurring in Lefebvre’s research on the Haitian-Fon relation, where she claims that Haitian compounds are patterned upon Fongbe even though the items are ordered differently in the Creole language and its putative source variety.

Sound symbolishm and ideophones
The use of similar phono-symbolic items and strategies to denote colour,
manner, smell, action, state and intensity, suggests a relationship between languages, since these items tend to be idiosyncratic. Also, that JC shares a the tendency with several West African languages for ideophonic material to be reduplicated, is not likely to be coincidental.

Multifunctionality is a phenomenon which touches all the areas outlined above. Much of the earlier work undertaken in Creolistics was predicated by the belief that the word classes of Creole languages are the same as those of their lexifiers or that their behaviour is either the same or a simplified version of the superstrate.

Karl states that the majority of Jamaican Creole languages (again, the term ‘Creole’ is of European origin, and therefore troublesome for several reasons) have their origins in African languages. Thus, while their vocabulary or lexicon may be largely European-based (with lexical contributions from the hypothesized ‘superstrate’ languages), their syntax or grammar is distinctly non-European, and certainly more closely African (a continent historically described as “the dark continent” and therefore genetically contributing hypothesized ‘substrate’ languages).
In addition, according to Wikipedia, Jamaican Patois contains many loanwords. Primarily these come from English, but are also borrowed from Spanish, Portuguese, Hindi, Arawak and African languages. There are some examples listed below.
Examples from African languages include /se/ meaning that (in the sense of “he told me that….” = /im tel mi se/), taken from Ashanti Twi, and /dopi/ meaning ghost, from the Twi word adope.
Words from Hindi include nuh, ganja (marijuana), and janga (crawdad).
There are many words referring to popular produce and food items—ackee, callaloo, guinep, bammy, roti, dal, kamranga.
Jamaican Patois has its own rich variety of swearwords. One of the strongest is blood claat (along with related forms raas claat, bomba claat, pussy claat and others—compare with bloody in Australian English, which is not considered swearing).
Homosexual men are referred to as /biips/ or batty boys.


Folkes, Karl. (2003). 15 points why Jamaican Patois is a language. Retrieved October 06, 2010, from jamaicans.com: http://www.jamaicans.com/speakja/patois_language_15points.htm
Jamaican Patois. (2010, October 06). Retrieved October 06, 2010, from wikipedia.org: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jamaican_Patois#Phonology
Substrate Influence in the Lexicon of Jamaican Creole: A Comparative-Typological Study. (n.d.). Retrieved October 06, 2010, from eva.mpg.de: http://www.eva.mpg.de/lingua/staff/farquharson/pdf/leipzig-proposal.pdf

As a literature student, I tend to think that the problems many of you have expressed regarding the failure of text-based communication due to a lack of inflection or body-language stem more from a failure to use language as expressively as it can be used. I realize that my tendency to believe this is mostly wrong.

It seems that colon-parenthesis smiley faces, less-than-three hearts, and the like have taken a role in closing the perceived gap in communication via text.

So: “Are you coming over? ;)” has a different, and more suggestive, ring to it than simply “Are you coming over?” or even, “Are you coming over? :)”
Because these punctuation pictures are playful ways to communicate, a sort-of lighthearted emotional shorthand, a sentence like, “I’m angry with you” has more emotional weight than “I’m angry with you. >:O” So, the playfulness can be counterproductive if taken at face value.

Another long-standing trend in text communication is to add extra letters to a word, most often at the end repeating the last letter, to indicate excitement. This one actually irks me, because the letters added can be consonants, that is, the letters are not indicative of a drawn-out pronunciation per se.
At its most basic, “Hi!” versus “Hiiiiiiiii!” At this level, the letters give the impression of a drawn-out, excited hello, but at least four or five of my friends, all of whom, I note for demographic purposes, are women between the ages of 20 and 22, use this convention with consonants, i.e. “I haven’t seen you in foreverrrrrr!” or even with stop consonants, i.e. “When will you be backkkkkkkkk?!?!” I’m hoping this trend ends, because it gives an impression of immaturity that makes it hard to take such communications seriously, which, now that I think about it, may be exactly the purpose.

Finally, a note on passive-aggression. Passive aggressive behavior can be difficult to detect because conversationally it often manifests itself in deliberately ambiguous speech to engender feelings of insecurity. Because texting seems doomed to be labeled ambiguous due to a lack of inflection/body language, it also seems a perfect forum for passive-aggressive comments — but it is also a perfect forum for comments to be mistaken as passive-aggressive when they are meant in earnest. Case in point, several relationships ago I was seeing a woman who attacked everything I communicated as passive-aggressive. I once sent a text that was simply, “<3" to reassure her through a stressful time, and she responded, "fuck you." Needless to say, I'm not sorry the relationship ended. I suppose the point here is that face-to-face communication is ideal, because without an idea of what the person is projecting and how they are inflecting, our presumptions about their motive for the speech-act are just that — presumptions.

Apropos of my post, a friend texted me, “yeees!” not seconds after I posted.

Harley, In this woman’s defense that text icon does slightly resemble the male reproductive organ:)

–A warning to readers: This response is for the most part pointless, although vaguely familiar, and is more of a rant than anything.–

On a lighter note, I for one feel that the text icons most cellular telephones have to offer are insufficient in allowing me to express my true feelings and attitudes. For example, when I have a really good idea that I would like, or need to express via text message, I would be most inclined to use a picture or icon to express this fabulous idea or notion. For such an instance as this, a lightbulb icon would be most effective.

Another example I have come across while texting is that of music and lyrics. Many text fiends in my social groups tend to send lyrics via text messages to convey certain moods and often times, in a more vexing sense, to showcase their musical knowledge. Given the miscommunication I have experienced in the past regarding musical lyrics in texts, I feel that musical note icons would be very effective. That all!

This is my post on conversational patters/problems.

My post is concerning text messaging and the problems inherent with that type of communication. As an example, I would like to use a friend, who I will call Bob for the purposes of this post. Bob was dating a girl a while back and one of the major forms of their communication happened through texting. The problem with texting is there is zero face-to-face communication happening. In other words, there are no other communication methods to pick up on (voice inflection/saracasm, facial expression, body language). Without these things, a lot of communication can be jumbled or misconstrued.

The situation with Bob was this: he tended to be a slightly paranoid person, especially when it came to relationships. He was constantly worried when he didn’t get an immediate response to a text (he thought he was being too forward, or said something wrong); he tended to read a message as one thing, when it most likely meant something else (or he would read too much into something, instead of taking it at face value). Because of the type of communication that this is, it is tough to overcome some of these types of reactions.

The first problem was the immediacy (or lack of) to his own texts. In a face-to-face conversation, a response would most likely be pretty instantaneous. For example: “Hello.” “Hey.” The responses happen right away. If someone doesn’t respond right away in face-to-face conversation, it usually means they’re thinking about what they want to say next, but it can also mean, “I don’t want to say the wrong thing, so I better be careful what I say next.” Another way to read the hesitancy of a response is (from the listener’s perspective), that “I said something wrong.” If we say something inappropriate, the other person in the conversation might not know how to respond to it. This is how Bob interpreted text messages that he didn’t get responses to right away. He would think, “I must have said something wrong.” And then he would send another text asking why she didn’t respond. This would be the beginning of many an argument.

The other reason that text communication fails is because of the lack of humanity involved in it. We lost all of the other cues that need to happen to convey meaning. Bob would misread text message after text message, because all he had to go on were the words on the screen. He couldn’t tell if she was joking or being serious, and he always seemed to misread. In other words, when she was joking, he always took it seriously (and this too would lead to arguments). When she was being serious, he was hesitant, and so he would end up asking if she was being serious (thus leading to an argument).

Their entire relationship wasn’t held through virtual means. They had face-to-face time, but I think that the arguments and misunderstandings that stemmed from their text messaging had a lot to do with the fact that they are no longer together. Communication is so much more than just the words and the language.

Written Journal on conversational patterns
Conversational patterns are not only different in different languages but also different in the same language. People use English to communicate but when they come from different location, they would use different conversational patterns.
I have lots of experience to talk with people from different country. In spoken conversation, pronunciations and accent are different among them.
When I talk with friends in China with English, there is a strong Chinese way of English. It includes the way of pronunciation and speaking. Most Chinese learn English focus on writing but not speaking. Therefore, the pronunciation is bad that only Chinese can understand what each other is talking about. Since Chinese language has different structure with English, students would like to use Chinese language structure to speak English. It sounds easier.
Singapore people speak English well but the pronunciation of words is different as well. They always raise tone at the end of each sentence. When I was talking to me, I always wonder they were asking me questions. It makes me hard to understand what they are talking about since their speaking pitch is also different.
French people speak English mix with the French accent. Specially, they have a different way of pronouncing “R”. But it is not hard for me to understand what they are talking about.
American people speak English very fast and would like to link words together when they speak. At the same time, they have a strong “R” pronunciation. At the beginning, it was hard for me to listen clearly what they were talking about since I couldn’t react well in their pronunciation. I usually let them speak slowly with full pronunciation of each word to make me understand.

Reversed use of Yes/No to negative questions

I was a visiting scholar at UCLA in 2003. Before my departure to America, I had sent three big parcels to my apartment in LA by international postal service. When I arrived at my place, the parcels didn’t arrive so I thought they were arriving delayed. However, even 2 weeks after my arrival, they did not arrive. So I made a phone call to the post office in the area and knew they had my stuffs.

The following was the conversation between a post office staff and me:

“Do you want me to deliver your stuffs to your home?”
“No, I will be there”.
“Do you have a vehicle?”
“I think you need a vehicle if you want to pick them up”
“I’ll be there”
“You mean, do you have a vehicle?”
“How can you pick those big stuffs without a vehicle?”
“Don’t you want us to deliver your stuffs?”
“Do you have a vehicle?”
“Do you want delivery service?”
“Don’t you have a vehicle?”
“Do you have a vehicle?”
“Okay, anyway I’ll be there”

The miscommunication in the conversation above was caused from the different answering pattern between Korean and English for negative questions. In English, Yes/No answers for negative questions depend on who says Yes/No. For example, if someone answers ‘no’ for the question ‘Aren’t you hungry?’, it means ‘no, I’m not hungry’.
However, in Korean, the answer ‘No’ for ‘Aren’t you hungry?’ means ‘Yes, I’m hungry’. In other words, Yes/No answers for negative questions are totally dependent on the speaker’s (dis)agreement with the other who gives the question. Thus, the answer ‘No’ for negative questions in Korean means ‘Yes’ in English, and the answer ‘Yes’ for negative questions in Korean means ‘No’ in English.

Thus, the following shows up the hidden meaning for the above conversation

“You don’t want us to deliver your stuffs?”
“No (= no, you are wrong. I want your service)”
“Do you have a vehicle?”
“Do you want delivery service?”
“Don’t you have a vehicle?”
“Yes, (yes, you are right/I agree with you. I don’t have a vehicle)
“Do you have a vehicle?”
“Okay, anyway I’ll be there”

Speech acts differ from a person to another, from a community to another. I noticed a huge difference between girls’ speech and boys’ speech here in the United States. This difference appears when girls pause their speech with such a question tone even though there is no question to ask. It is marked by a high tone beginning in the final accented syllable near the end of the statement. It’s obvious at least to me how they use a rising intonation pattern in the final syllable. This type of speech is more common among young people especially girls. That is totally different from girls who are speaking British English. I have been to England four years ago; I didn’t see a variety of girls speaking there that is not like boys except the real voice of the person not the intonation though. My perception about those girls in America might want to add more feminine way to their speech to make them distinguished from others. We can consider these sentences as examples:
Girl: we went to the party (rising intonation) and we were like: what is going on here (rising intonation)
Boy: we went to the party and we were like what is going on here (steady intonation).
This is mainly not the case of everyone here, but it’s rather very common. It’s sometime to me one of best heard way of speech, but it will take you long time to stand there and listen till they finish their stories. This is really another kind of difference that girls might take much more time to explain what they want to say. My friend says, the reason behind that is girls feel kind of intimacy while they are talking. On the other hand, boys prefer to deliver their message faster.
Have you guys experienced a similar situation or noticed that?


I think this is a very interesting question. I have noticed differences in the intonation of boys versus girls. I don’t however think that it is a conscious application of speech. I don’t think that girls and women think that a rising intonation will make them seem more feminine. Although, when someone is feigning femininity this is something that is done, but more so in a mocking manner than anything else. I agree that girls often take a much longer time to tell stories than most guys. But this is not true across the board. I have known guys who can take hours to tell you a story that I could have told in five minutes.

I believe that a majority of the time the length of story telling is situational. Whether the group listening to the story is same sex or not, peers or not, or the perceived importance of the story all come into play. This is an interesting idea for me to think about.

Is this something that only takes place in English? or does it occur in other languages as well?

I tend to think that it is a culturally conditioned phenomenon–no matter the culture. Women and girls are historically thought to be the nurturers and caregivers. It is likely that this rising intonation and lengthy story telling has been conditioned out of these roles.

Conversational patterns

There are many different ways to start conversation and small talk in daily life. Since I am a non-native speaker, I learned how to start conversation and small talk in English when I was in my country. In Japan or Korea, the first lesson we have is that: “how are you? I am fine. Thank you. And you?” In every textbook, we start with these phrases. Therefore, students do not know any other way to greet each other such as “how are you doing?, How’s it going?, what’s up? and so on that actually more used by native speakers.
When I came to the U.S., I realize that “How are you?” is not the most popular phrase to greet to people especially not college students. People still say “how are you?” but for me, not majority people seem to say it as much as I thought it would be. Since I learned “how are you?” from the very beginning of my English education, the phrase comes out first from out of my mind among other greeting phrases. I wanted to use various ways to say but it just stuck in my head unconsciously. I think conversational patterns could come from such habit that uttering same words over and over again before even think what to say. Also, I answer “good” every time people ask how I am doing, even though I am just ok or fine unless I am in a terribly bad mood.
This does not happen only because I am non-native speakers but for native speakers too with the different words. People accidently say same things without meaning something. For example, I know we say “like” too many times in every sentence. I am very willing to get rid of it but it is hard to do so because it just comes out whenever I pause my speech or think what to say in the middle of the conversation. It sounds not professional especially when I give a presentation as a project for the class or speak out in the class. I try to avoid as much as possible. Also, I hope I will be able to express myself in various ways soon.
Conversational patterns are happening quite often for everyone in many different ways. We can see them through having conversations and interact with people. Sometimes it does not really affect but it can be annoying as well. Therefore, I think it would be good to find out what kind of conversational patterns we have. In order to do so, it would be useful to film ourselves and see how we act and what kind of conversational patterns we have.


I don’t think that you are the only one with the problem of using hedges when speaking. When I was in Middle School my parents thought that I was using the word ‘Like’ too much as well. In order to curve my use they would interrupt me every time I used the word. This is not something that affects only non-native speakers, but native speakers as well as you stated above. I think that using hedges is something that we, especially as teachers, need to be aware of. I have several classmates, in another class, that are keeping track of another student’s use of hedges. He used “like” 43 times in one class the other week. It is important for us to be aware of these things so we can all strengthen out speaking practices.

Another thing that I have caught my self, and others, saying is “You know?” I don’t really want to know if they know or not! It is just something that has developed in my and my family’s speech patterns. Also, one thing that I have noticed is taken very seriously in teaching situations is using “You guys” to refer to the entire class of males and females. While this may not seem super offensive to some people, we must me sensitive that some students may be offended my the phrase. It is better to say, “everyone” for example when referring to the entire class.

In regards to social conventions, I recently discovered an age-old test which establishes where one stands in a social relationship with another person. Have you ever wondered if someone really wants to be your friend, or just how much a person truly enjoys your company? Well here is something you can try in order to get your answer.

I recently had a telephone conversation with an old “friend” of whom I used to be very close with. I had once thought that this person respected me and enjoyed being around me. However, after our short conversation the other day I discovered just how important I was to this person.

The conversation went something like this:

Me: Hey what’s up man? How’ve you been?
Friend: Pretty good… really busy.
Me: Yeah me too…It’s been a long time. I cant believe we haven’t seen each other in over a year.
Friend: Yeah I know right. That’s what college does to you man.
Me: Listen, I wanted to see what you were doing this weekend. I’m gonna be in town.. we should get together.
Friend: Yeah that sounds good. I don’t have any plans.
Me: I’m goin to Brother Paul’s (local bar) on Saturday. You wanna come?
Friend: Oh yeah? Who’s gonna be there?

I’ll stop the conversation here. Did you pick up on the test? Notice first that the friend responded to my inquiries and greetings, however, he did not inquire of me. Notice also that my “friend” didn’t really share any real information into his life in response to my questions/conversation. But the real shocker, and the point to this test, is his response to my last question as to whether he wanted to go to the bar with me. After stating that he would like to get together dn that he was free that weekend, a polite social response to my question, when I established a specific form of action in response to his interest he replied: “Who’s gonna be there” implying that my presence is not reason enough for him to go out that specific night.

This is only a slight social convention and it can be missed if one is not aware of it, however, it is a great way to truly know whether a person enjoys your company. The next time your on the phone with someone give it a try and see what kind of response you get.

A true friend when asked if they wanna go out will reply something along the lines of, “yeah, when?” or “ok, that sounds great. Ill be there.” Granted there are extenuating circumstances and people do have other plans and busy schedules, but you can glean a lot from the way a person responds to your inquiries.

I would also like to add that there are no hard feelings here and everybody has their own way of communicating and conversing with friends. This particular friend is a great person and will always be remembered, but sometimes different stages in peoples lives bring about different circumstances.

I agree with your analysis of your conversation Tyler. I have noticed that as well from certain friends that I converse with. After reflecting for a bit though I realize that I am guilty of that same act. In my case, however, the person I was speaking with was not one of my good friends but merely a friend of a friend who happened to be in town.
I think saying “who’s gonna be there?” could have a couple different meanings

Something really interesting to me I was reading in George Yule’s book “The study of language” was talking about ‘linguistic politeness.’ By that Yule is referring to one’s face or the public self-image. He is defining politeness in this regard as “showing awareness of another person’s face.” In this sense, face-threatening act is basically saying something that represents a threat to another person’s self-image. For instance, using a direct speech like (Give me that book!) indicates more social power than the other person (the addressee). If you do not have that social power, then you are performing a face-threatening act.

As an indirect speech and using a question form, one can say (Could you pass me that book, please?) This should remove the assumption of social power. When using this question form, you are asking about the ability and this make your request less threatening. When you say something that reduce the possible threat to someone’s face, you are performing a face-saving act.


In this article, the author discusses the descriptions of Speech Acts. She states if your tone happens to be assertive, declarative, directive, expressive, and so on, and how your act changes as the words flow. The meaning of utterance, she says, is by following the nature of your speech. The ways of knowing how to talk to someone can help you in your efforts to become a better speaker. Today, I witnessed in the office, three different speech acts from my boss. She answer the telephone “Women’s Lacrosse. Ok, Be right up.” On the other line was another coach asking for guidance, so she quickly answered back to attend to her duties. The next phone call was a father of a player who is interested in IUP. She answers, “Women’s Lacrosse. Hi Mr. Shani, It is very nice to speak with you! I have been wondering about Jessica and her accomplishments this season. How is she doing? How is her season going?” And so on. That conversation was full of questions, concerns and hopes for the future. The third time the phone rang it was one of our players. Coach answers, “Women’s Lacrosse. Oh, ummm, yea, hmmm. Go to Financial Aid and ask them.” She was unsure, possibly thinking longer than she would in situations with an adult.

You see- in the first phone call, she acted casual. In the second- she acted as the leader in discussion. In the third- she was thinking aloud to herself, and let her player know that was of no help. Do you think she would have been “unsure” about an answer in the second or first phonecall?

It is very important to notice who you are speaking to, and what you are speaking about—because sometimes in your vocation, you need to hold many identities in the way you speak to others.

This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending my cousin Patrick’s wedding in Orlando, FL. While conversing with many friends and family during the trip, I cam across an interesting phenomena. I ran into some Vietnamese friends from Philadelphia that I had not seen in some time. While talking to these four girls I realized that even in the midst of our short conversations, they were all using a very complex form of communication. Not only did these Vietnamese/Philadelphians use a slight form of Ebonics while communicating with each other, most likely originating from their time in center city Philadelphia, but they, almost all of them, code switched from English to Vietnamese depending on the topic of conversation and the receiver of that communication. This speech act, although not at all foreign to me, seemed in that moment incredibly complex, almost as if I was talking to three different speakers embedded in one body.

While one of these girls in particular continued to correct the form of speech she was using while talking to me, to meet a more formal or “standard” embodiment in this social setting, the others continued in their use of ebonics, slang, and code-switching.

After discussing this scenario with another friend at the wedding and expressing my excitement and interest in the topic, he, “my friend”, expressed his disinterest and distaste in regard to this form of communication. He actually believed this form of communication to be rude, considering that he and I did not understand the girls native language (Vietnamese) if I can call it that. He than preceded to explain to me whether I would feel it appropriate to speak in code to a close friend while others participating in the conversation would most likely not understand. I responded with a exclamatory “yes”. We do this all the time in our classrooms and homes, with friends and family-only to us, it is commonly called an inside joke. While we are speaking the same language, we are communicating an idea that is not meant for all to understand and is therefore “limited” to certain, chosen participants. I believe this to be perfectly natural and acceptable despite my “friends” opinion.

A few days ago, when I’m walking a small dog near the animal shelter, that dog is so adorable; he will come to people and wave his tail, so everybody encountered with him will stop and play with him for a while. And there are two ladies I met, they come to me to play with the dog, after found how cute and funny the dog is, one of them speak to the dog like that: “oh, you are so adorable, I love you so much, if you are not belong to someone I’ll adopt you immediately without doubt, in a minute, believe me!” And I respond with: “Actually you can, he is from the animal shelter.” And that lady stopped talking. The other lady looked at me and smiled, I realized I shouldn’t respond, she was just complimentary, because she thought it was my dog, what she said was not what she really want to do. I think I embarrassed her a little bit.

I took summer classes in the University of Washington in Seattle. During one of the students’ gatherings, there was a game which consisted in telling people about the craziest thing we have done in our lives. Heaver, who is one of the staff members there, volunteered to be the first to speak. She said: “last summer, I went hiking with my friends in a mountainous place in the west coast. It was sunny and everybody was having fun. When we got to the mountains, I decided to climb on the mountain without anything on me. I couldn’t believe but I did it and it was really the craziest thing of my life”. After speaking, she noticed that everybody was inquisitively staring at her. Someone from the audience asked: “Heather, you did that really?” She proudly answered: “yes, I did it.” Then, she realized that people did not understand what she meant by “without anything on me” and she corrected herself: “I mean, I climbed without any equipment on”. Finally, people admitted that it was a crazy situation, even if some of us thought that the naked hiking would be crazier.

Language is a complex concept to define. Its complexity can be noticed at a myriad levels, social, political, economic, cultural, etc. Today, we will explore one aspect of the cultural level of complexity of language.
During a field trip in Seattle in Woodland Zoo, we visited many places and saw many animals. When I saw the giraffes, I remembered what people in my country say about them and decided to share it with my American friends Laura and Lauren. I was so enthusiastic about telling my story. I said: “You know what Laura, in Africa, when people want to talk about a beautiful woman, they compare her to a giraffe because of the giraffe’s neck and the way it walks, having or showing elegance and beauty of form or movement”. Laura and Lauren did not really see it the way people see it in my country. They both had the same reaction. They found it crazy to compare women to giraffes. That situation made me feel uneasy. I apologized and we talked about something else.

It seemed that you had a very cultural conflict when you said she is beautiful as a giraffe. Culture is our beliefs, attitudes, values and what we mainly share even the language is considered as a part of the culture. Apparently, you should have explained what you wanted to say or make comparison of to let people who are with you being aware of the connotation this cultural saying. I sometimes do the same thing I put my cultural expressions through English and I try to find equivalent words to embody them in which they make sense to the listener.

I remember one situation similar to yours Massi. I was hanging out with my American friend and we were talking about how Shakespeare was a brilliant poet in the past. I said to my friend that Shakespeare used to eat a tongue of the lamp and that was the reason of his talent. Actually my friend stared at me at the middle of the street and he said, really? I haven’t heard of that before.

I realized that he didn’t get the joke because it was so cultural and beyond his knowledge. I explained to him that we used to believe that whoever eats the tongue of a lamp, definitely one day he will become a poet. That might proof how language and culture overlap and represent the major role of our communication settings. 

Abdullah, I share your point about the cultural difference which can create a problem of communication. In fact, the best way of saying or doing something in your country or culture may be misinterpreted in another culture. In that case, one’s good deed backfires in his or her own face. In the Ivory Coast, for instance, it is very respectful to call women “madam” because you do not know whether they are married or not and it is rude to call them “miss” because at a certain age, people think that women are too old to be single. On the other hand, in the U.S. or France, it is rude to call people who are not married “Madam” because whatever their age, they want to be called their proper title. For preventing such discomfort, it is important to explain whenever we have the opportunity, how in our culture people behave and how things are done. Similarly, we learn about American culture every day. Even if before coming in the US, we read books about the US, watched movies and talked to people from our country who had already been in here, we always face the reality. We feel sometimes embarrassed by some situations and we also embarrass other people sometimes, even if it is not done intentionally

This was one of my friends’ experiences. She loved a boy really much so she confessed her love to the boy, but the boy rejected. The boy and the girl are very good friends, but they are not in relationship, and before they met the boy had already got a girl friend. And my friend, after her confession, really wanted to know the reason why the boy rejected her – if he really did not like her or it was because that now he had a girl friend,
wrote him an e-mail, like this: (Because later my friend let me read the conversation they had been go through and asked me to give her some advices, so I was able to read the e-mail.)

A(my friend): Actually I have been suffering torment since I have been rejected, because I really like you, and I just could not help my self thinking about these things. I really want to know the reason you rejected, is that because you really do not like me, or it is because that you have already got a girl friend. If it the former, then I will never mention these things again, if it is because of your girl friend, then I could wait. So tell me what I am going to do! Tell me your real feelings and do not worry if it hurts.

B(the boy): Well, you are really a smart girl, but I just think I am not suitable to you. We could be best friends, but maybe not in a relationship. I am so sorry that you bother a lot because of me. Anyway, stop thinking about that and try to recover from it as soon as possible!

The thing is, we do not see any answer from the response of the boy, and everything he said was not related to the girl’s question. So my friend is so depressed, and instead of recovering from this emotional experience, that made her think about this suffering more and more. She told me she had never been that straightforward in her life, and this time she, as a girl, asked such a straightforward question but getting no answers back, so she really felt embarrassed but the most important thing was, since the boy was not able to response, it confused her a lot and she could not calm down and stop thinking about this.

This is the assignment about

Speech acts are not to be confused with acts of speech. One can perform a speech act such as issuing a warning without saying anything: A gesture or even a minatory facial expression will do the trick. So too, one can perform an act of speech, say by uttering words in order to test a microphone, without performing a speech act. For a first-blush delineation of the range of speech acts, then, consider that in some cases we can make something the case by saying that it is. Alas, I can’t lose ten pounds by saying that I am doing so, nor can I persuade you of a proposition by saying that I am doing so. On the other hand I can promise to meet you tomorrow by uttering the words, “I promise to meet you tomorrow,” and if I have the authority to do so, I can even appoint you to an office by saying, “I hereby appoint you.” (I can also appoint you without making the force of my act explicit: I might just say, “You are now Treasurer of the Corporation.” Here I appoint you without saying that I am doing so.) A necessary and, perhaps, sufficient condition of a type of act’s being a speech act is that acts of that type can–whether or not all are—be carried out by saying that one is doing so.

Saying can make it so, but that is not to suggest that any old saying by any speaker constitutes the performance of a speech act. Only an appropriate authority, speaking at the appropriate time and place, can: christen a ship, pronounce a couple married, appoint someone to an administrative post, declare the proceedings open, or rescind an offer. Austin, in How To Do Things With Words, spends considerable effort detailing the conditions that must be met for a given speech act to be performed felicitously. Failures of felicity fall into two classes: misfires and abuses. The former are cases in which the putative speech act fails to be performed at all. If I utter, before the QEII, “I declare this ship the Noam Chomsky,” I have not succeeded in naming anything simply because I lack the authority to do so. My act thus misfires in that I’ve performed an act of speech but no speech act. Other attempts at speech acts might misfire because their addressee fails to respond with an appropriate uptake: I cannot bet you $100 on who will win the election unless you accept that bet. If you don’t accept that bet, then I have tried to bet but have not succeeded in betting.

Some speech acts can be performed–that is, not misfire—while still being less than felicitous. I promise to meet you for lunch tomorrow, but haven’t the least intention of keeping the promise. Here I have promised all right, but the act is not felicitous because it is not sincere. My act is, more precisely, an abuse because although it is a speech act, it fails to live up to a standard appropriate for a speech act of its kind. Sincerity is a paradigm condition for the felicity of speech acts. Austin foresaw a program of research in which individual speech acts would be studied in detail, with felicity conditions elucidated for each one.

Here are three further features of the “saying makes it so” condition. First, the saying appealed to in the “saying makes it so” test is not an act of speech: My singing in the shower, “I promise to meet you tomorrow for lunch,” when my purpose is simply to enjoy the sound of my voice, is not a promise, even if you overhear me. Rather, the saying (or singing) in question must itself be something that I mean. We will return in Section 6 to the task of elucidating the notion of meaning at issue here.

Second, the making relation that this “saying makes it so” condition appeals to needs to be treated with some care. My uttering, “I am causing molecular agitation,” makes it the case that I am causing molecular agitation. Yet causing molecular agitation is not a speech act on any intuitive understanding of that notion. One might propose that the notion of making at issue here marks a constitutive relation rather than a causal relation.

Finally, the saying makes it so condition has a flip side. Not only can I perform a speech act by saying that I am doing so, I can also rescind that act later on by saying (in the speech act sense) that I take it back. I cannot, of course, change the past, and so nothing I can do on Wednesday can change the fact that I made a promise or an assertion on Monday. However, on Wednesday I may be able to retract a claim I made on Monday. I can’t take back a punch or a burp; the most I can do is apologize for one of these infractions, and perhaps make amends. By contrast, not only can I apologize or make amends for a claim I now regret; I can also take it back. Likewise, you may allow me on Wednesday to retract the promise I made to you on Monday. In both these cases of assertion and promise, I am no longer beholden to the commitments that the speech acts engender in spite of the fact that the past is fixed. Just as one can, under appropriate conditions, perform a speech act by saying that one is doing so, so too one can, under the right conditions, retract that very speech act.

Speech Acts, an article First published Tue Jul 3, 2007.

I would like to share with you all a story happened to me almost ten months ago while I was staying with my American host family. One day I took a bus among a huge group of students and went to a market which was far away from the city. The trip took us about one hour until we reached the market. I bought a lot of things such as clothes, shoes, hats…etc. I liked a T-shirt which was extremely fantastic. It was expensive, too. When I arrived, I directly wore it. The lady saw it and said one tough sentence,” It is ugly”. That really affected me and hurt my feelings. I did not expect her to say that. She was straight forward and honest. She did not say any compliment. That was the first and last time I wore that T-shirt. I threw it away before I came here, to Pennsylvania. I could not look at it, because whenever I saw it , I remembered the lady’s harsh words. Later, one of the American students in the American Grammar class said that she liked me. Americans tend to be honest with those whom they care about. In our traditions, we are supposed to say compliments to anyone whether we know them or we do not. Or we criticize indirectly.

This goes back a couple of weeks to when we watched the video in class. I was reminded then of a movie I had recently watched called ‘Hatchet.’ It’s a slasher film that takes place in the swamps of Louisiana near New Orleans. The characters are taking a ghost-boat tour, and their tour guide is an Asian-American with a Cajun accent. As I was watching the movie, I kept hearing him slip in and out of the accent and was wondering if maybe it was just the way he was acting. It was only after class that night that I realized what the film and actor were doing (at least I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt that it was intentionally smart and aware).

In the video that we watched for class, one of the speakers was talking about the ways people slip in and out of accents, and how in certain instances they may begin using one and not even realize it. Let me explain what happens in ‘Hatchet.’

As the characters are on their tour, the boat gets stuck on a rock or some branches and becomes lodged. The characters all begin to yell at the tour guide for getting them stuck. It starts raining and the trip becomes more and more ruined (this is before they even start getting hacked to pieces). As they continue to harras and yell at the tour guide, he eventually stops using his Cajun accent and instead switches over to an Asian one. He goes into a sob story about how he’s only been doing this for a couple of days and they should be more understanding, etc. Surprisingly this calms down the passengers a bit. By using this accent, he deliberately made himself seem “below” the other passengers as a way to alleviate some of the blame. It was almost as if the passengers were thinking, “Oh he’s just some dumb foreigner. How can we really blame him?”

It’s what happened next that I found really cool. Everyone begins filing off the boat and into the woods, hoping to find a path to lead them back to civilization. If you’ve ever seen a horror movie, you know this is never a good decision. As they are walking, one of them gets attacked and killed (slaughtered, really). And as they all start screaming and yelling, the tour guide’s Asian accent disappears! He begins yelling and screaming in a perfect, native-like American accent. Everyone stops and looks at him for an explanation. He tells them that he’s really from Detroit, and he moved down there to help out his cousin (I think it was his cousin, not that it really matters overall). In other words, in this moment of extreme terror his accent returns to normal without him even realizing it. Maybe this isn’t a perfect example, but considering this is coming from a B-Horror movie, I think it’s pretty intelligent script writing.

I was thinking of all the ways we try to get someone’s attention when we are speaking to them, especially if it is someone we know very well and we can tell when they are not listening to us. I find that I frequently have this problem with my boyfriend whenever we are watching TV. Also, both my younger brother and my older sister do it too, they can completely zone out into the television right when you are speaking to them. I’ve been told that I too do this, but I scarcely believe that.
Anyways, there are certain phrases that we use to get someone to pay attention to us while we speak. It the listener is not engaging in active listening (nodding, direct eye contact, or speaking when appropriate) we often feel the need to draw their attention back to the conversation. One phrase that I hear most common, especially with my boyfriend is “Ya know?” (Ya know being the equivalent of do you understand or get what I am saying?). If I’m showing the least bit of distraction (which I hardly ever do because everything he says is of the utmost interest) he will look at me and say “ya know?” with raised inflection and wait until I respond with a suitable “yea” or “uh huh.”
This can be extremely annoying, especially when I am listening and he still insists in having some sort of response. It’s as if he can’t finish his story or thought until he’s certain that he has my undivided attention.
I do understand this because I can’t stand when I’m speaking to him and he is watching TV and he says he listening but does not even look at me, but my phrase I used to get his attention is different. Instead of asking him if he knows, I may say something like ‘nevermind’ or ‘I’m just babbling now,’ in an effort to let the listener know that what I’m saying is admittedly boring and they need not pay attention. I’ve found that this works actually quite well because the response is usually something like, “I’m listening, really. You were saying [then the listener repeats the last few words of what I had just said]…”
Others have different ways of dealing with this situation. If my sister thinks someone isn’t listening to her then she will just say their name until she has their attention. She’s not very subtle. But my younger, who zones out every time there’s a TV on, will hold his thoughts until you turn your attention back to him and then he will pick up where he left off.
What about you? What do you do if you think someone isn’t listening to you?

Since we are talking about Pragmatics tomorrow, I thought of talking about some examples. The first one is adopted from Harvey Sacks (1992).

A: I have a fourteen year old son.
B: Well that’s all right.
A: I also have a dog.
B: Oh I’m sorry.

In making sense of this quote, it helps to know that A is trying to rent an apartment from B. When we read or hear some pieces of a language, we do not normally try to understand only the meaning of the words but also what the speaker or writer of these words intended to covey. When we look into the intended meaning of the word, we’re basically studying pragmatics. It is kind of an invisible meaning; not gained by the literal understanding of the string of words used in the sentence.

When finding an advertisement in a newspaper that reads “Fall Baby Sale”, we do not assume that this store has gone into the business of selling young children over the counter, but rather that it is advertising clothes for babies. The word “clothes” does not appear, but our normal interpretation is that the advertiser wanted us to understand the massage as relating to the sale of baby clothes and not of babies themselves.

Another example, (which I might have used before) shows that not every sentence in English can be interpreted literally. One day I asked “Ali”, a friend of mine, this question: “Are you coming with us to the movies tonight?” His answer was: “I have a quiz tomorrow”. I replied: “That’s ok. Maybe some other time.” Looking at the surface meaning of Ali’s sentence, it was not an answer to my question. He did answer “Yes” or “No”, yet I immediately interpreted his statement to mean “No” or “Most likely not.” Although his sentence mentioned something else other than going to the movies, I could figure out that if he had a quiz, he would be studying which would prevent him from going to the movies. Therefore, his answer was not simply a statement about the quiz, it contained an invisible meaning.

I’m just correcting the 6th from the bottom, He did NOT answer “Yes” or “No”

A good friend of mine introduced me to the practice of adding the intensifier tag phrases that are typically used in negation in English, i.e. “I can’t do that *at all*,” where “at all” is the tag, in affirmative sentences, i.e. “I can do that at all.” Interestingly, the sentences are inflected to imply sarcasm, making them roughly equivalent in meaning to the negation.
“at all”
“even a little bit”
“in any way”
“I like that shirt even a little bit.”
“I would do that ever.”
“I like light beer in any way.”
So, this is how I’m interpreting the meaning of my friend’s quirky tendency: Sarcasm + negation intensifier (this is my own interpretation of what this tag does) – negation = intensified negation.
Sarcasm seems hard to account for syntactically though, and inflection and context seem like more important features for any amount of semantic clarity.

Types of speech acts :

Pretheoretically, we think of an act of communication, linguistic or otherwise, as an act of expressing oneself. This rather vague idea can be made more precise if we get more specific about what is being expressed. Take the case of an apology. If you utter, ‘[I’m] sorry I didn’t call back’ and intend this as an apology, you are expressing regret for something, in this case for not returning a phone call. An apology just is the act of (verbally) expressing regret for, and thereby acknowledging, something one did that might have harmed or at least bothered the hearer. An apology is communicative because it is intended to be taken as expressing a certain attitude, in this case regret. It succeeds as such if it is so taken. In general, an act of communication succeeds if it is taken as intended. That is, it must be understood or, in Austin’s words, ‘produce uptake’. With an apology, this a matter of the addressee recognizing the speaker’s intention to be expressing regret for some deed or omission. Using a special device such as the performative ‘I apologize’ may of course facilitate understanding (understanding is correlative with communicating), but in general this is unnecessary. Communicative success is achieved if the speaker chooses his words in such a way that the hearer will, under the circumstances of utterance, recognize his communicative intention. So, for example, if you spill some beer on someone and say ‘Oops’ in the right way, your utterance will be taken as an apology for what you did.

In saying something one generally intends more than just to communicate–getting oneself understood is intended to produce some effect on the listener. However, our speech act vocabulary can obscure this fact. When one apologizes, for example, one may intend not merely to express regret but also to seek forgiveness. Seeking forgiveness is, strictly speaking, distinct from apologizing, even though one utterance is the performance of an act of both types. As an apology, the utterance succeeds if it is taken as expressing regret for the deed in question; as an act of seeking forgiveness, it succeeds if forgiveness is thereby obtained. Speech acts, being perlocutionary as well as illocutionary, generally have some ulterior purpose, but they are distinguished primarily by their illocutionary type, such as asserting, requesting, promising and apologizing, which in turn are distinguished by the type of attitude expressed. The perlocutionary act is a matter of trying to get the hearer to form some correlative attitude and in some cases to act in a certain way. For example, a statement expresses a belief and normally has the further purpose of getting the addressee form the same belief. A request expresses a desire for the addressee to do a certain thing and normally aims for the addressee to intend to and, indeed, actually do that thing. A promise expresses the speaker’s firm intention to do something, together with the belief that by his utterance he is obligated to do it, and normally aims further for the addressee to expect, and to feel entitled to expect, the speaker to do it.

Statements, requests, promises and apologies are examples of the four major categories of communicative illocutionary acts: constatives, directives, commissives and acknowledgments. This is the nomenclature used by Kent Bach and Michael Harnish, who develop a detailed taxonomy in which each type of illocutionary act is individuated by the type of attitude expressed (in some cases there are constraints on the content as well). There is no generally accepted terminology here, and Bach and Harnish borrow the terms ‘constative’ and ‘commissive’ from Austin and ‘directive’ from Searle. They adopt the term ‘acknowledgment’, over Austin’s ‘behabitive’ and Searle’s ‘expressive’, for apologies, greetings, congratulations etc., which express an attitude regarding the hearer that is occasioned by some event that is thereby being acknowledged, often in satisfaction of a social expectation. Here are assorted examples of each type:

Constatives: affirming, alleging, announcing, answering, attributing, claiming, classifying, concurring, confirming, conjecturing, denying, disagreeing, disclosing, disputing, identifying, informing, insisting, predicting, ranking, reporting, stating, stipulating

Directives: advising, admonishing, asking, begging, dismissing, excusing, forbidding, instructing, ordering, permitting, requesting, requiring, suggesting, urging, warning

Commissives: agreeing, guaranteeing, inviting, offering, promising, swearing, volunteering

Acknowledgments: apologizing, condoling, congratulating, greeting, thanking, accepting (acknowledging an acknowledgment)

Bach and Harnish spell out the correlation between type of illocutionary act and type of expressed attitude. In many cases, such as answering, disputing, excusing and agreeing, as well as all types of acknowledgment, the act and the attitude it expresses presuppose a specific conversational or other social circumstance.

For types of acts that are distinguished by the type of attitude expressed, there is no need to invoke the notion of convention to explain how it can succeed. The act can succeed if the hearer recognizes the attitude being expressed, such as a belief in the case of a statement and a desire in the case of a request. Any further effect it has on the hearer, such as being believed or being complied with, or just being taken as sincere, is not essential to its being a statement or a request. Thus an utterance can succeed as an act of communication even if the speaker does not possess the attitude he is expressing: communication is one thing, sincerity another. Communicating is as it were just putting an attitude on the table; sincerity is actually possessing the attitude one is expressing. Correlatively, the hearer can understand the utterance without regarding it as sincere, e.g., take it as an apology, as expressing regret for something, without believing that the speaker regrets having done the deed in question. Getting one’s audience to believe that one actually possesses the attitude one is expressing is not an illocutionary but a perlocutionary act.

Kent Bach, Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry


I remember an incident heppened to me when I was in Ohio ten months ago. I was staying with my American host family at that time. We used to talk everyday about different topics to help me to speak English very well. She was an EFL/ESL teacher working in one of the English Institutes in Ohio. she asked me about my family, she wanted me to tell her about my family, traditions and cutoms back there in my home country. I started talking about that. But when I told her about the death of my sister who died of breast cancer, she was sad and said,” sorry to hear that”, or ” sorry for that” I can’t remember. I stopped when I heard the word sorry. I was confused. ” Sorry for what?”, I said. she was an expert woman in dealing with international students. She explained that Americans tend to say that expression. I told her that we use a different expression in my home country. It is a praying expression. we pray for that person, orally. Therefore, whenever I hear someone telling me a story about the death of one of his/her relatives or friends, I say, sorry to here that. 🙂

it is hear not here. sorry for the spelling mistake:)

I think I have posted this observation in another section of the blog, but I believe this is section for it
I notice something in the way of how people thank each other especially when someone open the door for someone else…
for example if someone open or hold the door for you and you thank him/her, the way of responding will differ from one person to another…i.e. he/she may say:
1- You are welcome.
2-Ohh,,no problem.
3-Sure……….and i really don’t know what he sure about?!?!
4-Yaab or Yab…i am not sure how to write it.

Hi everyone,

I would like share the following information which is specifically directed to non-native speakers to ease misunderstanding of speech acts in a real-social interaction with native speakers.

Speech acts are difficult to perform in a second language because learners may not know the idiomatic expressions or cultural norms in the second language or they may transfer their first language rules and conventions into the second language, assuming that such rules are universal. Because the natural tendency for language learners is to fall back on what they know to be appropriate in their first language, it is important that these learners understand exactly what they do in that first language in order to be able to recognize what is transferable to other languages. Something that works in English might not transfer in meaning when translated into the second language. For example, the following remark as uttered by a native English speaker could easily be misinterpreted by a native Chinese hearer:
Sarah: “I couldn’t agree with you more.”
Cheng: “Hmmm….” (Thinking: “She couldn’t agree with me? I thought she liked my idea!”)

An example of potential misunderstanding for an American learner of Japanese would be what is said by a dinner guest in Japan to thank the host. For the invitation and the meal the guests may well apologize a number of times in addition to using an expression of gratitude (arigatou gosaimasu), for instance, for the intrusion into the private home (sumimasen ojama shimasu), the commotion that they are causing by getting up from the table (shitsurei shimasu), and also for the fact that they put their host out since they had to cook the meal, serve it, and will have to do the dishes once the guests have left (sumimasen). American guests might think this to be rude or inappropriate and choose to compliment the host on the wonderful food and festive atmosphere, or thank the host for inviting them, unaware of the social conventions involved in performing such a speech act in Japanese. Although such compliments or expression of thanks are also appropriate in Japanese, they are hardly enough for native speakers of Japanese, not without a few apologies!

Hi everyone,
I find speech acts as informative and interesting as far as learning a language is concerned in a diverse setting either in an informal or formal setting. I hope the following information will be helpful. According to Austin’s preliminary informal description, the idea of an “illocutionary act” can be captured by emphasising that “by saying something, we do something”, as when someone orders someone else to go by saying “Go!”, or when a minister joins two people in marriage saying, “I now pronounce you husband and wife.”
An interesting type of illocutionary speech act is that performed in the utterance of what Austin calls performatives, typical instances of which are “I nominate John to be President”, “I sentence you to ten years’ imprisonment”, or “I promise to pay you back.” In these typical, rather explicit cases of performative sentences, the action that the sentence describes (nominating, sentencing, promising) is performed by the utterance of the sentence itself.

• Greeting (in saying, “Hi John!”, for instance), apologizing (“Sorry for that!”), describing something (“It is snowing”), asking a question (“Is it snowing?”), making a request and giving an order (“Could you pass the salt?” and “Drop your weapon or I’ll shoot you!”), or making a promise (“I promise I’ll give it back”) are typical examples of “speech acts” or “illocutionary acts”.
• In saying, “Watch out, the ground is slippery”, Mary performs the speech act of warning Peter to be careful.
• In saying, “I will try my best to be at home for dinner”, Peter performs the speech act of promising to be at home in time.
• In saying, “Ladies and gentlemen, please give me your attention”, Mary requests the audience to be quiet.
• In saying, “Race with me to that building over there!”, Peter challenges Mary.

Indirect speech acts

In the course of performing speech acts we ordinarily communicate with each other. The content of communication may be identical, or almost identical, with the content intended to be communicated, as when a stranger asks, “What is your name?”

However, the meaning of the linguistic means used (if ever there are linguistic means, for at least some so-called “speech acts” can be performed non-verbally) may also be different from the content intended to be communicated. One may, in appropriate circumstances, request Peter to do the dishes by just saying, “Peter …!”, or one can promise to do the dishes by saying, “Me!” One common way of performing speech acts is to use an expression which indicates one speech act, and indeed performs this act, but also performs a further speech act, which is indirect. One may, for instance, say, “Peter, can you open the window?”, thereby asking Peter whether he will be able to open the window, but also requesting that he do so. Since the request is performed indirectly, by means of (directly) performing a question, it counts as an indirect speech act.

Indirect speech acts are commonly used to reject proposals and to make requests. For example, a speaker asks, “Would you like to meet me for coffee?” and another replies, “I have class.” The second speaker used an indirect speech act to reject the proposal. This is indirect because the literal meaning of “I have class” does not entail any sort of rejection. This poses a problem for linguists because it is confusing (on a rather simple approach) to see how the person who made the proposal can understand that his proposal was rejected.

Here are some examples of speech acts we use or hear every day:
Greeting: “Hi, Eric. How are things going?”
Request: “Could you pass me the mashed potatoes, please?”
Complaint: “I’ve already been waiting three weeks for the computer, and I was told it would be delivered within a week.”
Invitation: “We’re having some people over Saturday evening and wanted to know if you’d like to join us.”
Compliment: “Hey, I really like your tie!”
Refusal: “Oh, I’d love to see that movie with you but this Friday just isn’t going to work.”

Apologies as speech acts

Searle (1969) affirms that when we speak we are performing speech acts, acts such as making statements, giving commands, asking questions, making promises and so on. He suggests that these acts are performed in accordance with certain rules for the use of linguistic elements (1969:16). According to Searle the goal of spoken interaction is to communicate things to the hearer by getting him/her to recognise the intention that one has to communicate those things. The speaker then must achieve the intended effect on the hearer by allowing him/her to recognise his/her intention to achieve that effect. Once the hearer recognises the intention of the speaker to achieve an effect this is generally achieved (Searle, 1969:43). Therefore, the recognition of the intention or intended meaning of the utterance (speech act) seems crucial in achieving a level of success in understanding. Nevertheless, Stubbs (1983) points out, that utterances can be wrongly interpreted and also speakers can say one thing and mean another. Because of this, it becomes crucial to consider the context in which a particular speech act is conveyed in order to understand it fully.

Apology is a frequently used speech act which serves different purposes ranging from maintaining polite rituals that could vary from one society to the another (social etiquette), to the acknowledgment of serious offences. In spoken and written interactions and in effect in intercultural interactions it becomes relevant to ascertain what conditions must be present for the adequate performance of an apology. Holmes (1990:161), taking into account Austins (1962) and Searles (1969) studies on the subject, affirms that this speech act must have the following conditions:

a) An act has occurred

b) A believes that the act has offended B

c) A takes responsibility for the act.

Holmes (1990) acknowledging the importance of face (a concept originally developed by Goffman, 1967), points out that what matters most in the act of apologising is the face of the hearer. Therefore, an apology is addressed to the hearer’s face need and intends to remedy an offence for which the speaker takes responsibility, and thus to restore the equilibrium between speaker and hearer, where the speaker is the apologiser, and the hearer is the person offended (Holmes, 1990:159). The goal is to restore the relationship through the acknowledgement of wrongdoing. According to Bach and Harnish (1979) in apologising to someone, either one expresses regret for what one has done or one expresses the intention that ones utterance satisfies the social expectation to express regret (without actually expressing regret). Bach and Harnish consider that apologies fall into the category of acknowledgments because in apologising the addressee presumes he has done something regrettable to the hearer. On the other hand, Lakoff (2001) observes that apologies occur in a variety of forms ranging from the canonically explicit to the ambiguously indirect, alluding to the existence of an unambiguous apology form: I apologise for eating your hamster. Nevertheless, Lakoff states that this type of apology is unusual in very intimate contexts (2001: 201).
(Speech acts as intercultural danger zones:)
María Palma Fahey( 2005 )
Mary Immaculate College
University of Limerick. Ireland.

One day I asked my friend Ali this question: “Are you coming with us to the movies?” His answer was: “I have a quiz tomorrow.” We all understood that he was coming with us that night. How did we get to this conclusion? His answer did not include the word “No” or anything like that. What he said basically was that he had a quiz which indicates that he would be studying at that night so he could do well in the quiz.

When studying pragmatics, one is concerned with the meaning meant by the speaker not the actual words used. Speech acts is one area discussed a lot in pragmatics. My friend Ali had demonstrated a refusal to our invitation. Other ways some can use to refuse an invitation like this is simply say “Thank you” or “I’d love to go” then follow that with an expression of regret or apology as in “Thank you but I have other plans” or “I’d love to go but I have a meeting at the library”. This is considered a more indirect way of refusal where a speaker starts with something nice and positive before giving the excuse. Some people are more direct in their response.

In Arabic, we also have direct and indirect ways of refusing an invitation. For the same question I asked Ali, he can be direct and respond by saying “la” meaning “NO”, or more indirect by saying something like:
“Khaleeha mara thanya” meaning “Let’s go some other time”.
Or “Ma’alish bes ana mashghool alyoum” meaning “I’m sorry but I’m busy today”.

This could be one example for some similarities between refusal acts across two languages Arabic and English. I have an interest in studying speech acts in English and I’m glad that in this class we get to discuss topics like that. On the blog entry right below, I talked about some greeting forms I observed in the US. This is my second entry in regard to speech acts.

When I first arrive to the States, I notice that people have different ways of greeting. At first, I was not sure how to respond to some of them. For instance, when I was walking on campus, some people would ask me “What’s up?” or “How’s it goin’?” I later learned that these weren’t questions as much as they were greetings. Here was the other problematic thing: I was wondering how I am supposed to respond to these greeting. I had to keep observing till I heard people saying things like “Nothing much”, “pretty good” or even more humorous “It’s still going!”

Here is other greetings I observed: Hey, Hi, How you doin?, what’s going on?, Howdy, Wassup / what’s up, Yo, and Sup. Usually these greetings, and especially those come in question form, do not require a long informative answer. Moreover, the speaker does not usually enquire about the other person’s wellness. If one responds with informative answer to greeting like this, he/she would make no friends because people do not need to hear all these stories of the hearer. Sometimes, people are just being polite and nice but they are not ready to hear what’s on someone’s agenda for the day! What I mean is a person can be the best judge in cases like these. If you notice that the speaker using a question like “How’re you doing?” and they mean to inquire about things going on in your life, you may respond with details. It really depends on the markers given by the speakers. If the speaker is passing by you and asks you the same question, you may want to say a very short answer or even you sometimes can just nod.

Another thing one can say after responding to a greeting is adding something like “How about you?” or “How about yourself” or even just “yourself?” with a question tone. Now most of these greetings I list here are common in informal conversations. In formal greetings, one may want to avoid short forms and colloquial words.

Pretheoretically, we think of an act of communication, linguistic or otherwise, as an act of expressing oneself. This rather vague idea can be made more precise if we get more specific about what is being expressed. Take the case of an apology. If you utter, ‘[I’m] sorry I didn’t call back’ and intend this as an apology, you are expressing regret for something, in this case for not returning a phone call. An apology just is the act of (verbally) expressing regret for, and thereby acknowledging, something one did that might have harmed or at least bothered the hearer. An apology is communicative because it is intended to be taken as expressing a certain attitude, in this case regret. It succeeds as such if it is so taken. In general, an act of communication succeeds if it is taken as intended. That is, it must be understood or, in Austin’s words, ‘produce uptake’. With an apology, this a matter of the addressee recognizing the speaker’s intention to be expressing regret for some deed or omission. Using a special device such as the performative ‘I apologize’ may of course facilitate understanding (understanding is correlative with communicating), but in general this is unnecessary. Communicative success is achieved if the speaker chooses his words in such a way that the hearer will, under the circumstances of utterance, recognize his communicative intention. So, for example, if you spill some juice or coffee on someone and say ‘Oops’ in the right way, your utterance will be taken as an apology for what you did.

Related to my previous entry about offering a compliment, I think it is also interesting to share about how people reply to the compliments they received.

When I learn English, my teacher said that if people give you a compliment, the appropriate answer to that is “Thank you.” I remembered my teacher made sure weI remembered my teacher made sure we understand this. The reason is that is not the way we do it in our culture. Indonesian people will find you not polite to say “thank you on a compliment you receive because it shows that you are too proud of yourself. For example if people gave you a compliment that your dress is beautiful and you say “thank you”, to Indonesians you will sound like saying, “of course my dress is beautiful, because I know how to choose a good dress for me.”

The more polite way to reply to a compliment in Indonesia is to deny the compliment itself. For example, an appropriate response to people who said that “Your dress is so beautiful”, will be, “oh that’s nothing I bought it very cheap and my sister help me choose this,” or you can also said, “No, this is just an old dress, it’s not that beautiful.” I can guarantee you will rarely hear “thank you” as a reply, unless you insist on saying that it is really beautiful.

Although I know that “thank you” is the appropriate reply for a compliment, it is sometimes hard for me to do it. I still think that I am not being polite by saying thank you. So, what I usually do when people give me a compliment is I will say, “thank you, but…….” and add other comments. For example, if you say to me “You did a great job.” I would probably reply, “Thank you, but I got a lot of help, my friends gave me some good ideas on how to do it so…..”

Now, I am curious to find out how American people will think about my way of replying to compliments. Is it still culturally appropriate or is it annoying to get that kind of answer?

This is a response to Saeun’s entry

Complementing to people is a little bit different in Indonesia. We do not have as many phrases of complementing others as English has. We only compliment people if we know that person. So, you will rarely find Indonesian people give compliment to a stranger, like here in US. I often find people here give compliment a lot even to a stranger, for example, when my friend and I were waiting for a bus in a bus stop, a lady came to my friend and said “I really like your hairdo, it is beautiful.” My first reaction after the lady left was asking my friend if she knew the lady, and my friend said that she did not know her. It is a little bit strange for me to find people do that to a stranger, but I think it is a sweet thing to do. That moment reminds me of almost the same thing happened to my friend when I visited Australia. When my friend and I were in the park, there were two men whom we never met before came to us and one of them asked my friend if he could offer a compliment. A little bit startled, my friend said “Ok!”, and the man said “you are very beautiful.” I can see my friend was blushing at that time. Being an Indonesian who does not give compliment that much, especially to a stranger, I was speechless and I still think that it is very nice of him to say that.

I begin to like this action of complimenting others, and I can see myself giving compliments more than I used to. However, I think, culture does play an important role in language and the way people use the language. I still cannot offer a spontaneous compliment to a stranger even if I like her hairdo, her bag or her shoes, like people I met in Australia or US. I am still picky in giving a compliment :-), only to those I know. It may be because I am afraid if people do not react well to the compliment or even offended by that.

I get more and more interested in speech acts since I came to the United States. When I was in Japan, I did not pay much attention to them. However, since I came here, especially started teaching Japanese here, I come to know how many different speech acts are. Sometimes it could cause misunderstanding between speakers and listers. In this journal, I would like to focus on the difference in using prefix(suffix) between English and Japanese.
Last week I taught how to say Mr. and Ms in Japanese at my Japanese class. In English, basically, they use Mr. for men, and Ms or Miss for women. When they call their last name, they usually put prefix. They do not use prefix when call their friends, classmates or people who they know well, just call first name. (If my understanding is wrong, please forgive me.)
On the other hand, in Japanese, we tend to change the usage of prefix(suffix) depending on situations. Basically, when we call adults including both men and women, we add “~san” to the end of their first name or thier last name. Also, when we use “~kun” for boys, and “~chan” for girs. “~san” also expresses a kind of respect or social distance. For example, I always use “~san” for my boss and older people. Moreover, I use “~san” for those who I do not know well. On the contrary, “~kun” or “~chan” shows a kind of friendliness. For example, I use “~kun” for my male classmates, and “~chan” for my female classmates.
One thing we have to pay attention to is when we use “~kun” or “chan”, it would sometimes sound fun of others. For example, I met an international student last year. He was interested in Japanese very much and spoke to me. We introduced each other and he was much younger than me. The next day, he said to me, “Hiromi-chan”. He just called me friendly, but for me it sounded a little bit uncomfortable, not too much. It is because a woman tend to feel some insult when a younger man call a older woman with “~chan”. I knew he did not mean so. However, this is a cultural diffrence.

What do you think about complementing to people? Do you get a good reaction from the speech of the complement words?

The reason why I want to talk about this is that in some countries do not react delightly by recieving complement. In some case, they react like refusing the complement. And also, the complementing can be a superficial. If you notice that it is superficial, how can we react? Is it better to react like you did not notice?

In Korea, we complement people a lot to be polite. For instance, whenever my mom’s friends come over to my house when I was in Korea, they always say that I am pretty. If they say too many times with over action, I sometimes get confused whether they really meant or not. I even think that they are just saying it without any thinking process.
I think complementing people in Korea and America is similar. They often have big smiles on their face and say nice things about each other. I also figured many girls do more than guys. However, sometimes, I can tell that they do not mean to complement but they just say to be nice each other. I guess it does not harm people to get complement but if you do not careful enough, people could notice that you do not really mean by those nice words. Then, you might hurt their feelings. I like being honest rather than just say nice things about each other to be nice. Complementing should come from people’s heart.
However, I still think that complementing is a good tool to get to know people and to begin the conversation with. Complementing might consider differently in different countries. One of the good things about English is that America has much more complementing phrases than our language which I think that is really good. Complementing people makes better atmosphere and sometimes, it needs to make things smooth too. How the complementing works in your country? I would be more than happy to hear your story for this!!

For my entry this week, I’d like to respond to Yun’s comments about thanking others. To begin, I think that the crux of your post is correct: the American way of thanking others stems from early cultural education that instills in many people a long-lasting sense of politeness. Indeed, we do in many cases say, “I’m sorry,” or “Thank you,” out of habit. That’s not to say, however, that we don’t mean either comment when we say them, but that they come in part from our attempt to be polite and, in the case of apologizing, it may stem from an attempt to save face with others in addition to clarifying the events of a small incident. In my own experience, I always consider the reason for apologizing or thanking someone, and don’t say it without understanding the circumstances.

Now returning to your post, I think that in many cases, the individuals who thanked you for various reasons did so partially from the standpoint of a businessperson, but also did so in a sincere way. For instance, the merchant thanks a customer for purchasing goods and thereby permitting the business to continue to exist, helping to pay its employees, and reinforcing a sense of the worth of the business in relation to the town, and the self-worth of the business owner as a valuable contributor to the community. Moreover, the owner may genuinely thank you for inquiry regarding his merchandise because he may own a business not only to earn money, but also to help others by selling a particular good or service that he believes is useful.

Likewise, in your experience with the restaurant manager, she may also thank you on behalf of the business, and on behalf of herself. Restaurants have high employee turnover rates, and consequently, managers find it difficult to hire and retain good workers. Perhaps you showed promise as a hard-working prospective employee during your meeting with the manager (realistically, you wouldn’t be in graduate school if you weren’t able to persevere under nearly any circumstances), and she hoped that you would agree to begin working soon if offered a job. Because the restaurant may have several vacant positions, she would be eager to find employees who are willing to perform work for the business, and she would then thank you for showing interest in working for the restaurant. However, similar to the case of the merchant, she would also thank you on a personal level because your decision to work for the restaurant makes her life and job easier: the more employees a business has, the less smaller tasks the manager must perform, and the more the manager can focus upon running a business, instead of filling in wherever necessary.

To close, I would affirm your decision to also say, “Thank you,” to people who thank you for various reasons. By placing the emphasis on the word “you,” your reply yields the same meaning for many people as if you said, “you’re welcome.” In addition, it informs the recipient that you’re also thankful for her help.

It is an interesting topic that represents the differences between cultures and societies. We have a lot of funny stories when we were in class. I like the diversity of the students in grammar class. They look like the whole world in just one place. I like the idea which one of our groups presented about men implicitly show sorrow while women would show sorrow all the time.
1st situation.
People are different and I did not understand that until I visited England. It was my first experience and I loved it. There were many situations that I did not know about and I could not understand until I had seen it in my eyes. I used to agree on any topic because I do not like to hurt any one but when I returned from England I had changed. When I was in England the home stay family asked two of us to choose between a small room and a big one. I chose the small cave and the girl chose the big well-furnished one. In my country, when people asked you to choose and you choose the less quality over the more ones, they would disagree and give you the best ones. I learn that I have to say what is in my mind and I deserve to be happy.
2nd situation.
When I saw my Canadian friend for the first time, he told me a little bit about himself. He grievously told me what had happened to him when he lost his beloved dog “Max”. I was 19 years old and I did not know that I have to say something to relax him like “sorry of that” and so on. I said he was just a dog and you could pick up any one from the wild. I did not understand that his dog was number one in his life. His reaction was to shout at me and he said something very impolite. I did not recognize what is going on. My older brother told me something about the western culture when people love dogs and cats. Finally, I apologized for what had happened and I told him that in my country we did not have the same feeling toward dogs.

“I am sorry to hear that”

One usage of the word “sorry” is to express your condolences if we hear bad news or bad stories. For example, if our friend is telling a story about his/her accident, we can say “I am sorry to hear that”.

This is somewhat problematic for me, since in my culture, we don’t have this kind of expression that used in informal situation. We only have this in very formal situation and specifically to express condolences if somebody just passed away to show empathy to the family. This expression is most commonly used in formal setting like giving speech before the funeral, not in everyday conversation.

This problem happened when I went to Sydney, Australia, my first experience traveling and living abroad. I lived with an Australian family. One day the wife told a story about her mother who had passed away 20 years ago. I had difficulty in deciding if I should say sorry to hear that because it happened 20 years ago, I thought she must be not very sad anymore. However, judging from the story I know that her mother means a lot to her so at the end of the story I said “I’m sorry to hear that”. But the problem I had is that the next time she told another story about her mother, I thought I have said that I am sorry to hear that in the previous story, should I said it again and every time I hear the story about her mother? I did not want to be considered as a rude person, so every time I heard the story about the mother I said “I am sorry to hear that.”

So, can anyone help explaining to me on how the “I am sorry to hear that” is used and how often should it be used. I mean in my situation above, is it appropriate to use it over and over again to the same story or just say once?

[help]How can I say something showing courage to someone?

Yesterday I came across a friend in front of the library and she told me she was overwhelmed by her assignments and I told her I was in the same situation with her. As we say good-bye to each other, I wanna say something showing courage yet cannot find a proper word.

1. Come on.
I used to learn “Come on.” in English class while in China, but somehow think it weird to say that. I asked my American friend last night, and she said she used “Come on.” when she wanted someone to participate in an activity, like the following context:

A: “I am going to play some soccer. Do you want to play?”
B: “I don’t think that I’ll play. I am kinda tired.”
A: “Come on! You know you want to play. It will be fun!”
B: “Ok, I’ll play for a little bit then.”

2. Go.
I used to hear “Go, Spidey, go! ” in “Spiderman 2” and so maybe this is the right way to encourage someone? My friend told me this is usually used in sports game, and actually I remember I’ve heard things like “Go team! Go!” in a football game on live before. According to my American friend, people normally yell “Go!” when they are at a sports game and they want their favorite team to win, and it sounds funny when you say it to an individual person unless you are a little angry at them, as we see in the following context:

A: “I told you to take out the garbage yesterday and you still didn’t do it. Go take it out now!”

3.Keep going on

I’ve heard many song whose title is “keep going on”, and one is from Avril Lavigne , and my friend said that may a little bit make sense, and usually she say like “Keep going. You can do it.” to encourage someone else.

Dear fellows, are there any other encouraging words you could suggest?

Rebecca’s answer does help a lot. I am delighted that I got two different saying “Anytime” and “No problem”. Thank you, Rebecca. ^^

Yeah, I think tones and body language really works in communication. Most of the time you could judge from tones as well as the subtle expression and body movements from the speaker. Even though I am not a native speaker, in the past three weeks when I am talking with natives here, I could differentiate about people’s attitude immediately through their different tones. It is very strange that some tones are that I never heard them before and however I could immediately tell them by my sensation. I do not now how it happens. It’s kind of tricky.

I noticed that there is a little difference between the time we say thanks. It looks common to say thanks that sometime you even don’t know who should thank who. Every time I go to a store, because I’m not familiar with the items there, I always consult some staff to help me, but in the end, instead of me saying thanks, they thank me for shopping there, and it never happens in my early experience at my hometown. Take another example, I’m looking for job in an on-campus restaurant, I was thrilled that the manager offered me one pretty soon. I know she is busy, but she helped me to fill out the form, guide me to know more about the environment and even help me with my work, and finally she always is the one saying thanks to me, I even don’t figure out why, I think I should be the one saying thanks, so every time after she thank me, I’ll replay with “thank you”, and with the accentuated “you”.
I think it has something to do with the early education and culture, they get used to be polite and saying “sorry”, “thank you” all the time even without noticing, but for me, it is really a THING that I’ll think about.

Hello, I am writing about what Qiaoqi Chen just said which is the response of appreciation. Here is my though/opinion about using “it’s ok”.
Responding for greetings or appreciation can be hard for non-native speakers because it need to be considered a lot of aspects such as culture, situation, the person who you are talking with, and etc. We learn in the classroom how to reply when people say something. However, what we learn back home has only a few ways to response to it. Noticeably, when I think about my own language, there are numerous ways to say back to people.
I am considering “it is ok “as another way to say back toward the gratitude. Of course, “You’re welcome” is absolutely correct response for the saying of “Thank you”. That is what we learned how to say back for “thank you” in classroom and it was the only phrase that we learned. This has been stocked in my head ever since I learned it so when I start to talking to native speakers, that was the only reply toward “thank you” for me. Later, I realized that I was only saying “you’re welcome” all the time and I thought it is not good enough for me to be fluent so I look for the various phrases. Interestingly, I found many different ways to response included “it’s ok”.
I think we can use “it’s ok” as a reply of “thank you”. “It’s ok” is more common to use between friends and people’s conversations in the informal situations. We always ask favor to our friends and saying “you’re welcome” all the time for appreciation seems like those people are still not quite close enough and not comfortable each other. There is also many inappropriate situations to say “it’s ok” as well. I cannot say “it’s ok” to my professor after I present my presentation in the class. Teacher and classmates might think that I am being overbearing. It is appropriate to say “thank you” back or nicely “you’re welcome”. Like this, I replying as “it’s ok” should be considered carefully by the situation. I am not saying that “it’s ok” is not bad but sometimes it can be inappropriate. It is more matter to the person who you are talking to and what situation you are. There is one more thing that I can mention about the situation is the places, especially this casual phrase like “it’s ok” such as grocery stores or fast food restaurants.
“It’s ok” is not only used by close friends but occasionally it can be used between strangers too. If the response, “it’s ok”, is being used by strangers, the favor tend to be a small thing. For example, people ask me that where the restroom is. When I tell them where it is, they say “thank you” to me and I would say “it’s ok”. In this case, the meaning of “it’s ok” is just like “no problem” which means, it is not a big deal. I can also say “you’re welcome” but I would prefer to say “it’s ok” because I did not do anything to be appreciate much. Therefore, it might be a little problematic if we think “it’s ok” is less polite. I would say it was not a big help so people might be fond of using the phrase more than “You’re welcome.
In my country, we would say “it’s ok” more than “you’re welcome” because we like to respect others more than us. What I mean by this is that, we prefer to “refuse” the great gratitude in a good way. Our people like to say “no, I did not do much for you”, “that was not a help”, or even, “sorry that I could not be more helpful for you”. This cultural aspect does not quite related to this but this might play an important role for us to accept what exact meaning of saying “it’s ok”.
Additionally, I have been using this phrase as the response for “I am sorry” to apology. I think “I am sorry” and “It’s ok” seems fit better than “Thank you” in our conversation. Saying “It’s ok” makes the acceptation for the apology and forgiven. However, as people say “it’s ok” for “Thank you”, it does not seem wrong to me. In my opinion, it might not exactly impolite or less polite but I agree with Quiaoqi Chen saying that saying “it’s ok” sounds less important for the response of the appreciation. As a non-native speaker, I understand learners get confused by receiving these kinds of phrases that are unfamiliar with them. Usually students learn certain and fixed phrases of English because they cannot learn everything at once. However, I would like say that this is a good example to learn more about the language itself and how it is used by native speakers. Making mistakes and confusion are helpful for learners to learn more.
It was a very interesting while I was writing this entry. What do you think about this? Please tell me what you think as well. I would love to hear from you!

When I was here in IUP in 2007, I had a very good American friend, Ben, and we even call each other sister and brother. One day he wanted to introduce me to his family, so he invited me to visit his family in Philadelphia for Spring break in 2008, and he kept telling me to call his parents Dad and Mom. But I was so uncertained that if it’s proper for me to call them by Dad and Mom.
For this reason, I asked for opinions from one of my American friends, Tony. He told me that I can call a friend’s parents Mr. and Mrs. with their last name, but if you are very closed to their family, maybe you can call them by their first name. It surprised me a lot at that time, because in Taiwan, we call a friend’s parents aunt and uncle even they are not our real aunt and uncle.
So when I met my friend’ parents, I was standing there trying to find a ‘proper’ name for both Chinese and American way, and I failed. In the first few days, instead of calling them by any title, I just talk to them with the eye contact or patting their shoulders.
But this situation irritated me, so one afternoon I asked my friend’s mom that how I should call her. She told me that I can call her mom or by her first name, both are fine with her.
Now, I call her by her first name, Becky. Though it’s still strange for me, I try to get used to this American way to call a friend’s parents.

I’d like to respond to Qiaoqi’s questions about the appropriate responses to “Thank you.”
I think that the best or safest response is “You’re Welcome.” I probably use that response most often, but sometimes that sounds too formal for the occasion. For instance, when I have done a favor for someone (especially someone I like) I often respond to the “Thank You” with “Anytime,” or “No Problem.” I simply mean that doing a favor for such a nice person has caused me no problems at all and I would do a favor for that person anytime.
If the person I have done a favor for is not my favorite person, I may respond to the “Thank You” with the formal “You’re Welcome,” or I might say, “It’s okay.” I agree with you. “It’s okay” does sound less like you care about the help given. However just because I feel that way and you feel that way you must be careful about assuming that everyone who responds that way to a “Thank You” also feels that way. Sometimes the tone of their voice indicates their true feelings, or it may be the gestures or facial expressions that they make.
Some people respond very simply to a “Thank you” because they do not want to draw attention to their kind acts. Maybe they are shy or humble. If someone ever tells you not to thank them that is probably what they mean. Those people are very rare; they do kind things with no expectation of praise.
The best thing you can do is concern yourself with how you want to respond, and I think you are still safe with the formal “You’re Welcome.” Accompanying your response with a smile is always wise.
I hope this has helped in some way.


Do you think “It’s okay.” here sounds improper here?

Hi, I have a question to ask. Every time I hear people say “Thank you” I always say like “It’s okay” as a reply, even though I do use “Welcome.” some time. I just think if saying “It’s okay” as a reply of “Thank you.” may sounds a little impolite here, and somehow it makes me feel indifference.

So is it right to use “It’s okay.” here ? And if it does, what is the difference between It’s okay.” and “Welcome.” ?

My understanding is that when you do not really do something important and you say “It’s okay.”, and it just shows that you do not care about the help you given; while “Welcome.” is what you use after you really do something you think is important. And is that make sense?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: