Levinson, S. C.
Speech acts. In Y. Huang (Ed.
), Oxford handbook of pragmatics
(pp. 199-216). Oxford: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199697960.013.22.
The essential insight of speech act theory was that when we use language, we perform actions—in a more modern parlance, core language use in interaction is a form of joint action. Over the last thirty years, speech acts have been relatively neglected in linguistic pragmatics, although important work has been done especially in conversation analysis. Here we review the core issues—the identifying characteristics, the degree of universality, the problem of multiple functions, and the puzzle of speech act recognition. Special attention is drawn to the role of conversation structure, probabilistic linguistic cues, and plan or sequence inference in speech act recognition, and to the centrality of deep recursive structures in sequences of speech acts in conversation