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Classification of Intersubjective Illocutionary Acts

Author(s): William B. Stiles


Source: Language in Society, Vol. 10, No. 2 (Aug., 1981), pp. 227-249
Published by: Cambridge University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4167215
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Lang. Soc.

10, 227-249.

Printedin the United States of America

Classification of intersubjective illocutionary acts


WILLIAM B. STILES
Miami University

A BSTRACT

An illocutionaryact presupposesnot only a speaker,but also an otherwho is


the intended recipient of the utterance's illocutionary force. Thus every
illocutionaryact has an intersubjectivecomponent;it connects two centers
of experience in a particularway. This article proposes that the intersubjective illocutionaryforce of an utterancedepends on (i) whether it concerns
the speaker's or other's experience, (2) whether it takes the speaker's or
other's viewpoint, and (3) whetheror not the speakermust presumespecific
knowledge of the other to make the utterance. These three dichotomous
principles of classification are called source of experience, frame of refer-

ence, and focus, respectively. The eight possible combinations of


"'speaker"and "other" values define a mutuallyexclusive and exhaustive
set of families of intersubjectiveillocutionary acts - Disclosure, Advisement, Edification, Confirmation, Question, Interpretation,Acknowledgment, and Reflection - which I have elsewhere called "verbal response
modes." The modes are associated with characteristicgrammaticalforms,
which retaina "formal" portionof their illocutionaryforce even when used
to express a different intent, yielding a taxonomy of 64 distinct form-intent
combinations. Differences between this taxonomy and other taxonomies of
illocutionaryacts are partiallytraceableto the present system's roots in the
study of psychotherapeuticprocesses and the previous systems' roots in the
study of explicit performatives.
In his I955 William James lectures at HarvardUniversity, J. L. Austin (I975)
defined an illocutionary act as the act performed in making an utterance, as
distinct from simply utteringthe words (a locutionaryact), from producingsome
external effect on the actions or attitudesof others (a perlocutionary act), and
from the propositionalcontent (if any) of the utterance.For example, in uttering
"Who was Aristotle?" the speakerasks a question; in uttering"The cat is on the
mat," the speaker makes a statement (or an assertion, etc.). Questioning and
stating (asserting) are illocutionaryacts.
As implied by Austin, and subsequentlyelaboratedby Searle (1969), Vendler
(1972), and others, the illocutionary force of an utterance depends on the
speaker's communicative intent, which must be inferred in context. The same
words may have different illocutionaryforces - or no illocutionary force - in
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B. STILES

different contexts. For example, the utterance, "The wastebasketis full," may
be a simple assertion, or it may have the force of a directive if addressed to
someone who is responsiblefor emptying the wastebasket.My utterance,"Shut
the door," has the illocutionaryforce of a command (directive, order, request,
suggestion, etc.) if I intend to command someone to shut the door. However, in
the context of this article, "Shut the door" has no such force since 1, the author,
am not commandingyou, the reader, to do anything.
Searle's and Vendler's analyses show that illocutionary acts presuppose a
speaker- a centerof experience whose intentdefines the act. To this I would add
that illocutionaryacts also presupposean intendedrecipient. That is, illocutionary force must be on some other person. For example, "Shut the door" has
directive force only on the person addressed, not on anyone who overhears. If
there is no intendedrecipient, there is no illocutionaryact. (However, the recipient may be a diffuse collectivity, such as the readershipto whom the assertions
in this article are addressed.) The illotLutionary force on the recipient is entirely
determined by the speaker and is distinct from the perlo(utionaryv effect. For

example, my telling someone to "Shut the door'"has the illocutionaryforce of a


directive on that person regardlessof whetherthe perlocutionaryeffect is compliance, refusal, anger, or incomprehension.
My view is thus that every illocutionary act includes an inter.subjective aspect;

it connects two centers of experience in a particularway (cf. Russell & Stiles


1979). The intersubjectiveillocutionaryforce of an utterancedescribes the particularquality of the impactof one center of experience on another.Or, to put it
another way, the intersubjectiveaspect of an illocutionary act is that which
defines the relationshipof speakerto other for that utterance.
Like Austin (0975), Searle (1969), Vendler (1972), Ohmann(1972), Fraser
(1975), Green (I977), Hancher (1979), Wunderlich (1976, reviewed by Aijmer
1980), Bach and Hamish (1979), and others, I recognize family resemblances

among illocutionaryacts. For example, commands, orders, suggestions, advice,


permission, and prohibitionare all attemptsby the speakerto guide the other's
behavior. Similarly, statements, assertions, reports, claims, contentions, and
affirmationsare all representationsof objective reality. Within such families,
the labels overlap greatly (for example, many utterances could be described
equally well as statements, assertions, or reports), whereas the distinctionsbetween families seem much sharper. This suggests the existence of underlying
dimensions or principles by which families are kept segregated.
A TAXONOMY

This article presents three principles of classification, each of which uses the
naturaldichotomy of speakerversus other. An utterancecan have either speaker
or other as its source of experience; it can use the speaker'sor the other'sfr(ame
Of reference; and it can have either speaker or other as its focus. The eight
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INTERSUBJECTIVE

ILLOCUTIONARY

ACTS

possible combinationsof "speaker" and "other"values of these three principles


define mutuallyexclusive families of intersubjectiveillocutionaryacts. The eight
categories, which I have elsewhere (Stiles 1978b, 1979) called verbal response

modes (VRMs), are Disclosure (D), Advisement (A), Edification(E), Confirmation (C), Question (Q), Interpretation(I), Acknowledgment(K), and Reflection
(R). This taxonomy is summarizedin Table i . It has evolved from a list of modes
identified in naturalisticobservation of interactingdyads by Gerald Goodman
(Goodman & Dooley 1976).
The principles are based on a psychological conception of human cognitive
processes which views individuals as centers of experience, and experience as a
continuous stream that takes place within each center. Each communicative act
can be construed as a point of contact (or attempted contact) between two
streams. In order to convey two distinct points of experience, two communicative acts are necessary.
The grammaticalrealizationof the communicativeact is the utterance, which
is the scoring unit for the VRM taxonomy. My tentative enumerationof what
counts as an utterance includes each independent clause, each nonrestrictive
dependent clause, each element of a compound predicate, and each term of
acknowledgment, address, or salutation. The enumerationis intended to avoid
cases in which the sense of one utterancedemandstwo differentclassifications.
Principles of classific ation

Source of experience refers to whetheran utteranceconcerns the speaker's or the


other's ideas, information,feelings, or behaviors. The topic of a Disclosure, an
Advisement, an Edification, or a Confirmation is the speaker's experience,
whereas the topic of a Question, an Interpretation,an Acknowledgment, or a

TABLE
I. Taxonomy of intersubjective
illocutionary acts

Principles of classification

Act categories

Source of
experience

Frame of
reference

Speaker

Disclosure (D)

Speaker

Speaker
Other

Other
Speaker
Other

Advisement (A)
Edification (E)
Confirmation (C)

Speaker

Speaker
Other
Speaker
Other

Question (Q)
Interpretation (I)
Acknowledgment (K)
Reflection (R)

Other
Other

Focus

(verbal response modes)

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WILLIAM

B. STILES

Reflection is the other's experience. For example, the Disclosure, "I wish I had
kept my baseball card collection," concerns the speaker's experience (a wish)
whereas the Question, "Where are the paper towels?" concerns the other's
experience (knowledge of the papertowels' location). Similarly, the Edification,
"The Reds beat the Astros,'"conveys informationheld by the speaker, whereas
the Acknowledgment, "Oh," conveys receipt of the other's communication.
Frame of reference refers to whetherthe experience (i.e., the centraltopic of
the utterance)is expressed from the speaker'sown viewpoint or from a viewpoint
sharedwith the other. A frameof referenceis the constellationof ideas, feelings,
memories, etc. that gives an experience the meaning it has in a particularutterance; it consists of the mental associations - the related "experiences" - that
surroundthe central experience. The relation of an experience to its frame of
reference is like that of figure to ground or of an event to its context. Every
experience may be construedin alternativeframesof reference. Framesof reference, like experiences, are infinitely varied; however, the taxonomy distinguishes only speaker versus other. The taxonomic issue is only whose associations give the centralexperience the meaning it has in a particularutterance,not
what those associations are.
Strictly speaking, of course, every meaningful utteranceuses the speaker's
frame of reference. It cannot get its meaning exclusively from the other's frame
of reference, or else the speakerwould not understandhis or her own utterance.
Thus the distinction is technically whether an utteranceuses only the speaker's
own frame of referenceor a frame of referencethat is sharedwith the other. As
shown in Table i, Disclosure, Advisement, Question, and Interpretationuse the
speaker's frame of reference;whereas Edification, Confirmation,Acknowledgment, and Reflection use a frame of referencethat is shared with the other. To
illustrate,the Disclosure "'I'mangry with him" takes the internalperspectiveof
the speaker, whereas the Edification "He insulted my sister" takes an external
perspective that is shared with all objective observers, including the other. The
Interpretation"'You are mistaken" evaluates the other's experience from the
speaker's viewpoint whereasthe Reflection "You don't like what he did" takes
the other's internalviewpoint.
Focus refers to whether the speaker implicitly presumes to know what the
other's experience or frameof referenceis or should be. An utteranceis focused
on the speakerif it does not requiresuch a presumption;it is focused on the other
if it does require such a presumption. Disclosure, Edification, Question, and
Acknowledgment are focused on the speaker in that no specific presumption
about the other is required.Advisement, Confirmation,Interpretation,and Reflection are focused on the other in thateach requiressome specific presumption
about the other's privateexperience or volitional behavior(what it is, has been,
will be, or should be) in orderto have the meaningit does have. Forexample, the
Disclosure "I don't like cauliflower" reveals the speaker's experience in the
speaker's frame of reference and presumes nothing of the other (focus on
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INTERSUBJECTIVE

ILLOCUTIONARY

ACTS

speaker), whereas the Advisement "Eat your cauliflower" presumes to impose


an experience on the other (focus on other). The Acknowledgment "Mm-hm"
concerns the other's experience in the other's frame of referencebut requiresno
specific presumptionof knowledge of the other, whereas the Reflection "You
don't want to eat any cauliflower" presumes specific knowledge of the other's
experience as viewed by the other.
Each of the eight categories generatedby combining these principles entails
both a speaker and an intended recipient. For example, in a Disclosure, the
speaker reveals private experience to the other; in an Advisement, the speaker
guides the behavior of the other; in a Question, the speakerasks for information
from the other. In this sense, each utterance is a distinct microrelationship
between speakerand other. The taxonomy is a conceptualbridge from individual
speech acts to two-person discourse and interpersonalrelationships. As Brown
and Levinson (1978: 6o) put it:

We believe that patternsof message construction,or 'ways of puttingthings,'


or simply languageusage, are partof the very stuff that social relationshipsare
made of ... Discovering the principles of language usage may be largely
coincident with discovering the principlesout of which social relationships,in
their interactionalaspect, are constructed:dimensions by which individuals
manage to relate to others in particularways.
Since each utterancehas a source of experience, a frame of reference, and a
focus, it is not possible to isolate the principles - to give examples of source of
experience independentlyof frame of referenceand focus for instance. In combination, the principlesmodify each other, giving each mode its unique character.
Consequently,differentmodes may seem more distinctive than a simple additive
combination of principles would suggest. For example, Disclosures (e.g., "I
wish I had time to go with you") may seem greatly different from Questions
(e.g., "Would you like to go with us?") even though they differ in only one
principle(source of experience). Presumingno knowledge of the other's experience (focus on speaker)differs when speaking of one's own experience (Disclosure) versus when speaking of the other's experience (Question). Questions
involve a paradox - speaking of something about which nothing is presumedwhich gives them their "'empty," "incomplete," or "seeking" character
(Goody 1978), whereas Disclosures involve no such paradox.
Conversely, the principlesmay combine in ways that make modes more similar than would be expected. To illustrate, Disclosures ("I feel ill-at-ease") and
Reflections ("You feel ill-at-ease") differ in all three principles (Table i), but
they are alike in that the source of experience, frame of reference, and focus all
match (all are "speaker" for Disclosure; all are "other" for Reflection), so that
both express subjective experiences from the viewpoint of the experiencingone.
Thus, the principlesoffer accounts of similaritiesand complementarities,as well
as of distinctions among the modes.
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The principles also help to explain why different categories are prey to different infelicities - for example, why an Edification's happiness (in Austin's
1975 sense) depends on its truth, whereas a Disclosure's happiness depends
on its sincerity and an Advisement's happiness depends on its feasibility. In
each case, an utterance'sfelicity is judged only in relation to its own frame of
reference, given the presumptionsmade about it (focus). Thus the felicity of
[isclosures, Advisements, Questions, and Interpretationsis judged from the
speaker's internalviewpoint, whereas the felicity of Confirmationsand Reflections must be judged from the other's internalviewpoint (i.e., the other's private
frame of reference, of which the speakerpresumes knowledge), and the felicity
of Edifications and Acknowledgments must be judged from an external viewpoint (i.e., a frame of reference which is shared with the other but about which
no specific knowledge is presumed). In this sense, the taxonomy uses epistemological principles, ratherthan social meaning or conventional usage, to distinguish among classes of illocutions.
VRM categories

Considerationof each of the categories("'modes") in turnmay help elucidatethe


three principles and the different felicity conditions.
A Disclosure, such as "I used to be afraidof spiders," reveals the speaker's
experience (the fear) in the speaker's frame of reference(the associated feelings
and memories), and it is focused on the speaker (no need to presume specific
knowledge of the other). Thus reportsof the speaker's subjective experiences thoughts, feelings, perceptions, intentions,and so forth - are Disclosures. To be
felicitous, a Disclosure must be sincere, i.e., the speakermust actually have had
an experience with the reported meaning. The criterion of sincerity is the
speaker's private frame of reference.
An Advisement, such as "You shouldn't work so hard,'" concerns the
speaker's experience (the idea of working less) and uses the speaker's frame of
reference(the feelings, knowledge, biases, reasons, etc. behind the suggestion),
but it is focused on the other (it presumesto impose the speaker'sexperience on
the other). Thus suggestions, advice, orders, commands, permission, and prohibition are Advisements. To be felicitous, an Advisement must be feasible, i.e.,
the speakermust believe it possible for the other to follow the guidance offered
(to have the experience the speaker seeks to impose).
An Edification, such as "He drove away in a black limousine," concerns the
speaker's experience (the knowledge of what happened).It presumesno specific
knowledge of the other (focus on speaker), yet it uses other's frameof reference.
The sense to be made of this apparentcontradictionis that the frame of reference
is one sharedwith annyother. It makes no specific assumptionsaboutthe intended
recipient's private experience. Such a commonly shared frame of reference is
"objective" reality - i.e., knowledge that anyone in the right place at the right
time with the rightskills could have. Thus statementsof fact, assertions,descrip232

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INTERSUBJECTIVE

ILLOCUTIONARY

ACTS

tions, characterizations,etc. are Edifications. To be felicitous, an Edification


must be true; the reportedinformationmust fit the objective facts.
A Confirmation,such as "We [You and I] never agree on anything," places
the speaker's experience (the lack of agreement)in a shared frame of reference.
The speaker presumesto know the other's frame of reference and to use it as a
context for the utterance. Thus agreement, disagreement, and expressions of
shared attitudesor experience are Confirmations.To be felicitous, a Confirmation must be both sincere - the speaker'sexperience must be accuratelyrendered
- and insightful - the speakermust know the meaning of that experience to the
other. In other words, the felicity of a Confirmationdepends on accuraterepresentation of the private experience of both speaker and other.
A Question, such as "Did you rememberto go to the bank?" concerns the
other's experience (knowledge of whetheror not he went to the bank), uses the
speaker's frame of reference(in effect, the speakerseeks informationto place in
her own frameof reference),and focuses on the speaker(no specific presumption
of knowledge of the other is needed; if she knew, she wouldn't have to ask). To
be felicitous, a Question must be answerableby the other, or at least the speaker
must believe it to be answerable;i.e., the speaker must believe that the other
could have the knowledge that fits into the speaker's frame of reference.
An Interpretation,such as "You just contradicted yourself," concerns the
other's experience (in this case, the other's volitional verbalbehavior),but places
it in the context of the speaker's frame of reference (using her own knowledge,
memories, etc., the speakerjudges the other's behavior as contradictory).It is
focused on the other in that the speaker presumes specific knowledge of the
other's experience (or volitional actions) in order to assess it. Thus judgments,
evaluations, labeling, and explanations of the other are Interpretations.Note,
however, that assessments of thirdpartiesor objects (e.g., works of art) are not
classified as Interpretationsin this taxonomy, although they might be called
"interpretations"colloquially. To be felicitous, an Interpretationmust be acute it must accuratelycharacterizethe other's experience in terms of the frame of
reference being used by the speaker.
An Acknowledgment, such as "Mm-hm" or "Yeah" or "Well," concerns
the other's experience and uses the other's frame of referencebut is focused on
the speaker, i.e., it requiresno specific presumptionaboutthe other's experience
or frame of reference. The seeming paradoxof an utterancebeing about something of which no understandingis presumed is resolved by the lack of propositional or referentialcontent. Acknowledgments merely signal reception of or
receptiveness to communication from the other; they are "back-channel'"responses (cf. Duncan 1972, 1974). Salutations, such as "Hello," and terms of
address, such as names and titles, convey receptivenessto the other's communication and are classed as Acknowledgments. To be felicitous, an Acknowledgment requiresonly that the other have something to communicate;that is, it must
be timely with respect to the other's discourse.
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A Reflection, such as "You feel left out," concerns the other's experience, as
viewed from the other's frame of reference, and it is focused on the other - the
speaker must presume to understandthe other's communicationin order to restate it. Repetitions, rephrasings,summaries, and clarificationsare Reflections.
To be felicitous, a Reflection must be empathic it must accuratelyarticulate
what the other is experiencing from the other's viewpoint.
Mode forms, mixed modes, and indirec t speech acts

Each of the eight mode intentsis associated with a more-or-lessdistinctiveset of


grammaticalfeatures, prominentlyincluding person and mood. However, frequently the grammaticalform associated with one mode is used to express the
intent of a different mode. For example, "Did you know that two-thirdsof the
known food plants originated in the New World?" is Question in form, but
apparentlyhas the intent of Edification - transmissionof objective information.
Similarly, "I wish you would stop clearing your throat" uses a Disclosure form
to convey an Advisement intent - an attemptto guide the other's behavior.
The association of each mode's form with its VRM classification is stronger
thanan indicator,since some of the illocutionaryforce is retainedby a formeven
when it is used to express a different intent. Thus, "I wish you would stop
clearing your throat" retains some of the force of Disclosure even though it
evidently has the same intentas "Stop clearingyour throat" (Advisement). Each
utterancemay be construedas conveying two levels of intersubjectiveinformation: a formal (explicit, surface) level, which is conveyed by grammaticalform,
and an intentional (implicit, deep) level, which must be inferredfrom context.
Table 2 gives a tentative summary of grammaticalfeatures associated with
each of the eight modes. These form descriptionsrepresenta rough consensus of
myself, my collaborators,and coders who have applied the system to transcripts

TA BLE 2.

SummarY of verbal response mode forms

Disclosure:
Advisement:

First person singular or first person plural where the other is not a referent.
Imperativeor second personwith verbof permission,prohibition.or obligation.

Edification.

Third person.

Confirmation:

Firstperson pluralwhere other is a referentor compoundsubjectthatincludes


reference to both speakerand other.
Interrogative,with inverted subject-verb order or interrogativewords (e.g.,
"Who," "What," "When," "Where," "How").
Second person with predicate denoting an attributeor ability of the other.
Nonlexical utterances ("Mm-hm," "Oh"); contentless lexical utterances
("Yes," "No"); terms of address and salutation ("Dr. Smith," "Sir,"
"Hello ").
Second person with predicate denoting an internal experience or volitional
action of the other; finishing other's sentence.

Question:
Interpretationn:

Acknowledgment:

Reflection:

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ILLOCUTIONARY

INTERSUBJECTIVE

TABLE

ACTS

3. Matrix of pure and mixed modes


Form

Intent

Disclosure (D)
Advisement (A)
Edification (E)
Confirmation (C)
Questions (Q)
Interpretation (I)
Acknowledgment (K)

D(D)
D(A)
D(E)
D(C)
D(Q)
D(l)
D(K)

A(D)
A(A)
A(E)
A(C)
A(Q)
A(l)
A(K)

E(D)
E(A)
E(E)
E(C)
E(Q)
E(l)
E(K)

C(D)
C(A)
C(E)
C(C)
C(Q)
C(O)
C(K)

Q(D)
Q(A)
Q(E)
Q(C)
Q(Q)
Q(l)
Q(K)

I(D)
I(A)
I(E)
I(C)
1(Q)
1(1)
I(K)

K(D)
K(A)
K(E)
K(C)
K(Q)
K(l)
K(K)

R(D)
R(A)
R(E)
R(C)
R(Q)
R(l)
R(K)

Reflection (R)

D(R)

A(R)

E(R)

C(R)

Q(R)

1(R)

K(R)

R(R)

Note: The form abbreviation is written first, followed by the intent abbreviation in parentheses. For
example, D(A) means Disclosure form with Advisement intent.

of dialogue as to which grammaticalfeatures typically express the eight intents


defined by the principles of classification.
The 64 possible combinations of the eight forms (Table 2) and eight intents
(Table i) can be picturedas an 8 x 8 matrixwhich containseight pure modes - in
which form and intent coincide - and 56 mixed modes - in which form and intent

differ. This matrix is given in Table 3. As a notational convention, the form


abbreviationis written first, followed by the intent abbreviationin parentheses.
For example, D(A) means Disclosure form with Advisement intent, which may
be read as "Disclosure in service of Advisement.'"
The matrix in Table 3 serves as a kind of periodic table for intersubjective
illocutionary acts. In any particularkind of discourse, many of the modes are
rare;however, examples of most of the modes have been found in researchon
various interpersonalrelationships(Stiles, Putnam,Wolf, & James 1979b; Stiles
& Sultan 1979; Stiles, Waszak, & Barton 1979; Stiles & White, in press). Like
chemical elements, mixed modes have properties that are distinctive and yet
partiallypredictablefrom their position in the table. As an illustration, "Yes"
and "No" answers to closed questions are generally classified K(D) or K(E).
(Do you feel comfortable?). Yes. K(D)
(Did he bring his guitar?) Yes. K(E)
The first answer reveals internalexperience; the second transmitsfactual information. The present taxonomy's descriptions of them, "Acknowledgment in
service of Disclosure" and "Acknowledgment in service of Edification," express both their formal reference to the wording of the inquiries, and their
intentional communicationof subjective or objective information.
Just as the same form (e.g., "Yes") can express different intents, the same
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WILLIAM

B. STILES

intent can be expressed in alternativeforms; for example, the following utterances express approximatelythe same guiding intent.
Give me a match. A(A)
Could I have a match? Q(A)
I need a match. D(A)
There are matches in that drawer. E(A)
(Shall I get you some matches?) Yes. K(A)
Obviously, accurate classification requires knowledge of context and circumstances. However, these are used to infer the speaker's intent;once the intent is
known, the classification is unambiguous. For example, in saying "There are
matches in that drawer," does the speakerintend to requestaction by the other?
If so, the intent is unequivocally Advisement. If not, the intent is Edification.
The table of mixed modes (Table 3) adds system to the study of indirect
speech acts (e.g., Davison 1975, Searle 1975). The concept of an indirect speech

act - thatthe surface syntacticform of an utterancedoes not matchits illocutionary force - logically requiressome system of parallelclassification of form and
intent, to distinguish when they match and when they do not. The VRM
taxonomy provides such a system. (On the other hand, the mixed modes do not
exhaust the concept of indirectspeech acts, as there are some indirectconstructions that are not mixed modes. For example - from Davison ( 1975) - in "May I
ask if you intendto sue?" Q(Q), form and intentare the same mode. but differ in
content.)
Advantages of the taxonomy

The advantagesof the VRM taxonomy's derivationfrom principlesof classification includemutualexclusivity, exhaustiveness,and a systematicbasis for grouping related categories, all of which are standarddesiderata for verbal coding
schemes (Holsti 1969; Lazarsfeld& Barton 1951; Russell & Stiles 1979). The
eight modes are mutually exclusive insofar as the three principles are dichotomous; each combinationof "speaker" and 'other" values yields a uniquecategory. The list is exhaustive insofaras "speaker" and "other" exhaustthe membership of the communicator-recipientdyad; all possible combinations have
been accounted for. Of course, in normal discourse there are many utterances
thatare ambiguous, but the ambiguityconcerns what the speaker's illocutionary
intent is, not how to classify it once it is known.'
The claim of exhaustivenessmeans only thatevery utterancecan be classified,
not thatthe classificationexhausts its illocutionaryforce - much less its meaning
or function. In a detailed analysis of a particularstretchof discourse, the VRM
system is only one of many complementaryperspectivesthat might be applied.
Since the VRM intentcategoriesarederivedfrom principleswhich are tied to a
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psychological model of human cognitive and communicative processes (i.e.,


experience, frame of reference, focus), and from the speaker-otherdichotomy,
with no specific assumptions about content or context, they should be equally
applicable in any culture. The VRM formulation thus complements the
hypothesis advancedby Miller (1970) and Dore ( 975) that illocutionaryforce is
a languageuniversal. Similarly, the VRM model bearson the ontogeny of speech
acts, in that the speaker-otherdichotomy is an early and fundamentalaspect of
every child's experience. It is thus not surprisingthat in Dore's (1974, 1979)
classifications of primitiveconversationalacts, prelinguisticand early linguistic
expressions seem to fall naturally into categories that closely resemble VRM
intent classes. The distinct microrelationshipsmay act as a natural selective
pressurefavoring distinctive grammaticalforms in the evolution of language.
The cross classification of utterancesby the three principles and by form and
intent yields great flexibility in quantitativelyrepresentingthe results of coding.
Utterancescan be groupedby their form (regardlessof intent), by theirintent(regardlessof theirform), or by the 64-fold intersectionof formandintent(Table3).
Moreover, utterancescan be grouped according to one of the principles at a
time. For example, a segment of discoursecan be describedby the proportionof
a speaker's utterancesthat concern the speaker's experience regardless of their
frame of referenceor focus. These proportionshave been given names meant to
approximatetheir psychological impact (Stiles 1978b). The proportionof utterances whose source of experience is the speaker(Disclosure, Advisement, Edification, Confirmation)is called informativeness, whereas the proportionwhose
source of experience is the other (Question, Interpretation,Acknowledgment,
Reflection) is called attentiveness. The proportionof utterances that use the
speaker's frame of reference(Disclosure, Advisement, Question, Interpretation)
is called control or directiveness, whereas the proportionthat uses the other's
frame of reference (Edification, Confirmation,Acknowledgment, Reflection) is
called acquiescence or nondirectiveness. The proportionof utterancesthat are
focused on the speaker(Disclosure, Edification, Question, Acknowledgment)is
called unassumingness, whereas the proportionthat are focused on the other
(Advisement, Confirmation,Interpretation,Reflection) is called presumptuousness. Research on a variety of social roles and relationshipshas supportedthe
constructvalidity of these role dimensions (Cansler& Stiles, in press; Premo &
Stiles, submitted for publication;Stiles 1979; Stiles, Putnam, James, & Wolf
1979; Stiles, Waszak, & Barton 1979; Stiles & White, in press).
The VRM system is supportedby a published coding manual (Stiles I978a),
which gives specificationsfor unitizingas well as for coding form and intent, and
by computerprograms(documentedin the manual)for compiling data, calculating summarystatistics and ratesof intercoderagreement,and preparingfeedback
for coders. This software is essential for efficient handlingof the large volume of
data generatedby empirical applicationsof the taxonomy.
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Empirical applications

The VRM taxonomy has been used to study psychotherapysessions (McDaniel,


Stiles, & McGaughey, in press; Stiles I979; Stiles, McDaniel, & McGaughey
1979; Stiles & Sultan 1979), medical interviews(Stiles, Putnam,James, & Wolf
1979; Stiles, Putnam,Wolf, & James 1979a, 1979b), student-professorinteractions (Cansler& Stiles, in press; Stiles, Waszak, & Barton 1979), and conversations of marriedcouples (Premo& Stiles, submittedfor publication),and parents
and children (Stiles & White, in press). Applicationsto political campaignoratory and to courtroominterrogationof witnesses are in progress.
Among the results so far has been the finding that psychotherapistswho
representdifferenttheoreticalorientationsuse systematicallydifferentprofiles of
modes (Stiles 1979). For about go percent of their utterances, client-centered
(nondirective) therapistsused the other's frame of reference (i.e., Reflection,
Acknowledgment, Confirmation,or Edification; see Table i), whereas gestalt
(directive) therapistsused the speaker's frame of reference(i.e., Interpretation,
Question, Advisement, or Disclosure), and psychoanalytic therapistsused the
other as source of experience (i.e., Question, Interpretation,Acknowledgment,
or Reflection). These profiles conform to the prescriptionsand proscriptionsof
their respective theories of psychotherapy;the VRM principles form a bridge
between psychotherapeutictheory and practice.
Curiously, psychotherapyclients use aboutthe same profile of modes, consisting mainly of Disclosure and Edification, regardlessof the theoreticalorientation or mode profile of theirtherapist(McDaniel, Stiles, & McGaughey,in press;
Stiles & Sultan 1979).
Applicationof the taxonomy to medical interviews(Stiles, Putnam, Wolf, &
James 979a, 1979b) has shown that physicians and patients use very different
profiles of modes and that these profiles change systematicallyfrom the initial,
medical history segment of the interview, to the physical examination, to the
concluding segment. Comparisonof patternsof mode use with patients'satisfaction with their medical encounter (measured by questionnaire)identified two
distinct types of verbal exchange that were associated with greaterpatientsatisfaction. These were (i) exposition exchanges in the medical history, in which

patients used Edification and Disclosure forms to tell their story in their own
words while physicians gave Acknowledgments,and (2) feediback exchanges in
the conclusion, in which physicians gave Edifications - objective information
about illness and treatment- while patients gave Acknowledgmentsand asked
Questions. Five other types of verbalexchange were identifiedwhich had recognizable medical functions, but were unrelated to patient satisfaction (Stiles,
Putnam, Wolf, & James 1979a).

As the medical interview results illustrate, VRM use reflects features of the
task and of the participants'social roles and relationships(e.g., relative status,
intimacy) independentlyof the propositionalcontent of the discourse. This pat238

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tern is consistent with the intersubjectivecharacterof the modes (Russell & Stiles
I979; Stiles, in press). It also may make the VRM system a useful tool for
comparativestudies of social roles and relationshipsacross settings and cultures.
COMPARISONS

WITH

OTHER

APPROACHES

This section compares the VRM approach to illocutionary acts with (i) the
traditionalapproachof Austin (I 975) and Searle (1969, 1976) and its emendation
by Hancher(1979); (2) the empirical and functional classification of children's
speech acts by Dore (1974,

1975, 1977, 1979; Dore, Gearhart, & Newman

1978); and (3) the analysis of politeness by Brown and Levinson (1 978). These
approachesstartfrom very differentpoints and are largely complementaryrather
than competitive, although there are some disagreements. A comparison can
show the strengthsand limitationsthat accrue to each by virtue of their starting
points.
Comparison with traditional speech act theory

In Austin's (1975) development, the concept of the illocutionarygrew from the


study of explicit performatives. Explicit performative verbs have the curious
property of naming the illocutionary act performed in uttering them in first
person singular present indicative active sentences. For example, if I say "I
promise X, " I have promisedX; if I say "I thankyou," I have thankedyou; if I
say 'I assert that p," I have asserted that p. Saying makes it so.
This historicalassociation of explicit performativeswith illocutionaryacts has
been maintainedby subsequenttaxonomists(including Searle 1969, 1976; Vendler

1972;

Ohmann 1972; Green 1977; and Hancher

1979).

However, as Austin

showed, illocutionaryforce is a generalcharacteristicof utterances,by no means


restrictedto explicit performatives.Explicit performativesare necessarilylimited
to actions that are verbal; nonverbal mental or physical actions by speaker or
other and actions by nonhuman agencies are excluded. Otherwise how could
saying make it so? Nevertheless, despite awareness that explicit performatives
are a special case, taxonomists have proceeded to build their systems around
performativeverbs.
From the perspective of the presentclassification system, whose roots are in
study of psychotherapeutictechniques (Goodman& Dooley 1976; Stiles 1979),
the association with performativesappearsto have been severely limiting. Most
obviously, all explicit performativeutterancesare first person singular and so
would be classified Disclosure in form accordingto the presenttaxonomy (Table
2). (A justification for this classification is that the referentof ''I" is the center
of experience where the illocutionaryforce originates.) Although form does not
necessarily constrain intent, usage and vocabularyemphasize pure modes over
mixed modes; so performativeverbs are most likely to describe Disclosure intents. Not surprisingly, then, taxonomies of illocutionary acts have typically
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included several categories for the intersubjectiveillocutionaryforce of Disclosure and no categories for some other modes. Searle's (1976) five-category
scheme is illustrative. Commissives, which commit the speaker to some future
course of action, and expressives, which express the speaker's psychological
state, are obviously subclasses of Disclosure intent. Representatives, which
commit the speaker (in varying degrees) to the truth of some proposition, are
primarilyEdification in intent, although this category might house some other
modes as well. Directives, which are attemptsby the speakerto get the other to
do something, correspondprimarilyto Advisement intent, although Searle also
included Questions in this category.2 De(clarations,which are utteranceswhose
"successful performanceguaranteesthat the propositionalcontent corresponds
to the world" (13), such as declarations of war or marriage, are more
heterogeneous;most of Searle's examples are Edifications - ""Waris hereby
declared" E(E) - or Disclosures

"I resign" D(D) - but some are also Interpre-

tations - "'Youare out" I(I); "'Youare guilty" I(I). Interestingly,as comparison


with Table i shows, Searle deals most explicitly with Disclosure intentand with
illocutionaryforces thatdiffer from Disclosure in only one of the three principles
of classification, i.e., with Edification, Advisement, and Question. He largely
ignores the four remainingmodes, Confirmation,Acknowledgment, Interpretation, and Reflection, which differ from Disclosure in two or three of the principles. This relative elaborationof Disclosure and modes similar to Disclosure is
characteristicof taxonomiesthattracetheir lineage to Austin. It seems likely that
this gradient, which declines with distance from Disclosure, parallelsthe representationof mode intents among performativeverbs.
Incidentally,I have no objectionto systems of subcategoriesof Disclosure;my
point is only thatclassifications of illocutionaryacts have been distortedby their
historical association with performatives.
The process of psychotherapyfocuses attention on how language impacts
interpersonalrelationships(e.g., Labov & Fanshell 1977). Therapistsmust be
concernedwith the intersubjectiveillocutionaryforce of theirinterventions,since
their stock-in-tradeis the use of language to create and maintain therapeutic
relationships.Therapists'interest in the inner lives of their clients has led to an
emphasis on verbalinterventionsthat (in termsof the presentprinciples)concern
the clients' experiences and are focused on the clients, i.e., Reflections and
Interpretations.This emphasis, shown by numerouscategoriesand subcategories
for Reflections and Interpretations,is apparentin theorists' technical recommendations(e.g., Freud 1958; Rogers 1951), in counselor and therapisttraining
systems (e.g., Carkhuff 1969; Goodman & Dooley 1976; Ivey 1971), and in

coding systems used for psychotherapyresearch(see reviews by Kiesler 1973;


Marsden 1971; Russell & Stiles I979). Categories that concem the other's ex-

perience but are focused on the speaker, i.e., varieties of Acknowledgmentand


Question, are also far betterrepresentedin these sources than in taxonomies of
illocutionaryacts developed by linguists and philosophers.
Hancher's (1979) modificationof Searle's taxonomy shares the view that the
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interpersonalcontext should be incorporatedin a taxonomy of illocutionaryacts.


However, Hancher's solution - to admit categories that requirecollaborationof
two or more individuals, such as cooperative commissives (e.g., contracts, marriages), and reciprocal cooperative declarations (e.g.,

gifts, sales, appoint-

ments) - diverges sharply from the VRM solution. Hancher seems to have
focused on the performativeaspect of speech acts - whethersaying makes it so.
Contracts, sales, marriages, and so forth are instances in which cooperative
linguistic behavioris requiredto "make it so." My disagreementwith Hancher
concerns whetherto call these complex performancesillocutionaryacts.
The VRM taxonomy rests on the essential separateness of communicating
centers of experience. "Shared" experiences or frames of reference are shared
only in the speaker's assumption, and the VRM code is unchanged if the
speaker's assumption is mistaken or if the utterance is infelicitous or misunderstood. I believe that analytic rigor is best served by preserving the single
utterance - the conversational act - as the unit of illocutionary force and by
treatingHancher'scooperativeperformancesas complex phenomenathatrequire
distinct illocutionaryacts by more than one person.
This view does not contradictdevelopment of taxonomies of cooperative performatives - verbal performancesby two or more people that change the social
world (e.g., the ownership of something). I see Hancher's contributionas a
generalization of Austin's (and Searle's) concept of performativityto performances that requiremultiple, complementaryillocutions.
Comparison with Dore's classification of children's conversational acts

Dore's ( 978, 1979; Dore et al. 1978) classification of children's conversational


acts was developed empirically to encompass a particularbody of observation,
which consisted of conversationsof nurseryschool children with each other and
with their teachers. The 1978 version drew on earlieranalyses of communicative
intentionsof youngerchildren(e.g., Dore I974, 1977) and was well informedby
the theories of speech acts of Austin, Searle, and others.
Dore's system includes six majordivisions: requestives (solicit informationor
actions), assertives (reportfacts, state rules, convey attitudes, etc.), performatives (accomplish acts and establish facts by being said), responsives (supply
solicited information or acknowledge remarks), regulatives (control personal
contact and conversational flow), and expressives (nonpropositionallyconvey
attitudesor repeat others), plus a miscellaneous group that includes uncodable
utterances, silences, and nonverbal responses. Each of these major classes is
subdivided into three to eight specific codes, yielding 35 coding categories, plus
the three residual categories.
Dore's scoring unit is the conversationalact, or C-act, which appearscomparableto the VRM unit, the structure.
Dore's categories "'are formulated at a level close to gramnmnatical
form, although they are not defined by form but rather bv the conventional illoc utionarv

force offorms" (Dore et al. 1978: 370, italics in original). Thus Dore's system
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codes only communicativeintent;grammaticalforms are used as clues to intent,


but are not coded separately.In this way, Dore admits the possibility of indirect
speech acts (form-intentdiscrepancies);however, his system makes no explicit
provision for them.
The VRM system's eight intent categories are most comparableto Dore's six
major classes (requestives, assertives, etc.) rather than his 35 subcategories,
which represent a more fine-grained analysis. Many of Dore's subdivisions
could also be subdivisions of VRM intent categories;for example, Dore's seven
subdivisionsof assertives include (roughly)five subtypesof Edifications- identifications(ASID), descriptions(ASDC), attributions(ASAT), rules(ASRU), and
explanations(ASEX), and two subtypes of Disclosure, internalrepoits (ASIR)
and evaluations (ASEV).
The two systems' core difference is that the VRM taxonomy is systematically
based on psychologicalprinciplesof classification, whereasDore's is constructed
ad hoc (albeit with considerable sophistication) from a particularbody of discourse, based on empirical and intuitive considerationof social functions that
may go beyond illocutionary force. The lack of clear principles of classification makes the discriminationof major from minor categories a matterof intuition, which is very susceptible to biases reflecting the particularrelationship
being studied.
Dore explains, "Each scoring of a C-act is essentially, then, a hypothesis
about how the speakerintendshis utterance to be interpretedin the contextof the
c)onversationand what he expects the listener to do about it" (Dore 1978: 414,
italics in original). Dore's system thus uses multiplebases of classification;some
categories are defined primarilyby their illocutionaryforce (assertives, requestives), some by their place in a conversationalsequence (responsives), some by
their social function (performatives, regulatives), and some by their content
(expressives).
Defining categories by different principles interfereswith mutual exclusivity
(Russell & Stiles 1979); in order for Dore's categories to be mutuallyexclusive,
it is necessary to set (arbitrary)prioritiesamong the principles. Although Dore
does not address the issue in these terms, some priorities are implicit in his
definitions and examples. For example, conversationalsequence seems to take
priorityover illocutionaryforce in discriminatingresponsives from assertives "I am afraid of spiders," D(D) in the VRM system, would be scored ASIR
(internalreport)if it initiateda topic, but RSPR (productanswer) in response to
the question, "'Whatare you afraidof?"
In the VRM system, context and sequence are often essential for judging a
speaker's intent, but they are never defining featuresof a category. The social
functions of and sequential dependencies among classes of illocutions are a
matterfor empirical research, whereas in Dore's system, certain dependencies
are assumed (presumablybecause they were observed in the conversations he
studied) and built into the category definitions.
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In an empirical system, such as Dore's, at best all observed responses fit into
one of the classifications, but there is no theoreticalassurancethat every future
response will fit into some class. There is no reasonto suppose the system will be
exhaustive when applied to some other kind of interaction.
The substantive results of Dore's work imply that illocutionary force is an
early, universal, and formative pressure on the development of language in
children (Dore I974, 1975, 1979). "Primitive speech acts," which are classifi-

able in illocutionarytaxonomies including the VRM system, precede children's


competence to express them grammatically. An intriguing hypothesis (Dore
I979) is that conversationcompetence (use of illocutionaryforce) and linguistic
competence may have somewhat independentcourses of early development and
are conjoined only after each has partially matured by itself. Casting this
hypothesis in VRM terms, form and intent may have somewhat independent
ontogenies, that graduallyinteract, shape each other, and mesh. The categories
shown in Table 2 may thus reflect the ontogenetic impact of illocutionaryforce
on grammar.
Comparison with Brown and Levinson's theory of politeness
Brown and Levinson's (1978) theory of politeness proposes to account for striking commonalitiesin linguistic minutaeacross culturesand language families by
reference to common human social needs, summarized as face. Positive face
refers to needs for caring, good opinion, friendship, intimacy, and shared purpose. Negative face refers to needs for deference, privacy, freedom, territory,
non-infringement,non-intrusion,and non-imposition. Since face needs require
others' cooperation, it is in general in the mutual interestof interactantsto work
to maintaineach other's face. Politeness is then the set of strategiesthat people
use to this end. Because face is a universal need, similar strategies evolve
independentlyin different cultures to meet it.
A central concept in Brown and Levinson's analysis is that of the facethreateningact, or FTA. FTAs are "those acts thatby their natureruncontraryto
the face wants of the addressee and/or of the speaker" (70). Acts that suggest
that the speaker may impede the hearer's freedom of action threaten negative
face; acts that suggest that the speakerdoes not care about the hearer'sfeelings,
wants, etc., threatenpositive face. Politeness then consists of ways of minimizing or undoing FTAs.
Brown and Levinson have constructeda hierarchyof politeness - of strategies
for avoiding, minimizing, or undoing FTAs - and developed a conceptual algorithmfor predictingwhich strategya speakerwill use, dependingon the FTA's
seriousness. They identify three sociological variablesthat largely determinean
FTA's seriousness: (i) the social distance (versus intimacy) of the interactants,
(2) their relative power, and (3) the absolute ranking of the imposition in that
culture.
In general, an FTA is more serious - and mandatesgreaterpoliteness - if the
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act is a greaterimposition, if the speaker is relatively less powerful, and if the


interactantsare socially more distant. At the extremes, politeness is irrelevant.
Acts that impose little and are done by speakerswho are relativelypowerfulor on
intimate terms with the other are done on record, without redressive action,
baldly. Acts that impose much by speakers who are socially inferioror distant
from the otherare simply not done (except in grave emergencies). However, in a
broad middle range of seriousness, FTAs are done on record with redressive
action, either positive politeness (directed towardpositive face) or negative politeness (directedtowardnegative face), or they are done off record, in the form
of hints or manipulations(cf. footnote i).
VRM theory is not a theory of politeness, but it is complementaryto Brown
and Levinson's analysis in several respects. To begin with, VRM theory, even
more basically than Brown and Levinson, seeks to explain linguistic universals
by tracingthem to fundamentalpsychological and social principles. VRM theory
proposes its categories - intersubjectiveillocutionary acts - as an exhaustive
array of microrelationshipsthat follow from the conception of one "center,"
who has experiences, frames of reference, and presumptionsabout another
center, communicatingwith that other center. The categories are universal because these elementary characteristicsof people are universal. Consequently,
grammatical forms to express the microrelationshipstend to evolve independently across cultures (cf. Dore I979, discussed earlier).
The VRM system's principlescan be conjoined with the face needs and rationality Brown and Levinson (1978: 63) attributeto their "Model Person" to begin
to flesh out this "cardboardfigure.'" A crucial connecting idea is thatthe VRM
microrelationshipsvary systematically in their degree of imposition. That is,
some modes intrinsically threaten face, and hence tend to require redressive
action, whereasothermodes make less impositionand may even serve as redressive action.

The systematic variation is best described in terms of the role dimensions,


presumptuousnessversus unassumingness, directiveness versus acquiescence,
and informativeness versus attentiveness, which correspond to the principles
focus, frame of reference, and source of experience, as previously explained.
Presumptuous(focus on other)modes intrinsicallythreatennegativeface because
they presume knowledge of the other's experience or frame of reference and
hence invade the other's privacy.3 Directive (speaker's frame of reference)
modes also tend to threaten negative face by restricting the other's freedom
within the conversation(and sometimes beyond the conversationas well). On the
other hand, attentive modes (other's experience) can support positive face by
demonstratinginterest and hence conveying that the other is admirableand has
something importantto say.
Table 4 summarizesa hierarchyof "familiarity" of modes, presentedelsewhere (Premo & Stiles, submitted for publication), which incorporatesthese
relationsto positive and negative face. It may also be interpretedas a hierarchyof
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TABLE 4. Hierarchy of verbal response modes in terms of


their familiarity or degree of imposition

Familiarity

Verbal response

rank

mode

Role dimension values

I
2
3
4
5
6
7
8

Acknowledgment
Edification
Question
Disclosure
Reflection
Confirmation
Interpretation
Advisement

Unassuming, acquiescent, attentive


Unassuming, acquiescent, informative
Unassuming, directive, attentive
Unassuming, directive, informative
Presumptuous,acquiescent, attentive
Presumptuous,acquiescent, informative
Presumptuous,directive, attentive
Presumptuous,directive, informative

imposition and hence as a hierarchyof seriousness of FTAs for a given level of


social distance and relative power. This formulationyields several interesting
predictions:(i) individualswho are on relatively intimateterms should use more
highly ranked(i.e., presumptuous,directive, informative)modes than individuals who are socially distant, for a given task; and (2) individuals with greater
relative power should use more highly rankedmodes than individuals with less
relative power. These follow because with greaterintimacy and relative power,
the seriousness of a given FTA is lower, so it is more likely to be done "on
record." Perhapsmost interestingly, (3) the hierarchyspecifies which indirect
speech acts (mixed modes) should be regardedas polite, their relative degree of
politeness, and an explanationof why they are polite in terms of the role dimensions.

The first two predictionshave received clear empirical support. In controlled


laboratoryconversations, marriedcouples were more familiarthan strangers,as
measured by the mean familiarity rank of their utterances (Premo & Stiles,
submittedfor publication),consistent with the hypothesizedrelationof politeness
to social distance. Studies of conversation between people differing in relative
status or social power, including teachers and students (Cansler & Stiles, in
press; Stiles, Waszak, & Barton 1979), physicians and patients(Stiles, Putnam,
James, & Wolf 1979), psychotherapistsand clients (Stiles & Sultan I979), and
parents and children (Stiles & White, in press), have shown the higher status
memberto be reliably more presumptuous(i.e., to use a higher proportionof the
higher rankedfocus-on-othermodes), consistent with the hypothesisthat greater
relative power reduces the seriousness of one's FTAs.
The third prediction - the structuringof indirect speech acts - has not been
tested quantitatively;however, the hypothesis is consistent with a variety of
previous observations. It suggests that higher ranked intents (Table 4) can be
redressed(made less serious - more polite) by being expressed in lower ranked
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grammatical forms. Most obviously, any alternative form should reduce the
seriousness of an Advisement, the highest rankedmode. A particularlycommon
example is expressing the presumptuous, directive, informative intent of an
Advisement in the unassumingand attentive(but still directive) form of a Question,4 e.g., "Would you pass the butter?" Q(A). Probably a majority of the
indirect speech acts discussed by previous authors(e.g., Davison I975; ErvinTripp 1976; Searle 1975) have been Advisementintentsredressedin unassuming
forms, testimony to the face-threateningeffect of directives and the pervasive
effect of politeness on language use.
This use of indirect speech acts fits many of Brown and Levinson's negative
politeness strategies including "be conventionally indirect," "Question,
hedge," "Impersonalizespeakerand hearer;avoid the pronouns'I' and 'you,' "
"State the FTA as a generalrule," and "Nominalize." (The last three, in effect,
specify Edification forms, which are low in imposition, as shown in Table 4.)
Note, however, thataccordingto VRM theory, the choice of forms is not merely
conventional. In every mixed mode, the form systematicallymodifies the utterance's illocutionaryforce specifically to resemble the force of the form - to be
more unassuming or presumptuous,acquiescent or directive, and attentive or
informative.Wheneversocial role requirementsdiffer from task requirementson
any of these dimensions, it may be expected that people will tend to use mixed
modes, with the forms constrainedby social relationshipsand the intents constrainedby the task at hand. Politeness is a majorexample - redressingutterance
intentsthat are too presumptuousor directive for the speaker's relative power or
intimacy with the other - but it is not the only example. For instance, lecturers,
whose task constrains them to present facts (i.e., Edification intents) may at
times use presumptuousforms as a way of expressingtheir higher statusvis-a-vis
theiraudience, e.g., "We have here an example of Picasso's blue period" C(E).

SUMMARY

This article's centralthesis is that illocutionaryforce presupposesa targetas well


as a source. The VRM taxonomy is a classification of intersubjectiveillocutionary acts, i.e., a classification of possible microrelationshipsof speakerto other.
The universalityof speaker and other as distinct centers of experience implies
that the taxonomic categories are universal. The categories' distinctness puts a
deep pressureon languagesto develop distinctive grammaticalforms to express
them. Although its constructionis formally analytic - i.e., based on conceptual
principles of classification - the VRM system has much in common with previous linguistic taxonomies of illocutionaryacts, with empirical coding systems
developed to measure conversations, and with analyses of the contributionof
language to social relationships.
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NOTES
I thank RobertElliott, BrittonJ. Harwood, Robert L. Russell, James J. Sosnoski, and this journal's
editor, Dell Hymes, for their comments on drafts of this article.
The term "intent" does not imply that mind-readingis necessary to code utterances.As Bach
I.
and Harnish (1979) put it, building on Grice's (1957) analysis of meating, illocutionaryforce is a
reflexive intent, by which they mean it is intended to be recognized as intended to be recognized.
"The intended effect of an act of communication is not just any effect produced by means of the
recognitionof the intentionto producea certaineffect, it is the recognition of that effect. " (Bach &
Harnish 1979: 15, italics in original). Illocutionary intents are thus on record, in Brown and
Levinson's (1978) sense. Coding VRM intent (or any other category of illocutionaryforce) requires
no assessment of the speaker's private merdtalstate beyond that requiredof the utterance'sintended
recipient.
To count as an illocutionaryact, an utterancemust be intended to secure uptake;however, it need
not actually secure uptake. A Question is still a Question if the other misunderstandsit or is distracted
and does not hear it. My conception thus differs slightly from those who require that uptake be
secured (cf. Dore, Gearhart,& Newman 1978: 339, 348; Bach & Harnish 1979: 15). Similarly, an
illocutionaryact need not be felicitous nor must a speakerbe "committed" to its felicity for it to have
its illocutionary force. Unanswerable Questions are still Questions; insincere Disclosures are still
Disclosures; and false Edificationsare still Edifications, even if both speakerand other are aware of
the falsity, e.g., "The moon is made of green cheese" E(E).
Incidentally, elements of the formula, "intendedto be recognized as intendedto be recognized,"
can be progressivelyparedaway to define several additional,deeper levels of intent(all "off record"
in Brown & Levinson's 1978 sense). Hints are only intendedto be recognized as intended(but not as
intendedto be recognized). Manipulationsare only intendedto be recognized (but not as intended).
Deceptions are only privately intended (i.e., private experiences not intended to be recognized).
Finally, self-deceptions may be defined as utterances driven by unconscious experiences whose
expression is not intended or recognized by the speaker. To illustrate, "The wastebasket is full"
could be E(A) - i.e., on record as an Advisement intent (intendedto be recognized as intendedto be
recognized) - if the other were known to have the responsibilityof emptying the wastebasketwhen it
is full. In that case, it is equivalent to "Empty the wastebasket" A(A), and a response such as
"Okay," or "I'll do it during the next commercial," would be appropriate.In a relationshipwhere
emptying the wastebasket is a shared chore, the Advisement underlying "The wastebasketis full"
might be a hint - intendedto be recognized as intended, but off record - which could be abbreviated
E(E(A)). Or it might be a manipulation- intended to be recognized, but ingenuous - abbreviated
E(E(E(A))), seeking a response such as "Would you like me to do it for you?" (This response would
be sarcastic if the Advisement intent were at the hint level.) In anotherrelationship,the Advisement
could be a wish that was not intendedto be recognized, i.e., a deception, E(E(E(E(A)))), in which
case an offer of help might be met with chagrin that the wish had leaked through. Finally, the
Advisement might (if we believe Freud) be a self-deception, say, a guest's unconscious obsessive
desire for cleanliness that motivates the ostensibly objective observation, "The wastebasketis full"
E(E(E(E(E(A))))).
Obviously, it would be a hopeless task to code utterances'intentsat all of these levels; applications
of the VRM system use only the illocutionary, "on record" level. Nevertheless, it is often possible to
discern deeper levels, and keeping them in mind can help clarify discriminations.
This lumping of Questions and Advisements in one category seems inconsistentwith consider2.
ing Question-Advisementcombinationsas indirect speech acts (Searle 1975). For example, both the
form and the intent of "Would you move your car?" Q(A) appear to be scorable as directives in
Searle's system.
The evolution of t and v forms of second person pronouns may be related to the face3.
threateningaspect of presumptuousmodes. As Table 2 shows, second-person forms are invariably
presumptuous(i.e., Advisement, Interpretation,or Reflection) and hence tend to be FTAs. There
may thus be a universal pressure on languages to develop conventional ways to show respect or
deference when using second-personforms, i.e., to undo the intrinsic FTA of presumptuousness.
4.
According to Table 4, an Edification form would be more polite, but by being acquiescent, it
might fail to accomplish its mission; e.g., "The butteris in frontof you" E(A) might be construedas

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WILLIAM

B.

STILES

an offer ratherthan a request. Most polite of all, but also less efficient, would be an Acknowledgment
form, which would requirewaiting for an appropriatecontext, e.g., (at last!) "Would you like me to
pass you the butter?" "Yes" K(A).

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