Al-Owaidi, Muhtaram (2018) Investigating Speech Acts in English and Arabic Short News Interviews: A Cross-Cultural Pragmatic Study. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

In the last three decades, Speech Act Theory has been displaced from the spotlight of pragmatic research and relegated to the back seat of this field.This has been the case despite the potential this theory still has to serve pragmatic research. This study is an attempt to revive and develop speech act theory by means of applying it to interactive naturally-occurring discourse proposing a number of different types of speech act and incorporating into analysis a wider range of pragmatic IFIDs. The main purpose of the study is to: (1) investigate speech acts in interaction and find out which 'illocutionary force indicating devices (IFIDs) are used to identify speech acts in an interactive context, and (2) compare the investigated speech acts and IFIDs cross-culturally between English and Arabic.

Regarding data, the study investigated 12 English and Arabic short news interviews (six each). Some of these were video-recorded live from BBC and Sky news channels (English dataset) and Al-Arabiya, Sky news Arabia and Al-Wataniya channels (Arabic dataset). Other interviews were downloaded from YouTube. Two topics were the focus of these interviews: (1) the immigration crisis in 2015 (six English and Arabic interviews), and (2) the Iranian nuclear deal in 2015 (six English and Arabic interviews). The study investigated the two datasets to find which speech acts are used in short news interviews and what interactional IFIDs are used to identify them.

Results show that many different speech acts are used in news interviews — the study counted 48 individual speech acts in the analysed interviews. However, it was found that a mere itemizing and classification of speech acts in the classical sense (Austin‘s and Searle‘s classifications) was not enough. In addition, the study identifies various new types of speech acts according to the role they play in the ongoing discourse. The first type is termed turn speech acts‘. These are speech acts which have special status in the turn they occur in and are of two subtypes: 'main act' and 'overall speech act'. The second type is 'interactional acts'. These are speech acts which are named in relation to other speech acts in the same exchange. The third type is ̳superior speech acts‘. These are superordinate speech acts with the performance of which other subordinate (inferior) speech acts are performed as well. The study also found three different types of utterances vis-à-vis the speech acts they perform. These are 'single utterance' (which performs a single speech act only), 'double-edged utterance' (which performs two speech acts concurrently) and 'Fala utterance' (which performs three speech acts together). As for IFIDs, the study found that several already-established pragmatic concepts can help identify speech acts in interaction. These are Adjacency Pair, Activity Type, Cooperative Principle, Politeness Principle, Facework, Context (Co-utterance and Pragmalinguistic cues). These devices are new additions to Searle‘s original list of IFIDs. Furthermore, they are expanding this concept as they include a type of IFID different from the original ones. Finally, the study has found no significant differences between English and Arabic news interviews as regards speech acts (types), utterance types and the analysed IFIDs.

The study attracts attention to Speech Act Theory and encourages further involvement of this theory in other genres of interactive discourse (e.g., long interviews, chat shows, written internet chat, etc.). It also encourages further exploration of the different types of speech acts and utterances discussed in this study as well as probing the currently-investigated and other IFIDs. It is hoped that by returning to the core insight of SAT (i.e., that language-in-use does things) and at the same time freeing it from its pragmalinguistic shackles, its value can be seen more clearly.

Al-Owaidi THESIS.pdf - Accepted Version
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