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Committing-speaker-future-action (Influence-on-speaker)

The defining property of utterances with this aspect is that they potentially commit the speaker (in varying degrees of strength) to some future course of action. The only distinction made within this aspect is whether the utterance's commitment is conditional on the listener's agreement or not. Commits that are conditional on the Addressee's agreement include what are called offers in English where the speaker indicates willingness to commit to an action if the hearer accepts it. The prototypical case of a commit not dependent on listener agreement is a promise, although this category may include other weaker forms of commitment such as ``I'll probably be at the meeting at 3''. The speaker is not making an offer here, he or she is just not making a very strong commitment.

Figure 3: Decision Tree for Committing-speaker-future-action

Here are some examples:

Typical Offers:

        Shall I come to your office
          I'm free at 3  (in context of setting up a meeting)

Offers with explicit conditions:

        I'll be free after four if my meeting ends on time
          I can meet at 3 if you're free

A weak Commit:

        Maybe I'll come to your party

Regular Commits:

        I'll come to your party
          I promise that I'll be there

Utterances that accept a previous request or Open-option will typically be a commit, as in the following dialogues:

Assert: B: I don't know what to do Saturday night
  OO:     A: You could go to Bob's party with me
  Commit  B: Great I'll see you there
  Action-directive:  A: Take the engine from Corning to Bath.
  Commit:            B: OK

The remaining forward looking functions are relatively rare. They include (1) conventional conversational actions such as greeting and saying goodbye, (2) explicit performatives where the speaker explicitly declares what is performed, as in firing someone by saying ``You're fired'', or, in TRAINS, quitting the task by saying ``I quit'', (3) exclamations such as ``Ouch'', (4) forward looking functions not captured by the current scheme such as holding/grabbing the turn by saying an utterance such as ``Right'' or ``Okay''.

Note that acts that are conventional openings or closings can be coded on other aspects as well. For example, at the start of a dialogue the utterance ``Can I help you'' could serve both as a Conventional-opening and as an offer.

A good intuitive test for the explicit performative class is whether you can insert the word ``hereby'' before the verb. For example, since ``You're hereby fired'' has approximately the same meaning as ``You're fired'', we know this is an explicit performative. The utterance ``I want to go to the store'' is not since ``I hereby want to go to the store'' is difficult to interpret, and in contexts where it might be understandable, the meaning would have changed.

next up left folder
Next: Discussion Up: Forward Looking Function Previous: Influencing-addressee-future-action (Influence-on-listener)

Mark Core
Mon Sep 22 20:05:25 EDT 1997