The Comprehension of Indirect Requests: Previous Work and Future Directions

Chapter
Part of the Logic, Argumentation & Reasoning book series (LARI, volume 11)

Abstract

This chapter offers a critical survey of experimental work on the comprehension of indirect requests (IRs). A first issue concerns the processing times of IRs. A crucial finding is that processing times are not systematically longer for IRs relative to the same sentences used to perform direct speech acts, which suggests that the direct meaning of an IR is not always derived. However, the same studies fail to demonstrate that an IR is understood as quickly as a direct speech act when the context of utterance does not bias towards the directive meaning. A second important issue bears on the interpretative mechanisms required for deriving the meaning of IRs. Recent neuroimaging studies provide us with a clearer understanding of what is going on during utterance processing. Yet we still know very little about the precise interpretative steps that individuals actually go through when processing IRs, and about the processing costs involved in utterance interpretation. I conclude that available data does not allow a satisfactory answer to the question whether non-imperative requests are costlier than imperative requests, and outline further directions for experimental research on these two issues.

Keywords

Directives Indirect requests Literal meaning Processing cost 

References

  1. Abbeduto, L., Furman, L., & Davies, B. (1989). Identifying speech acts from contextual and linguistic information. Language and Speech, 32(3), 189–203.Google Scholar
  2. Bach, K. (1998). Standardization revisited. In A. Kasher (Ed.), Pragmatics: Critical assessment (pp. 712–722). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  3. Bach, K. (2006). The top 10 misconceptions about implicature. In B. J. Birner & G. Ward (Eds.), Drawing the boundaries of meaning: Neo-Gricean studies in pragmatics and semantics in honor of Laurence R. Horn (pp. 21–30). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bach, K., & Harnish, R. M. 1984 [1979]. Linguistic communication and speech acts. Cambridge, MA/London: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  5. Baker, W., & Bricker, R. H. (2010). The effects of direct and indirect speech acts on native English and ESL speakers’ perception of teacher written feedback. System, 38, 75–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bašnáková, J., Weber, K., Petersson, K. M., Hagoort, P., & Van Berkum, J. J. A. (2011). Understanding speaker meaning: Neural correlates of pragmatic inferencing in discourse comprehension. Poster presented at the Neurobiology of Language Conference, Annapolis.Google Scholar
  7. Brouwer, H., Fitz, H., & Hoeks, J. (2012). Getting real about semantic illusions: Rethinking the functional role of the P600 in language comprehension. Brain Research, 1446, 127–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bucciarelli, M., Colle, L., & Bara, B. G. (2003). How children comprehend speech acts and communicative gestures. Journal of Pragmatics, 35(2), 207–241.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Carpenter, P., & Just, M. (1975). Sentence comprehension: A psycholinguistic processing model of verification. Psychological Review, 82, 45–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Champagne-Lavau, M., & Joanette, Y. (2007). Why RHD individuals have more difficulties with direct requests than indirect requests? A theory of mind hypothesis. Brain and Language, 103(1), 45–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Clark, H. H. (1979). Responding to indirect speech acts. Cognitive Psychology, 11, 430–477.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Clark, H. H., & Chase, W. (1972). On the process of comparing sentences against pictures. Cognitive Psychology, 3, 472–517.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Clark, H. H., & Lucy, P. (1975). Understanding what is meant from what is said: A study in conversationally conveyed requests. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 14, 56–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Clark, H. H., & Schunk, D. H. (1980). Polite responses to polite requests. Cognition, 8, 111–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Coulson, S., & Lovett, C. (2010). Comprehension of non-conventional indirect requests: an event-related brain potential study. Italian Journal of Linguistics, 22(1), 107–124.Google Scholar
  16. Dardier, V., Delaye, C., & Laurent-Vannier, A. (2003). La compréhension des actes de langage par des enfants et des adolescents porteurs de lésions frontales: l’analyse des demandes. Enfance, 3, 223–236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Dascal, M. (1992). On the pragmatic structure of conversation. In H. Parrett & J. Verschueren (Eds.), (On) Searle on conversation (pp. 35–56). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Davies, E. E. (1986). The English imperative. London: Croom Helm.Google Scholar
  19. Egorova, N., Shtyrov, Y., & Pulvermuller, F. (2013). Neurobiology of processing of the speech acts of naming and requesting: Insights from EEG, MEG and fMRI. Paper presented at XPRAG 2013, Utrecht.Google Scholar
  20. Foldi, N. S. (1987). Appreciation of pragmatic interpretations of indirect commands: Comparison of right and left hemisphere brain-damaged patients. Brain and Language, 31(1), 88–108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Francik, E. P., & Clark, H. H. (1985). How to make requests that overcome obstacles to compliance. Journal of Memory and Language, 24, 560–568.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Gibbs, R. W. (1979). Contextual effects in understanding indirect requests. Discourse Processes, 2, 1–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Gibbs, R. W. (1981a). Memory for requests in conversation. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 20, 630–640.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Gibbs, R. W. (1981b). Your wish is my command: Convention and context in interpreting indirect requests. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 20, 431–444.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Gibbs, R. W. (1983). Do people always process the literal meanings of indirect requests? Journal of Experimental Psychology Learning Memory and Cognition, 9(3), 524–533.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gibbs, R. W. (1986a). Comprehension and memory for nonliteral utterances: The problem of sarcastic indirect requests. Acta Psychologica, 62(1), 41–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Gibbs, R. W. (1986b). On the psycholinguistics of sarcasm. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 15(1), 3–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Gibbs, R. W. (1986c). What makes some indirect speech acts conventional? Journal of Memory and Language, 25(2), 181–196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Gibbs, R. W. (1987). Memory for requests in conversation revisited. The American Journal of Psychology, 100(2), 179–191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Gibbs, R. W. (2014). Is a general theory of utterance interpretation really possible? Insights from the study of figurative language. Belgian Journal of Linguistics, 28, 19–44.Google Scholar
  31. Gibbs, R. W., & Colston, H. (2012). Interpreting figurative language. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Gísladóttir, R. S., Chwilla, D., Schriefers, H., & Levinson, S. C. (2012). Speech act recognition in conversation: Experimental evidence. In N. Miyake, D. Peebles, & R. P. Cooper (Eds.), Proceedings of the 34th annual meeting of the cognitive science society (pp. 1596–1601). Cognitive Science Society: Austin.Google Scholar
  33. Grice, H. P. (1975). Logic and conversation. In P. Cole & J. L. Morgan (Eds.), Syntax and semantics 3: Speech acts (pp. 41–58). New York: Academic.Google Scholar
  34. Hirst, W., LeDoux, J., & Stein, S. (1984). Constraints on the processing of indirect speech acts: Evidence from aphasiology. Brain and Language, 23, 26–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Hoeks, J., Schoot, L., Taylor, R., & Brouwer, H. (2013). Did you just say “NO” to me? An ERP study on politeness in dialogue. Poster presented at XPRAG 2013, Utrecht.Google Scholar
  36. Holtgraves, T. R. (1994). Communication in context: Effects of the speaker status on the comprehension of indirect requests. Journal of Experimental Psychology. Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 20(5), 1205–1218.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Holtgraves, T. R., Srull, T. K., & Socall, D. (1989). Conversation memory: The effects of speaker status on memory for the assertiveness of conversation remarks. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 56, 149–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Jary, M., & Kissine, M. (2014). Imperatives. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Jordan, M. J., & Roloff, M. E. (1990). Acquiring assistance from others, the effect of indirect requests and relational intimacy on verbal compliance. Human Communication Research, 16(4), 519–555.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Kemper, S. (1980). Memory for the form and force of declaratives and interrogatives. Memory and Cognition, 8(4), 367–371.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Kemper, S., & Thissen, D. (1981). Memory for the dimensions of requests. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 20(5), 552–563.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Kissine, M. (2011). Misleading appearances: Searle, assertion, and meaning. Erkenntnis, 74(1), 115–129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Kissine, M. (2012). Sentences, utterances, and speech acts. In K. Allan & K. Jazszcolt (Eds.), The Cambridge handbook of pragmatics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  44. Kissine, M. (2013). From utterances to speech acts. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Kissine, M., De Brabanter, P., & Leybaert, J. (2012). Compliance with requests by children with autism: The impact of sentence type. Autism, 16(5), 523–531.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Kutas, M., & Federmeier, K. D. (2007). Event-related brain potential (ERP) studies of sentence processing. In G. Gaskell (Ed.), Oxford handbook of psycholinguistics (pp. 385–406). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  47. Levey, S., & Goldfarb, R. (2003). Comprehension of indirect requests by persons with fluent aphasia. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 96(1), 245–256.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Levinson, S. C. (1983). Pragmatics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  49. McDonald, S., & Pearce, S. (1998). Requests that overcome listener reluctance: Impairment associated with executive dysfunction in brain injury. Brain and Language, 61, 88–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. McNamara, P., Holtgraves, T., Durso, R., & Harris, E. (2010). Social cognition of indirect speech: Evidence from Parkinson’s disease. Journal of Neurolinguistics, 23(2), 162–171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Morgan, J. L. (1978). Two types of convention in indirect speech acts. In P. Cole (Ed.), Syntax and semantics 9: Pragmatics (pp. 261–280). New York: Academic.Google Scholar
  52. Munro, A. (1979). Indirect speech acts are not strictly conventional. Linguistic Inquiry, 10(2), 353–356.Google Scholar
  53. Paul, R., & Cohen, D. J. (1985). Comprehension of indirect requests in adults with autistic disorders and mental retardation. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 28, 475–479.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Recanati, F. (1987). Meaning and force: The pragmatics of performative utterances. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  55. Recanati, F. (2003). The limits of expressibility. In B. Smith (Ed.), John Searle (pp. 189–213). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Sadock, J. M. (1974). Toward a linguistic theory of speech acts. New York: Academic.Google Scholar
  57. Sadock, J. M., & Zwicky, A. M. (1985). Speech act distinctions in syntax. In T. Shopen (Ed.), Language typology and syntactic description, volume I: Clause structure (pp. 155–196). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  58. Saul, J. M. (2002). What is said and psychological reality; Grice’s project and relevance theorists’ criticisms. Linguistics and Philosophy, 25, 347–372.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Searle, J. R. (1969). Speech acts: An essay in the philosophy of language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Searle, J. R. (1975). Indirect speech acts. In P. Cole & J. L. Morgan (Eds.), Syntax and semantics, Vol. 3: Speech acts (pp. 59–82). New York: Academic.Google Scholar
  61. Searle, J. R. (1979). Expression and meaning: Studies in the theory of speech acts. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Shapiro, A. M., & Murphy, G. L. (1993). Can you answer a question for me? Processing indirect speech acts. Journal of Memory and Language, 32(2), 211–229.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Sperber, D., & Wilson, D. (1995). Relevance: Communication and cognition (2nd ed.). Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  64. Stefanowitsch, A. (2003). A construction-based approach to indirect speech acts. In K.-U. Panther & L. Thornburg (Eds.), Metonymy and pragmatic inferencing (pp. 105–126). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Stemmer, B., Giroux, F., & Joanette, Y. (1994). Production and evaluation of requests by right-hemisphere brain-damaged individuals. Brain and Language, 47, 1–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Tromp, J., Hagoort, P., & Meyer, A. S. (2016). Pupillometry reveals increased pupil size during indirect request comprehension. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 69(6), 1093–108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Van Ackeren, M. J., Casasanto, D., Bekkering, H., Hagoort, P., & Rueschemeyer, S. A. (2012). Pragmatics in action: Indirect requests engage theory of mind areas and the cortical motor network. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 24(11), 2237–2247.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Weylman, S. T., Brownell, H. H., Roman, M., & Gardner, H. (1989). Appreciation of indirect requests by left- and right- brain-damaged patients: The effects of verbal context and conventionality of wording. Brain and Language, 36(4), 580–591.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Wilcox, M. J., Davis, G. A., & Leonard, L. B. (1978). Aphasics’ comprehension of contextually conveyed meaning. Brain and Language, 6(3), 362–377.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Yin, C.-P., & Kuo, F.-Y. (2013). A study of how information system professionals comprehend indirect and direct speech acts in project communication. IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 56(3), 226–241.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre de recherche en Linguistique (LaDisco)Université libre de BruxellesBruxellesBelgium

Personalised recommendations