Coherence: Advanced

Illocutionary and locutionary force:

We tend to assume that coherence must be about the meanings of words and clarity of expression but very often language used in a context means something rather different from the meanings of the words used. The locutionary force of a text is the term used to describe its literal meaning, whereas the illocutionary force is the term used to describe the meaning actually intended or understood.

For example, teachers' disciplinary talk is rich with examples of illocutionary meanings

Please open your books means Open your books now

Would you like to share the joke with us? means Stop talking and disrupting my lesson.

Are you listening? means You're not listening.

In both speech and writing, irony is a good example of language with illocutionary force, and so too are many of our commonplace social interactions. When we say How are you? to someone we rarely expect to be told and Pleased to meet you may mean the exact opposite!

Subject mainpage      Teaching Implications      Test yourself online

You are currently here: Discourses > Coherence > Advanced. The next page in this section is Coherence Teaching Implications.