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Concept: Speech act


Lying is common among adults and a more complex issue in children. In this article, I review two decades of empirical evidence about lying in children from the perspective of speech act theory. Children begin to tell lies in the preschool years for anti- and prosocial purposes, and their tendency to lie changes as a function of age and the type of lies being told. In addition, children’s ability to tell convincing lies improves with age. In the article, I highlight the central roles that children’s understanding of mental states and social conventions play in the development of lying. I also identify areas for research to be done to develop a more comprehensive picture of the typical and atypical developmental courses of verbal deception in children.

Concepts: Scientific method, Empiricism, Developmental psychology, Human development, Empirical research, The Central, Lie, Speech act


Higher-order language functions are associated with understanding indirect speech acts, lexical-semantic processes, the understanding and production of prosody, discourse production and comprehension. Only a few studies imply that language abnormalities may be present in individuals at ultra-high risk for psychosis (UHR) and first-episode of schizophrenia (FE). The purpose of this study was to test the presence of higher-order language dysfunctions in UHR and FE subjects using a standardized comprehensive test battery.

Concepts: Speech act


The extralinguistic and paralinguistic aspects of the language refer to higher-order language functions such as lexical-semantic processes, prosody, indirect speech acts or discourse comprehension and production. Studies suggest that these processes are mediated by the Right Hemisphere (RH) and there is also some evidence of RH dysfunctions in schizophrenia. The aim of the paper is to investigate the extralinguistic and paralinguistic processing mediated by Right Hemisphere in schizophrenia patients using a validated and standardized battery of tests.

Concepts: Language, Semantics, Right-wing politics, Discourse analysis, Social philosophy, Speech act


Language scientists have broadly addressed the problem of explaining how language users recognize the kind of speech act performed by a speaker uttering a sentence in a particular context. They have done so by investigating the role played by the illocutionary force indicating devices (IFIDs), i.e., all linguistic elements that indicate the illocutionary force of an utterance. The present work takes a first step in the direction of an experimental investigation of non-verbal IFIDs because it investigates the role played by facial expressions and, in particular, of upper-face action units (AUs) in the comprehension of three basic types of illocutionary force: assertions, questions, and orders. The results from a pilot experiment on production and two comprehension experiments showed that (1) certain upper-face AUs seem to constitute non-verbal signals that contribute to the understanding of the illocutionary force of questions and orders; (2) assertions are not expected to be marked by any upper-face AU; (3) some upper-face AUs can be associated, with different degrees of compatibility, with both questions and orders.

Concepts: Philosophy of language, Linguistics, Pragmatics, Speech act, Illocutionary act


Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder are often said to present a global pragmatic impairment. However, there is some observational evidence that context-based comprehension of indirect requests may be preserved in autism. In order to provide experimental confirmation to this hypothesis, indirect speech act comprehension was tested in a group of 15 children with autism between 7 and 12 years and a group of 20 typically developing children between 2:7 and 3:6 years. The aim of the study was to determine whether children with autism can display genuinely contextual understanding of indirect requests. The experiment consisted of a three-pronged semi-structured task involving Mr Potato Head. In the first phase a declarative sentence was uttered by one adult as an instruction to put a garment on a Mr Potato Head toy; in the second the same sentence was uttered as a comment on a picture by another speaker; in the third phase the same sentence was uttered as a comment on a picture by the first speaker. Children with autism complied with the indirect request in the first phase and demonstrated the capacity to inhibit the directive interpretation in phases 2 and 3. TD children had some difficulty in understanding the indirect instruction in phase 1. These results call for a more nuanced view of pragmatic dysfunction in autism.

Concepts: Understanding, Philosophy of language, Autism, Asperger syndrome, Autism spectrum, Pragmatics, Speech act, Mr. Potato Head


In W v M, a judge concluded that M’s past statements should not be given weight in a best interests assessment. Several commentators in the ethics literature have argued this approach ignored M’s autonomy. In this short article I demonstrate how the basic tenets of speech act theory can be used to challenge the inherent assumption that past statements represent an individual’s beliefs, choices or decisions. I conclude that speech act theory, as a conceptual tool, has a valuable contribution to make to this debate.

Concepts: Truth, Philosophy of language, Autonomy, Concepts, Oral communication, Speech act