Essays on The Contribution of John Rogers Searle to Applied Linguistics Research Paper

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The paper 'The Contribution of John Rogers Searle to Applied Linguistics' is an outstanding example of a research paper on English. John Searle is a renowned and influential analytical philosopher working currently. The philosopher has made immense contribution in the field of language, social and mind philosophy (Halion, 1989). One of his greatest contributions in the field of linguistics is the speech act. In this paper, important contributions of Searle in the field of applied linguistics will be evaluated. Searle is greatly recognized for his contribution to applied linguistics following his works in the speech act.

Speech act refers to various actions performed when making requests, apologies, greetings, invitation, compliment, complaint or refusal. Speech acts are utterances that play a role in communication and they may contain one word such as, “ Sorry” or a few words such as “ I am sorry I never turned up for your birthday” . According to Rust (2009), the performance of speech acts is difficult when one is using a second language given that the user may not understand the cultural norms or idiomatic expressions of that language (Smith, 2003).

In addition, some users of speech acts may make a mistake of applying the rules and conventions of their first language in the second language. Speech acts are in four kinds; illocutionary act, perlocutionary act, propositional act and utterance act (Rust, 2009). Utterance refers to making utterances of words while a propositional act is described as predicting or referring to something. The perlocutionary act is described as producing a certain effect on the listener. An Illocutionary act is referred to as the complete speech act that is made in utterances (Halion, 1989). Searle acknowledged the works of previous philosopher Austin and held that speech act is the primary unit in force and meaning, that is, a basic linguistic entity that consists of constative and performative dimensions (Halion, 1989).

Furthermore, Searle accepts that there are both perlocutionary and illocutionary acts. However, Searle came up with the utterance and propositional acts (Halion, 1989). In contrast, to Austin who had categorized speech act into illocutionary, perlocutionary and locutionary acts, Searle categorized it into the four kinds described above. Therefore, Searle did away with locutionary act and instead replaced it with utterance and propositional acts (Halion, 1989). According to Searle, the utterance act refers to an act of speech that lacks determinate meaning.

When one performance an utterance act but fails to perform a propositional act means that s/he utters words that do not say anything (Rust, 2009). Although utterance act is close to the phatic act discussed by Austin where one makes utterances of words, vocables and syntactic units of a given language while utterance act means the production of sentences, words and morphemes all in disregard of whether such words make sense.

However, the Searle propositional act varies with the rhetic act proposed by Austin. Although both acts refer to the use of language to make definite reference and sense, Searle argues that the utterance act may sometime perform the function of a propositional act. However, Austin holds that the phatic act can never be used to function as a rhetic act (Rust, 2009). Furthermore, Searle argues that there can never be a propositional act without the presence of an illocutionary act. From the discussion above, it is clear that Searle introduced propositions in applied linguistics by refining speech acts (Halion, 1989).

The propositions have now enabled linguistics to develop an in-depth understanding of speech acts in grammar by evaluating how such acts function in a specific context. Consequently, propositions are used as logical tools for analyzing speech act in a context (Rust, 2009).


Halion, K. (1989). Deconstruction and speech act theory: A defense of the distinction between normal and parasitic speech acts. Retrieved 20th September 2012 from <>

Rust, J. (2009). John Searle. London: Continuum.

Smith, B. (2003). John Searle. Cambridge [u.a.: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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