Skip to main content Accessibility help

Is Sybil there? the structure of some American English directives

  • Susan Ervin-Tripp (a1)


Directives to hearers can be expressed in a variety of syntactic forms. The social distribution of such forms shows them to occur systematically, according to familiarity, rank, territorial location, difficulty of task, whether or not a duty is normally expected, whether or not non-compliance is likely. Except for some hints and questions not mentioning what is desired, directives do not require inference from a prior literal interpretation to be understood. Indeed, misunderstandings and puns imply that the interpretation of many directives is not likely to include a literal phase. On the contrary, where knowledge of obligations and prohibitions is shared, simple interpretation rules suffice, allowing prompt understanding. To interpret the affective significance of directives, one must compare the expected and realized forms, and recognize the social features that the difference implies. Deference, solidarity, coldness, sarcasm, rudeness, and qualitatively specified compliments or insults can be communicated systematically by such departures. (Pragmatics, directives, requests, politeness, conversational analysis, performatives, US English.)



Hide All
Agar, M. (1973). Ripping and running. New York: Seminar Press.
Basso, K. H. & Selby, H. (eds.) (1976). Meaning in anthropology. University of New Mexico Press.
Blom, J. P. & Gumperz, J. J. (1972). Some social determinants of verbal behavior, In Gumperz, J. J. and Hymes, D. (ed.), Directions in sociolinguistics. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
Brown, P. & Levinson, S. (1974). Universals in language usage: Politeness phenomena. Manuscript.
Brown, R. W. & Gilman, A. (1960). The pronouns of power and solidarity. In Sebeok, T. (ed.), Style in language. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. 253–76.
Clark, 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. 5672.
Dikeman, B. & Parker, P. R. (1964). Request forms. Unpublished term paper.
Dore, John. (1976). Children's illocutionary acts. In Freedle, R. (ed.), Discourse relations: Comprehension and production. Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Ervin-Tripp, S. (1964). An analysis of the interaction of language, topic, and listener. In Gumperz, J. J. and Hymes, D. (eds.), The ethnography of communication, American Anthropologist 66: 6, Part 2, 86102.
Ervin-Tripp, S. (1968). Sociolinguistics. In Berkowitz, L. (ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology. New York: Academic Press. 4. 91165.
Ervin-Tripp, S. (in press). Wait for me, roller-skate. In Mitchell-Kernan, C. & Ervin-Tripp, S. (eds.), Child discourse. New York: Academic Press.
Friedrich, P. (1972). Social context and semantic feature: The Russian pronominal usage. In Gumperz, J. J. & Hymes, D. (eds.), Directions in sociolinguistics. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston. 270300.
Gardner, C. (1968). A scale of politeness of request forms in English. Unpublished term paper.
Garvey, C. (1975). Requests and responses in children's speech. Journal of Child Language 2. 4164.
Geertz, C. (1960). The religion of Java. Glencoe, Ill.: Free Press.
Geohegan, W. (1973). Natural information processing rules: Formal theory and application to ethnography. Berkeley, Calif.: Language Behavior Research Laboratory. Monograph 3.
Goffman, E. (1963). Behavior in public places. New York: Free Press.
Goffman, E. (1967). Interaction Ritual. New York: Doubleday Anchor.
Gordon, D. & Lakoff, G. (1971). Conversational postulates. Papers from the 7th Regional Meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society. 6384.
Grice, H. P. (1975). Logic and conversation. In Cole, P. & Morgan, J. (eds.), Syntax and Semantics. New York: Academic Press. 3. 4158.
Gruber, J. P. (1975). Performative-constative transition in child language development. Foundations of Language 12. 513–28.
Gumperz, J. J. (1971). Language in social groups. Anwar, Dil (ed.). Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press.
Gumperz, J. J. (in press). Language, communication and public negotiation. In Sanday, P. R. (ed.), Anthropology and the public interest: Fieldwork and theory. New York: Academic Press.
Hane, G. (1974). Request forms at Berkeley Pump Co. Unpublished term paper.
Humphress, G. (1974). The style vernacular of enlisted Marines. Unpublished term paper.
Hymes, D. (1974). Foundations in sociolinguistics. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Isola, S. (1974). Functions of requests within family interaction. Unpublished term paper.
James, S. L. The effect of listener and situation on the politeness of preschool children's directive speech. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Wisconsin.
Kakimoto, D. (1967). Descriptions and requests: A study of status differentiation in the speech of undereducated adults. Unpublished term paper.
Labov, W. (1972). Sociolinguistic patterns. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Lakoff, R. (1972). Language in context. Language 48. 907927.
Lakoff, R. (1973). The logic of politeness: or minding your P's and Q's. Papers from the 9th Regional Meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society.
Lamb, S. (1964). The sememic approach to structural semantics. American Anthropologist 66. Pt. 2, 5778.
Martin, S. E. (1964). Speech levels in Japan and Korea. In Hymes, D. (ed.), Language in culture and society. New York: Harper & Row. 407–15.
Matheson, S. (1967). Request forms at a university dining hall. Unpublished term paper.
Mitchell-Kernan, C. (in press). Directives in children's role-playing. In Mitchell-Kernan, C. & Ervin-Tripp, S. (eds.), Child discourse. New York: Academic Press.
Mohan, B. (n.d.). Principles, postulates, politeness. Unpublished manuscript.
Neustupny, J. V. (1972). Remarks on Japanese honorifics. In Neustupny, J. V. (ed.), Papers in Japanese Linguistics I. Linguistic Communications of Monash University, No. 7. Melbourne, Australia. 78117.
Reeder, K. (1975). On young children's discrimination of illocutionary force. Unpublished term paper.
Rogers, E. (1967). Work-versus person-oriented activity. Unpublished term paper.
Rogers, E. (1967). Formality of request and forms of address. Unpublished term paper.
Sachs, J. S. (1967). Recognition memory for syntactic and semantic aspects of connected discourse. Perception and Psychophysics 2. 437–42.
Sacks, H. (1973). Tout le monde doit mentir. Communications 20. 182203.
Sacks, H., Schegloff, E. & Jefferson, G. (1974). A simplest systematics for the organization of turn-taking in conversation. Language 50. 696735.
Sadock, J. M. (1972). Speech act idioms. Papers from the 8th Regional Meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society.
Searle, J. R. (1969). Speech Acts. London and New York: Cambridge University Press.
Searle, J. R. (1975). Indirect speech acts. In Cole, P. & Morgan, J. (eds.), Syntax and Semantics. Academic Press. 3. 5982.
Selkirk, E. (1967). A simplified request form and its social variants. Unpublished term paper.
Shatz, M. (1974). The comprehension of indirect directives: Can two-year-olds shut the door? Linguistic Society of America, summer meeting.
Simon, R. (1967). An observational study of requests. Unpublished term paper.
Sinclair, J. McH. & Coulthard, R. M. (1974). Towards an analysis of discourse. London: Oxford University Press.
Soskin, W. F. & John, V. (1963). The study of spontaneous talk. In Barker, R. G. (ed.), The stream of behavior. New York: Appleton.
Stewart, J. T. (1967). Requests and status. Unpublished term paper.
Stross, B. (1964). Waiter-to-cook speech in restaurants. Unpublished term paper.
Teaford, S. (1974). The markers of compatibility: A comparative analysis of request forms. Unpublished term paper.
Tyler, S. (1972). Context and alternation in Koya kinship. In Gumperz, J. J. & Hymes, D. (eds.), Directions in sociolinguistics. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston. 251–69.
Valentine, D. C. (1967). Observation project. Unpublished term paper.
Wisner, J. R. Jr (1968). Request forms in a hospital setting. Unpublished term paper.

Is Sybil there? the structure of some American English directives

  • Susan Ervin-Tripp (a1)


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed