Chapter published in:Implicitness: From lexis to discourse
Edited by Piotr Cap and Marta Dynel
[Pragmatics & Beyond New Series 276] 2017
► pp. 217–232
Thematic silence as a speech act
This chapter will discuss the speech act status of thematic silence, one of the four types of silence presented in Kurzon (2007). This type of silence is not strictly silence in the sense that someone is not talking where talk is expected. It refers to the non-mention of a topic by the speaker (“s/he is silent about” in contrast to “s/he is silent”). Despite its non-mention, the topic is often implicit and identifiable, since it is salient in one way or another. For example, in a speech or in a press interview, a politician does not mention, or refuses to refer to, a topic which may embarrass him/her, and this topic has recently been in the news. Assuming that intentional silence is as communicative as the linguistic ways of conveying implicit meaning, and has therefore some illocutionary force, the question asked is what kind of speech act the omitted discourse (utterance / sentence) may be. It will be argued that in discourses such as speeches, interviews, or narratives in general, the silence usually replaces an assertive speech act, though there may be instances in which the omitted speech act may be a directive or commissive, etc. speech act.
Keywords: silence, typology of silence, thematic silence, speech acts, conversation analysis, political speech
Published online: 30 June 2017
Aliakbari, Mohammad, and Mahsa Changizi
Berger, Charles R.
Sacks, Harvey, Emanuel A. Schegloff, and Gail Jefferson
Searle, John R.
Stone, Charles B., Alin Coman, Adam D. Brown, Jonathan Koppel, and William Hirst
2002 “Speech Acts Sets of Refusal and Complaints: A Comparison of Native and Non-native English Speakers’ Production.” TESOL Working Papers (http://auislandora.wrlc.org/islandora/object/tesolworkingpapers%3A26; accessed September 1, 2015)