Dissertation > Literature > Chinese Literature > The body of literature reviews and research > Dramatic literature > Drama

A Metonymic Study on Directive Speech Acts in Thunderstorm

Author CaoMeiLing
Tutor FanXianLong
School Central South University
Course Foreign Linguistics and Applied Linguistics
Keywords directive speech acts Thunderstorm speech act metonymy directive structures
CLC I207.34
Type Master's thesis
Year 2010
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Directive speech acts have been studies more than half a century since speech act theory was put foreword by Austin (1962). Achievements in this field have reached a widespread scope and nourished a large number of relevant theories. However, traditional pragmatic theories have some defects in pragmatic inference in terms of directive speech acts, for instance, they fail to give satisfactory explanations as to why the hearer can effortlessly arrive at the intended meaning and also fail to explore the conceptual basis of pragmatic inference (Zhang,2002). The advent of cognitive linguistics broadens people’s horizons on linguistic study. Cognitive linguists generally hold that metonymy and metaphor are more than just linguistic devices and they are seen as ways of understanding and generating utterances. Thornburg & Panther (1997,1998,1999) systematically elaborate on speech act metonymy, which marks the beginning of studying indirect speech acts from both the cognitive and pragmatic perspectives. In their view, speech act metonymy operates within the framework of speech act scenario, which consists of three components:the BEFORE; the CORE and its RESULT; the AFTER. Each component in the scenario is a potential metonymy for the whole scenario. In addition, Metonymic inferential account of speech acts offers the most powerful explanation to understand speech acts.Thunderstorm, a classic work produced by the famous Chinese playwright Cao Yu, marks the height of the Chinese Modern Drama (Sun, 2005), and enjoys high prestige both at home and abroad. Although in-depth researches have been carried out on its theme, characters and dramatic conflicts, the research methods employed in them are usually nonlinguistic. This thesis attempts to interpret directive speech acts in Thunderstorm within the framework of modern cognitive linguistics.Through the interpretation of directive speech acts in light of speech act metonymy, this study finds that the directive structures in Thunderstorm mainly fall into three categories:1) Structure Core; 2) Structure Branches (the presuppositional branch, the motivational branch, and the realization branch); 3) Structure Core+Branches. The first two types are the most frequently adopted structures in Thunderstorm. The motivational branch, one type of structure branches, proves to be the most prevailing structure employed by the main characters in the play. In addition, the present study has explored how the main characters use directive speech act metonymically to arrive at their intended meaning. Furthermore, it discusses how the critical factors, such as social status, immediate context, and cognitive background, exert influence on the main characters’choosing of directive structures and makes a metonymic exploration of their directive speech acts. A particular phenomenon of directive speech acts—speech act type transition, is also illustrated in the study.The interpretation of directive speech acts in Thunderstorm within the framework of speech act metonymy is hopeful to further supplement and enrich pragmatic theories. It can also deepen the understanding of language, as well as the main characters’personalities in literary texts. In addition, metonymic inference based on speech act scenario provides a referential value for better understanding of conversational coherence and pragmatic misunderstanding.

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