Rong Chen, Chunmei Hu, Lin He
August 10, 2013
In this study, we propose a preliminary pragmatic definition for the speech act of lying and test it via a questionnaire survey among a group of American English speakers and a comparable group of Chinese speakers. This definition contains a necessary condition of untruth followed by three elements cast as continuums: the concealment continuum (the degree to which the untruth of the assertion is intended to be concealed), the self-benefit continuum (the degree to which the untrue assertion benefits self), and the other-benefit continuum (the degree to which the untruth benefits other). As a result, lying is understood as a scalar, rather than a bivalent, notion. While we do not claim that our definition will have universal applicability, we believe that it offers a point of departure for further research on a topic that seems to have fascinated philosophers and pragmaticists alike for decades.