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Lodz Papers in Pragmatics

Founded by Cap, Piotr

Editor-in-Chief: Chilton, Paul / Kopytowska, Monika

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On Pragmatics, Exercitive Speech Acts and Pornography

Mary McGowan
Published Online: 2009-04-30 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/v10016-009-0002-1

On Pragmatics, Exercitive Speech Acts and Pornography

Suppose that a suspect being questioned by the police says, "I think I'd better talk to a lawyer." Whether that suspect has invoked her right to an attorney depends on which particular speech act(s) her utterance is. If she is merely thinking aloud about what she ought to do, then she has not invoked that right. If, on the other hand, she has thereby requested a lawyer, she has. Similarly, suppose that an unhappily married man says "I want my wife dead." Whether he has thereby solicited his wife's murder depends on which particular speech act(s) his utterance is. If he is merely describing his desires, he has committed no crime. If, by contrast, he has thereby hired an assassin, he has. As one can see, experts on speech acts (e.g. philosophers, linguists, psychologists and sociologists) have a lot to say about various issues in the law.

I believe that expertise in speech act theory also illuminates various issues regarding free speech. In what follows, we consider how speech act theory may apply to certain arguments regarding the free speech status of pornography. In particular, we consider several speech act accounts of MacKinnon's claim that pornography subordinates women, but, before turning to such accounts, some background is offered.

Keywords: Pragmatics; pornography; speech acts; conversational exercitives

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About the article

Published Online: 2009-04-30

Published in Print: 2009-01-01

Citation Information: Lodz Papers in Pragmatics, Volume 5, Issue 1, Pages 133–155, ISSN (Online) 1898-4436, ISSN (Print) 1895-6106, DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/v10016-009-0002-1.

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