Communicative intentions and commitments

Fabrizio Macagno, Douglas Walton

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


This chapter analyzes the notion of commitment and shows how speakers’ commitments can be reconstructed. To this purpose, some models of utterance interpretation and the notions of speaker’s intention and dialogue acts will be discussed. A commitment is a dialogical obligation, a responsibility of the speaker for the intended effects of his utterance. We begin by attempting to use the concepts of speech acts and illocutionary forces and the theories developed on these subjects, and show how they cannot offer the capability to build an accurate reconstruction of the speakers’ commitments. Our proposal instead starts from using the context as evidence for a reconstruction and regards utterances as dialogue moves. We portray them as actions performed in a specific context. Dialogue moves are not merely placed in a context; they constitute the context and cannot be interpreted independent of it. For this reason, the starting point is the shared communicative goal that the interlocutors pursue, and the move is interpreted as a proposal to move the dialogue forward by pursuing a goal. On our theory, the interpretative process is the result of the operation of various presumptions of different types and levels, which are assessed and evaluated.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInterpreting Straw Man Argumentation -
Subtitle of host publicationThe Pragmatics of Quotation and Reporting
Place of PublicationCham
Number of pages30
ISBN (Print)9783319625447
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017
Event1st International Conference in Pragmatics and Philosophy, 2016 - Palermo, Italy
Duration: 16 May 201616 May 2016

Publication series

NamePerspectives in Pragmatics, Philosophy and Psychology
ISSN (Print)2214-3807
ISSN (Electronic)2214-3815


Conference1st International Conference in Pragmatics and Philosophy, 2016


  • Argumentation
  • Commitments
  • Dialogue moves
  • Discourse analysis
  • Interpretation
  • Pragmatics
  • Quotation


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