Sounding entitled

There’s nothing inherently wrong with being entitled. A worker is entitled to a paycheck; a customer is entitled to the goods they’ve paid for; all of us are entitled to certain inalienable human rights[1]. So why is “entitled” usually used as an insult? When someone says that somebody else is “acting entitled”, what they really … Continue reading Sounding entitled

“You Got Heat?”: Indirect speech acts in The Wire

Language is full of ambiguity. This fuzziness is often cited as a sign of imperfection, leading some to try to develop more precise languages of their own[1]. But ambiguity actually serves a purpose, and is frequently exploited in human interactions. Part of recognizing the utility of ambiguity requires understanding that language is more than just … Continue reading “You Got Heat?”: Indirect speech acts in The Wire

The Interpretation of Indirect Speech Acts

In a previous post, I raised the problem of indirect speech acts – utterances in which the literal interpretation differs from the speaker’s intended meaning. These are interesting for two reasons: They’re an example of successful people communicating and interpreting nonliteral meaning, and thus would seem to involve the use of some inference mechanism. As … Continue reading The Interpretation of Indirect Speech Acts