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Comissive as a behavioral action: linguistic and cultural features

The paper deals with a problem of speech acts cultural analysis. Structurally and semantically, speech acts have been thoroughly investigated in Pragmalinguistics, but their cultural potential may be a new and interesting direction of studying cultural characteristics of speech. Comissives – speech action types expressing speaker’s intention to commit themselves to certain obligations – are represented by a number of actions, their most common prototype is a promise and their close correlate is a threat. I argue that there are four basic types of promises – habitual, ritual, institutional and containing a guaranty. Habitual promises focus upon the correlation between a given word and its implementation, ritual promises (exemplified by oaths) make the situation sacral and intensify it by concomitant symbolic actions, institutional promises emphasize the agent status, and promises which contain guaranties (usually in legal discourse) concentrate upon the sanctions following the failure to complete obligations. Comissives are given much attention to in proverbs and aphorisms. Two main prescriptions relating to this behavioral action may be singled out: the first are addressed to promisers and the second to promisees. Promisers according to collective norms of behavior should be responsible for their words, and promisees are recommended not to trust easily any promise given to them.


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