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Volume 31, 2014

Language and Value

William B. Starr
Pages 160-181

Mood, Force and Truth

There is a big difference between saying Maya is singing, Is Maya singing? and Sing Maya! This paper examines and criticizes two attempts to rigorously explain this difference: Searle’s speech act theory and the truth-conditional reductionism advocated by Davidson and Lewis. On the speech act analysis, each utterance contains a marker which says what kind of speech act the utterance counts as performing. The truth-conditional reductionists try to reanalyze the non-declaratives (Is Maya singing? and Sing Maya!) as complex declarative forms. The former analysis fails to recognize the indirect relationship between sentence (or clause) type and utterance force. The latter analysis fails to recognize the distinctive and thoroughly compositional contribution that the imperative, interrogative and declarative mood make to sentences containing them.

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