The pragmatic structure of refusal

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Abstract

This paper sets out to unpack the pragmatic structure of refusal – its illocutionary nature, success conditions, and normative effects. I argue that our ordinary concept of refusal captures a whole family of illocutions, comprising acts such as rejecting, declining, and the like, which share the property of being ‘negative second-turn illocutions’. Only proper refusals (i.e. negative replies to permission requests), I submit, require speaker authority. I construe the ‘refusal family’ as a subclass of the directives-commissives intersection. After defending my view against a number of potential objections, I highlight how a theoretically grounded analysis of refusal is not only of intrinsic value, but may also have significant moral and legal implications.

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Keywords
Refusal, Speech acts, Second-person calls, Requests for permission, Speaker authority, Consent
Journal Title
Synthese
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Journal ISSN
0039-7857
1573-0964
Volume Title
201
Publisher
Springer