Oh Yeah, That Was Super Sincere: Social Meanings of Congratulatory Speech Acts
This paper explores the under-theorized social meanings of speech acts. I investigate how social meaning attaches to speech acts and how this differs from other kinds of social meanings, which have largely been studied in terms of phonetic, non-denotational variables in sociolinguistics. Further, I examine the extent to which the perceived validity of a speech act performed by two different speakers varies depending on their social categories. I test these questions with a matched guise experiment in a workplace setting where the speech act type, speaker and listener gender, and scenario are varied. I find that the speech act of congratulating has distinct social meanings for all speakers, as well as gendered results which I explain by drawing on broader discussions around which people may legitimately produce certain kinds of speech.