The Speech Acts Dataset is designed to annotate sentences in an attempt to capture the volition or intent of the speaker/writer. When humans speak or write, the information conveyed by the speaker has an intended purpose. That is, we “do” things with language when we speak and write. This annotation captures the intentions (what is being done) of the speaker or writer. For example, a pastor can utter the short sentence “I pronounce you husband and wife,” and create a new social reality for those involved. This utterance is a Declarative Speech Act whereby a new social reality is created by the utterance (see below for more detail). This is the case with every utterance. We are always doing something with our words when we speak: We make a request of someone, we promise to do something, we express gratitude, we state a belief, etc.
The Speech Act Dataset uses a simple taxonomy of Speech-Act categories which has been rigorously established through linguistic research in the field of Pragmatics. This taxonomy is simplified in order to retain searchability. For example, when Jesus prays “Give us our daily portion of bread” in Matt. 6:10, he is making a request of God, and a request is a type ofDirective Speech Act. In the same way, when Jesus says “Do not store up for yourself treasures on Earth” in Matt. 6:19, he is uttering a command to his followers, and a command is also a type of Directive Speech Act (see below for more detail).