Promising is a commissive speech act whose illocutionary force is that the speaker promises to do a future action to the benefit of a hearer by expressing its proposition (e.g., a promise) to the hearer (Searle, 1969). By promising, the speaker commits to doing this future action. Specifically, Searle (1969: 57-61) states nine conditions in total must be met in order for a promise to be successfully executed, which are paraphrased below:
1. The speaker and hearer must understand the language and the commitment meant by the speech act (i.e., it is not committed in a joking manner).
2. The speaker expresses the proposition.
3. The utterance of a promising speech act predicates a future action to be done by the speaker and no one else.
4. Under the preparatory condition, the hearer wants the promised future action done for them, and the hearer is aware of this desire.
5. Also under the preparatory condition, it is not obvious that the future action would have been done by the speaker prior to the act of promising.
6. The speaker intends to the future action under the sincerity condition, and he or she believes that the said action is possible for them to commit.
7. The speakers understands that the utterance of a promise will place him or her under obligation to commit the future, promised action under the essential condition.
8. The utterance of a promise is a semantic sign that transmits and expresses the intended promise, which is understood by the hearer as such.
9. The promise is correctly and sincerely uttered if and only if all other conditions are held.
With respect to its structure, previous researchers have proposed that promises have four primary types: direct, evasive, satirical, and conditional promises (Lyons, 1997; Kamel Al-Omari & Abu-Melhim, 2013; Nasser Saeidi, Yazdani Moghaddam, & Gharagozlou, 2014).
Additionally, Searle distinquishes between two IFIDs for promising: direct and indirect. The direct delivery of a promise contains the formula I promise that.., whereas evasive, satirical, and conditional promises represent indirect deliveries of a promise. Indirect strategies are also characterized by grammatical mood such as the imperative or conditional. Typically, direct promising predominates indirect strategies.
ExamplesIndirect promises using future tense:
"I'll come to the ceremony."
Direct promise using performative verb:
"I promise to help you with your homework." (Wang & Chen, 2014)