a pragmatic analysis of speech acts in the genre horoscope

1. Introduction
In attempting to express themselves, people do not only produce utterances containing grammatical structures and words, they perform actions via those utterances. (Yule, 1996). That means that when we use language we are not only speaking, telling, saying or writing something. We are also apologizing, complaining, complimenting, inviting, promising or requesting. Speech acts are the actions performed via utterances (e.g. apology, complaint, compliment, invitation, promise, request) and speech events are the circumstances in which these utterances take place. As mentioned before, when we write something we are not only writing, we have a purpose behind that writing and expect that writing to have a certain effect on the readers. Therefore, we can assume that genres “do” something.

What do horoscopes do, for example? This question will be answered in the results and discussion section. And why analyze horoscopes? The choice for this genre was made considering three reasons: presence in history, presence in the western media, and lack of research in the linguistic field. During my TFG research and analysis I found out that horoscopes have been present in the history of mankind for about 4 thousand years and have influenced the behavior and actions of powerful men and women, regulating their behavior. I also discovered that seventy millions of Americans start the day reading their horoscopes in the newspaper, which was the first type of media to publish horoscope columns, in 1930. And finally, I have decided to analyze this genre due to the fact that there are no analyses of the genre horoscope in the linguistic field published until now.

2. Methodology
A corpus of 15 horoscopes for the sign of Aries (my sign) was taken from 5 magazines, 5 newspapers and 5 websites that contain a horoscope or astrology section. These predictions are daily, weekly or monthly, depending on the kind of media and its frequency of publication. This represents half of the original corpus of my TFG. The chosen magazines, newspapers and websites were:

MAGAZINES: Fitness, Cosmo Girl, ELLE, Teen Vogue and Marie Claire. NEWSPAPERS: LA Times, Daily News, NY Post, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune. WEBSITES: www.astrology-online.com , www.tarot.com, www.astro.com, www.astrocenter.com, www.horoscope.com In this analysis I tried to identify the illocutionary acts or forces (functions) present in horoscopes and also classified the speech acts. To do so, I based my work on Yule’s chapter 6 of Pragmatics. 3. Results and discussion

3.1 Speech acts
According to an analysis previously made by myself for my TFG, three steps are found in horoscopes: MOVE1 – Giving advice, MOVE 2 – Analyzing present state of affairs and MOVE 3 – Making predictions. For this present analysis, I analyzed the horoscopes again and confirmed that horoscopes advise, analyze and predict. Here are some examples of the speech acts found:

“Accept that you may face challenges, so that you can better deal with them as they come.” [Teen Vogue] “Gain clarity by taking five minutes to meditate on yourself and what it is you want to change in the coming weeks.” [Teen Vogue] “No one expects you to be perfect, so why expect it of yourself?” [NY Post] You should be making plans to spend some time with the ones you love. [astrology-online.com]

You’ve a sense that your destiny has already been determined, and it has — by you. [LA Times] Love: Real love is unconditional, like the love for a child or a family member. [Daily News] But this is not selfishness on your part, for you are quite capable of being generous and giving to others. You are more openly affectionate than usual and feel real love for the people around you. It is just that this aspect of your life – love, affection and pleasure – is more important to you now than work. [astro.com] You’re in just the right frame of mind for this. Your business sense is at an all-time high, as is your ability to focus on whatever task is at hand. Intuition plays a strong role. [astrocenter.com]

This week will be a trying one. [Teen Vogue]
Setting these intentions will be helpful. [Teen Vogue]
At some stage today you will realize that you have wasted too much time on a project that isn’t going to work. [NY Post] Week ahead: You will want to run your own race, but it’s more productive to be a team player. [Daily News]

3.2 Locutionary acts, illocutionary acts and perlocutionary acts. According to Yule (1996), the locutionary act is the basic act of utterance or producing a meaningful linguistic expression. Therefore, in horoscopes, we can say that this act happens when the author of horoscopes is writing them. However, this author is not writing a horoscope just for the sake of it, he or she has a purpose in producing it. According to Yule (1996), this is the second dimension, the illocutionary act. For horoscopes, writers utter to predict, analyze and advise. However, are readers of horoscopes aware of the illocutionary acts of this genre and the way it can manipulate their behavior? Probably not. The perlocutionary act, which is the effect caused by horoscopes, could not be perceived since we do not know if horoscopes readers actually believe or follow the instructions given by them.

3.3 Speech acts classification
According to Yule (1996), there are five types of general functions performed by speech acts. They are declarations, representatives, expressives, directives and commissives. In the genre horoscopes, two of these types were found: representatives and directives. Here are some examples:


You’ve been running too fast for too long!
The full moon in Capricorn on the 18th means you question how you balance your life. You often oscillate between both ends of the spectrum — you’re either all work, or all play. If there’s any sign out there that’s innately equipped to handle conflict, it’s yours. You’d never admit it, of course, but deep down you actually enjoy it — the thrill and the rush of adrenaline that battle conjures up, that is.

Gently press for more information.
Accept that you may face challenges, so that you can better deal with them as they come. Fighting against how you are feeling will only make the process of moving on more difficult. Gain clarity by taking five minutes to meditate on yourself and what it is you want to change in the coming weeks. During your morning walk, think about how to find a middle ground.

4. Conclusion
As a conclusion, we can affirm that a horoscope is a genre that has as an underlying function: to condition and influence behavior of its readers. Through its advices, analyses and predictions it suggests what the reader should do, makes him or her believe that something is happening in their lives or that they are feeling in a certain way; and makes people believe the things will happen. The locutionary and illocutionary acts of horoscopes are clearly identifiable. However, we do not know the perlocotionary act of horoscopes because we cannot see if the readers actually do as the horoscopes tell them and really believe them.

4.1 Pedagogical implications for ELT
The genre horoscope is very popular and widespread, so I believe it is a very interesting genre to be used in English classes. Most students are familiar this genre and, even if they do not believe horoscopes, they have a certain curiosity to know what is said about them. Therefore, it is a genre that generates some enthusiasm in the students and may promote discussion. I believe the kind analysis done in this paper is interesting and useful because reveals some aspects of horoscopes that teachers and students are probably not aware of. It can also be an interesting tool for teachers when teaching this genre or planning a genre based class. The identification of speech acts can help teachers when teaching the simple future (predictions), modals (advices) and simple present and present continuous (analyses). This analysis can also promote a more critical reading of horoscopes by the students and, therefore, help in the formation of critical subjects.

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