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What is a Speech Act?

A speech act is an utterance that serves a function in communication. We perform speech acts when we
offer an apology, greeting, request, complaint, invitation, compliment, or refusal. A speech act might contain
just one word, as in "Sorry!" to perform an apology, or several words or sentences: "Im sorry I forgot your
birthday. I just let it slip my mind." Speech acts include real-life interactions and require not only
knowledge of the language but also appropriate use of that language within a given culture.
Here are some examples of speech acts we use or hear every day:

"Hi, Eric. How are things going?"


"Could you pass me the mashed potatoes, please?"

Complaint: "Ive already been waiting three weeks for the computer, and I was told it would be delivered
within a week."

"Were having some people over Saturday evening and wanted to know if youd like to join

"Hey, I really like your tie!"

"Oh, Id love to see that movie with you but this Friday just isnt going to work."

Speech acts are difficult to perform in a second language because learners may not know the idiomatic
expressions or cultural norms in the second language or they may transfer their first language rules and
conventions into the second language, assuming that such rules are universal. Because the natural tendency
for language learners is to fall back on what they know to be appropriate in their first language, it is
important that these learners understand exactly what they do in that first language in order to be able to
recognize what is transferable to other languages. Something that works in English might not transfer in
meaning when translated into the second language. For example, the following remark as uttered by a
native English speaker could easily be misinterpreted by a native Chinese hearer:
Sarah: "I couldnt agree with you more. "
Cheng: "Hmmm." (Thinking: "She couldnt agree with me? I thought she liked my idea!")
An example of potential misunderstanding for an American learner of Japanese would be what is said by a
dinner guest in Japan to thank the host. For the invitation and the meal the guests may well apologize a
number of times in addition to using an expression of gratitude (arigatou gosaimasu) -- for instance, for the
intrusion into the private home (sumimasen ojama shimasu), the commotion that they are causing by
getting up from the table (shitsurei shimasu), and also for the fact that they put their host out since they
had to cook the meal, serve it, and will have to do the dishes once the guests have left (sumimasen).
American guests might think this to be rude or inappropriate and choose to compliment the host on the
wonderful food and festive atmosphere, or thank the host for inviting them, unaware of the social
conventions involved in performing such a speech act in Japanese. Although such compliments or expression
of thanks are also appropriate in Japanese, they are hardly enough for native speakers of Japanese -- not
without a few apologies!

Speech Events
Interpretive Speeches
In all interpretive events, competitors write, or select and analyze literature, then bring it to life through
the creative use of voice, movement, and facial expression, without the aid of costumes or props. (Please
Note: Dramatic Interpretation is allowed a single prop for the 2013-14 season.)

Dramatic Interpretation

Duo Interpretation

Humorous Interpretation

Open Interpretation

Limited Preparation Speeches

Competitors get a limited time to prepare for a speech on a topic that is given to them at the speech
event. Preparation before the tournament is described in the event rules.


Extemporaneous Speaking

Mars Hill Impromptu

Platform Speeches
A prepared speech, written by the competitor with the purpose of informing, exposing, or persuading on
a topic.

Expository Speaking

Original Oratory

Persuasive Speaking

Wild Card Event Speeches

New and unique speech events that are offered on a two year rotation meant to challenge competitors in
their preparation and presentation skills.

Broadcasting 2013-2015

Storytelling 2012-2014

Break-Out Event

Impromptu Speaking

A Break-Out Event at NITOC means that all students who do not break (advance beyond Preliminary
Rounds of competition) will be eligible to compete in Impromptu Speaking. This option allows students to

continue to compete at the National Championships when they would previously have been eliminated.
Impromptu will have Preliminary Rounds and Outrounds. Impromptu Speaking awards will be presented
alongside the other events at the Awards Ceremony.
All speech files are grouped together here for easier access. Files for all events may also be found on
each individual event page.
Speech Events
There are a total of 11 speech events that are divided into three categories: Prepared speeches,
Extemporaneous speaking, and Interpretations. Students typically use the same speech all year with the
exception of extemporaneous speeches.
Prepared Speech Events: The following are to be written and memorized and are between 8-10 minutes
Original Oratory (OO)
It is on any chosen topic and is persuasive. Avoid controversial or overdone subjects, and find interesting
approaches to your topic. This speech is a mix between narratives that provide illustrations or lighthearted relief, and factual information from reliable sources. Examples of OO topics are "The Vertically
Challenged," "Fantasy Literature," "Sleep Deprivation."
Original Advocacy (OA)
This speech informs the audience of a particular social problem and calls for legislative action to solve
this problem. It is more factual as it needs to prove the relevance and significance of the problem and
advocates what should be done and how the proposed solution will benefit society. Imagine that you
are delivering this speech to a governing board. Again, avoid topics that are too controversial or
overdone. Near the end of your speech you will need an "I advocate" statement.
Expository (EXPOS)
This is an informative speech on topics more interesting and tangible. It informs the audience and is
almost conversational in nature. It is like giving a presentation about a topic to your coworkers during a
business meeting. Participants will need to make professional and interesting posters to display on an
easel throughout the duration of the speech. This is the only speech in which props are allowed.
Examples of topics are Body Language, The Toilet, and Subliminal Messages.
Original Prose and Poetry (OPP)
This is a speech that the author writes to tell a story. It can be in the form of a poem, play or prose.
Better OPPs have several characters and a plot that keeps the audience engaged. This requires more
acting and can be either serious or humorous in nature.

Extemporaneous Events: The following are unwritten and spur-of-the-moment.
Impromptu (IMP)
Students are given three topics and are allowed to pick only one. They are then given two minutes to
prepare a five minute speech. Impromtus are more relaxed in nature and students are judged on their
ability to speak for five minutes in an organized fashion, combining elements of wit and concrete
information that is new and different.
Extemporaneous (NX or FX)
These two events involve the discussion of current events, either on National (U.S) topics or Foreign
(International) topics. At most tournaments students can decide which category to enter in; however,
some tournaments are combined national and international. Again, students pick three topics and
choose one. They then have 30 minutes of prep time to consult magazines and organize an outline, and
have 7 minutes to speak. Topics are political in nature and students will have to cite several sources in
their speech.
Interpretation: The following are only memorized and are between 8-10 minutes in length. All pieces
must be published works and delivery of the speech relies heavily on acting and several
characterizations. No costumes or props are allowed.
Dramatic Interpretation (DI)
This event requires students to find an emotional piece of published literature. Soliloquies and
monologues tend to be poor choices; students need to show off their skills in having 2 or more
Humorous Interpretation (HI)
Similar to a DI, the only difference in this event is that the piece must be humorous. Participants need to
be unafraid of making fools out of themselves!

Duo Interpretation (DUO)

Use any dramatic or humorous piece of literature that is written for 2 people. Each person may only play
one character, but both are required to perform. Participants cannot make any physical contact during
the speech but should have actions that coincide.
Thematic Interpretation (TI)
A selection of three or more published readings related to one theme. They may be from the same or
different author(s). The theme may be humorous, dramatic, or poetic and the three pieces usually

alternate between serious and humorous or vice versa. Students interpret any three pieces with one
theme or motif and write their own transitions. The best have diversity and variety and find a theme
that is not common. The pieces are put into a thin black binder and while the speech is memorized,
students deliver the selections with the binder open and held by one hand.
Oratorical Interpretation (OI)
This must be from a speech that has been published AND delivered originally by a real person. It should
be delivered to recreate the meaning that the original person intended. The total effect should carry the
listener away to the time and place of the speech.