Date Thesis Awarded


Access Type

Honors Thesis -- Access Restricted On-Campus Only

Degree Name

Bachelors of Arts (BA)




Iyabo Osiapem

Committee Members

Jeremy Pope

Leslie Cochrane


This study uses HBO’s The Wire as a corpus for examining the link between directive speech acts and authority. It looks at all the conversations from the show in which there is a clearly defined superior speaking to an inferior hearer and the distribution of two types of directives in those conversations. The two types of directives analyzed are standard directives (e.g., “Do that thing!”) and obligation statement indirect directives (e.g., “You’re gonna do that thing!”) (Searle, 1965; Searle, 1975a; Blum-Kulka et al., 1989). This paper finds that obligation statements only appear in situations in which the superior speaker and the inferior hearer belong to the same realm depicted in the show (e.g. the police department, a drug ring, a school system, etc.) and argues that this occurs because in those situations, the power of the speaker is mutually agreed upon by both speaker and hearer. In situations in which there is a difference of power but it is not agreed upon by speaker and hearer, obligation statements do not appear, and standard directives are used instead. This study can be situated in the context of speech act research, language and authority research, and research on television shows.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

On-Campus Access Only