In problem solving and decision making discussions, proposals and suggestions are crucial elements
of the interaction. In analysis it is not a straightforward task to identify the acts of 'suggesting'.
Traditional speech act typologies are inadequate because they tend to assume that categorical
boundaries exist between different act types. In this thesis, therefore, I first establish a method of
identifying SUGGESTIONS. I suggest that we use a system network in which different copattemings of
paradigmatic choices constitute different types of directive acts. From the potential choices in the
network, SUGGESTIONS are defined as acts in which the speaker proposes a future action which is
optional and presented as beneficial or desirable to the addressee, the group, or the company in
general (often all three at the same time).
Next, I investigate how these elements, in particular the evaluative meanings of benefit and
desirability, are marked linguistically. The indicators are primarily lexical while some coincide with
modal expressions indicating other modal meanings (e.g. necessity, obligation, ability, etc.). The
modal meanings of benefit/desirability and other modal meanings conflate, modifying the latter in the
process. Meanings of benefit and desirability in lexical choices are generally only recoverable through
reference to textual context (i.e. what previous speakers have said about the topic in question) and the
situational context of the speech event (i.e. business meetings and relevant values). Status and tact
influence the constellation of modal meanings.
The values, roles and expectations linked to the speech event also explain the structure and shape of
the chain of suggestions. Studies of other types of speech events have revealed common structural
patterns (e.g. preferred responses to specific acts). The freest parts of meetings (i.e. not the opening,
closing, or reporting sessions) are however characterised by a lack of such structure. Surprisingly
often a SUGGESTION is not met by a direct evaluation of the SUGGESTION but just with another
speaker's SUGGESTION. It turns out that what structures the discussions, instead, are values
recoverable from the textual context which is itself anchored in the situational context. In other words,
evaluative meanings of benefit/desirability, which are formulated by speakers, are based on values
from the business culture. These values link up the contributions made by speakers across the entire
meeting (or series of meetings) and create coherence. Interpersonal meaning is thus involved in
coherence and text building; a textual function is derived from the interpersonal function.