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declarations: - speech acts that change the world via their utterance

- the speaker has to have a special institutional role, in a specific situation

Priest: I now pronounce you husband and wife

Referee: You're out

Jury Foreman: We find the defendant guilty

􀀾 the speaker changes the world via words

representatives:- speech acts that state what the speaker believes to be the case or not

- statements of fact, assertions, conclusions and descriptions are all

examples of the speaker representing the world as he/she believes it is

The earth is flat

Chomsky didn't write about peanuts

It was a warm sunny day

􀀾 the speaker makes words fit the world (of belief)

expressives: - speech acts that state what the speaker feels

- they express psychological states and can be statements of pleasure, pain,

likes, dislikes, joy, sorrow ...

I'm really sorry


Oh yes, great, mmmmm!!

􀀾 the speaker makes words fit the world (of feeling)


directives: - speech acts that speakers use to get someone else to do something

- they express what the speaker wants, they are commands, orders, requests,

suggestions and can be positive or negative

Gimme a cup of coffe. Make it black

Could you lend me a pen, please?

Don't touch that

􀀾 the speaker attempts to make the world fit the words via the hearer

commissives: - speech acts that speaker use to commit themselves to some future action

- they express what the speaker intends, they are promises, threats, refusals, pledges

- they can be performed by the speaker alone, or by as a member of a group

I'll be back

I'm going to get it right next time

We will not do that

􀀾 the speaker undertakes to make the world fit the words via the speaker

Speech acts

NATURE: Speech act is a technical term in linguistics and the philosophy of language. The contemporary use of the term goes back to John L. Austin's doctrine of locutionary, illocutionary, and perlocutionary acts. Speech acts are commonly taken to include such acts as promising, ordering, greeting, warning, inviting and congratulating.

The philosopher J.L. Austin (1911-1960) claims that many utterances (things people say) are equivalent to actions. When someone says: “I name this ship” or “I now pronounce you man and wife”, the utterance creates a new social or psychological reality. We can add many more examples:

Sergeant Major: Squad, by the left… left turn!

Referee: (Pointing to the centre circle) Goal!

Groom: With this ring, I thee wed.

Speech act theory broadly explains these utterances as having three parts or aspects: locutionary, illocutionary and perlocutionary acts.

Locutionary acts are simply the speech acts that have taken place. Illocutionary acts are the real actions which are performed by the utterance, where saying equals doing, as in betting, plighting one’s troth, welcoming and warning. Perlocutionary acts are the effects of the utterance on the listener, who accepts the bet or pledge of marriage, is welcomed or warned.

Some linguists have attempted to classify illocutionary acts into a number of categories or types. David Crystal, quoting J.R. Searle, gives five such categories: representatives, directives, commissives, expressives and declarations. (Perhaps he would have preferred declaratives, but this term was already taken as a description of a kind of sentence that expresses a statement.)

Representatives – here the speaker asserts a proposition to be true, using such verbs as: affirm, believe, conclude, deny, report

Directives – here the speaker tries to make the hearer do something, with such words as: ask, beg, challenge, command, dare, invite, insist, request

Commissives – here the speaker commits himself (or herself) to a (future) course of action, with verbs such as: guarantee, pledge, promise, swear, vow, undertake

Expressives – the speaker expresses an attitude to or about a state of affairs, using such verbs as: apologize, appreciate, congratulate, deplore, detest, regret, thank, welcome

Declarations – the speaker alters the external status or condition of an object or situation, solely by making the utterance: I now pronounce you man and wife, I sentence you to be hanged by the neck until you be dead, I name this ship “Titanic”.


These are speech acts of a special kind where the utterance of the right words by the right person in the right situation effectively is (or accomplishes) the social act. In some cases, the speech must be accompanied by a ceremonial or ritual action. Whether the speaker in fact has the social or legal (or other kind of) standing to accomplish the act depends on some things beyond the mere speaking of the words. These are felicity conditions, which we can also explain by the “hereby” test. But let’s look, first, at some examples.

Date: 2015-12-18; view: 769

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