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29. Speech Acts


Subject Theoretical Linguistics » Syntax

Key-Topics discourse, speech

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405198820.2012.00031.x


The idea that using language is a form of action has revealed a major source of inspiration for modern thinking. Linguistic utterances are not merely a way to truly describe states of affairs, but can be used to perform various activities, such as request, apologize and promise, among many others: (1) ¿Me prestas un boli? ‘Can I borrow a pen?’ (2) No sabes cuánto lo siento. ‘I am really sorry.’ (3) Allí estaré. ‘I'll be there.’ Similarly, there are actions, such as betting, declaring and condemning, which cannot be carried out unless certain words are uttered: (4) a. Te apuesto 10 €. ‘I bet 10 €.’ b. Declaro inaugurado este congreso. ‘I hereby declare this conference open.’ Some utterances have the power to count as actions: (5) a. Te prometo que estaré allí. ‘I promise to be there.’ b. Te invito a cenar. ‘I invite you for dinner.’ The examples in (5) do not describe a fact, but rather perform an action: just by saying I promise , I am actually making a promise. These are performative utterances. In all these cases, language is a means for creating new states of affairs and introducing changes in the world, including not only the activities and the internal states of the participants, but also the relations among them. Utterances are, thus, speech acts , that is, intentional actions brought about through the interplay of the language faculty with other cognitive ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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