On Performative in Legal Discourse

Metalogicon 2:101-112 (2006)

Speech Act Theory has proved useful for classifying utterances, because of its seemingly universal application; on the other hand, legal theorists are interested in speech acts for several reasons, the most important being the fact that the theory helps to explain how the law uses language. In legal language there is a large number of speech acts, and most of them fall under the category of performatives: these do not report about doing something, their utterance actually constitutes performing an action. Because performatives are actions, they cannot be considered to be either true or false but only “felicitous” or “infelicitous". Laws could be considered as types of speech acts, as well as contracts and wills. We can say that in, a very general way, speech act theory is helpful because it permits us to understand legal events from a new perspective: in this paper my attempt is to show that a difference exists between "doing something with words" and "doing something legal with words", and that doing something in speaking in the common language is different from doing it in speaking the legal discourse, since in the legal domain we do not speak to do speech acts, but to carry out legal acts
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