Performative Utterances: Seven Puzzles

Lodz Papers in Pragmatics 3:3-21 (2007)
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Performative Utterances: Seven Puzzles It was John Austin who introduced the word "performative" into the philosophy of language and linguistics. His original idea was that there are utterances which are more correctly characterized as doing something rather than stating something. Austin wrote: "when I say ‘I do’, I am not reporting on a marriage, I am indulging in it." As is well known, Austin went on to work out this notion of a performative utterance in a number of directions, but in the end the attempt to isolate performatives from constatives failed dramatically, and the idea of viewing language use in terms of the performative-constative dichotomy gave way to the study of speech acts: "The total speech act in the total speech situation is the only actual phenomena which, in the last resort, we are engaged in elucidating." But giving up the performative-constative distinction does not mean giving up theorizing about performatives, and there is a cottage industry in the theory of language devoted to them. We identify seven puzzles for theorizing about performatives. We consider how Austin might have dealt with some of them. Finding his answers problematic, we then survey recent theories of performatives and zoom in on the major contenders, identifying one theory in particular for scrutiny and seeing how it fares with the seven puzzles. The upshot is that there is still work to be done understanding performatives.



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Performatives and Imperatives.Anna Brożek - 2011 - European Journal of Analytic Philosophy 7 (2):17-34.

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References found in this work

A reply to my critics.George Edward Moore - 1942 - In Paul Arthur Schilpp (ed.), The Philosophy of G. E. Moore. Open Court.
Intention and convention in speech acts.Peter F. Strawson - 1964 - Philosophical Review 73 (4):439-460.
Performative Utterances.J. L. Austin - 1961 - In J. O. Urmson & G. J. Warnock (eds.), Philosophical Papers. Clarendon Press.
How performatives work.John R. Searle - 1989 - Linguistics and Philosophy 12 (5):535 - 558.

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