Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
More options …

Lodz Papers in Pragmatics

Founded by Cap, Piotr

Editor-in-Chief: Chilton, Paul / Kopytowska, Monika


CiteScore 2018: 0.79

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2018: 0.197
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2018: 0.787

Online
ISSN
1898-4436
See all formats and pricing
More options …

Performative Utterances: Seven Puzzles

Robert Harnish
Published Online: 2007-07-04 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/v10016-007-0002-y

Performative Utterances: Seven Puzzles

It was John Austin who introduced the word "performative" (which he called "a new and ugly word") 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’ (sc. take this woman to be my lawful wedded wife), 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 (and of a performative expression) in a number of directions, but in the end the attempt to isolate performatives (doings) from constatives (true or false) 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.

Keywords: Austin; constatives; language philosophy; performatives; performativity puzzles

  • Austin, John. "Performative utterances." In Philosophical Papers by John Austin. Oxford: OUP, 1961.Google Scholar

  • Austin, John. Philosophical Papers. Oxford: OUP, 1961.Google Scholar

  • Austin, John. How to Do Things with Words. Oxford: OUP, 1962.Google Scholar

  • Bach, Kent. "Standardization vs conventionalization." Linguistics and Philosophy 18 (1995): 677-686.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Bach, Kent., and Robert M. Harnish. Linguistic Communication and Speech Acts. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1979.Google Scholar

  • Bach, Kent., and Robert M. Harnish. "How performatives really work: a reply to Searle." Linguistics and Philosophy 15 (1992): 93-110.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Barwise, Jon and John Perry. Situations and Attitudes. Cambridge, MA: Bradford/MIT, 1983.Google Scholar

  • Cole, Peter and Jerry Morgan, eds. Syntax and Semantics 3. New York: Academic Press, 1975.Google Scholar

  • Fodor, Jerry and Zenon Pylyshyn. "Connectionism and cognitive architecture." In Connections and Symbols, edited by Steven Pinker and Jacques Mehler, 78-102. Cambridge, MA: Bradford/MIT Press, 1988.Google Scholar

  • Fraser, Bruce. "Hedged performatives." In Syntax and Semantics 3, edited by Peter Cole and Jerry Morgan, 44-68. New York: Academic Press, 1975.Google Scholar

  • Gale, Richard. "Do performative utterances have any constative function?" Journal of Philosophy 5 (1970): 117-121.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Ginet, Carl. "Performativity." Linguistics and Philosophy 3 (1979): 245-265.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Grewendorf, Gunter and Georg Meggle, eds. Speech Acts, Mind and Society. Boston: Kluver, 2002.Google Scholar

  • Harnish, Robert M. "Two consequences of transparent subject position." Philosophical Studies 30 (1976): 11-18.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Harnish, Robert M. "A projection problem for pragmatics." In Syntax and Semantics 9, edited by Frank Heny and Helmut Schnelle, 16-33. New York, Academic Press, 1979.Google Scholar

  • Harnish, Robert M. "Performatives are default reflexive standardized indirect speech acts." Acta Linguistica Hungarica 38 (1988): 83-106.Google Scholar

  • Harnish, Robert M. Review of Francois Recanati (1987), Meaning and Force, Cambridge: CUP. The Philosophical Review April 1991: 297-300.Google Scholar

  • Harnish, Robert M. "Meaning and performatives." In Translation and Meaning, edited by Marcel Thelen and Barbara Lewandowska-Tomaszczyk, 90-111. Maastricht, The Netherlands: Rijkshogeschool, 1991.Google Scholar

  • Harnish, Robert M. "Communicating with proverbs." Communication and Cognition 26 (1993): 16-33.Google Scholar

  • Harnish, Robert M., ed. Basic Topics in the Philosophy of Language. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1994.Google Scholar

  • Harnish, Robert M. "Performatives and standardization: a progress report." Linguistische Berichte 8 (1997): 161-175.Google Scholar

  • Harnish, Robert M. "Are performative utterances declarations?" In Speech Acts, Mind and Society, edited by Gunter Grewendorf and Georg Meggle, 55-76. Boston: Kluver, 2002.Google Scholar

  • Harnish, Robert M. "Performatives as constatives vs declarations: some recent issues." In Seduction, Community, Speech: Festschrift for Herman Parret, edited by Frank Brisard, Michael Meeuwis and Bart Vandenabeele, 26-41. Amsterdam: Benjamins, 2004.Google Scholar

  • Lewis, David. Convention. Cambridge, MA: HUP, 1969.Google Scholar

  • Moore, George E. "Reply to my critics." In The Philosophy of G. E. Moore, edited by Paul Schilpp, 112-136. Chicago: Northwestern University Press, 1942.Google Scholar

  • Moore, George E. "Russell's theory of descriptions." In The Philosophy of Bertrand Russell, edited by Paul Schilpp, 80-99. Chicago: Northwestern University Press, 1944.Google Scholar

  • Recanati, Francois. Meaning and Force: The Pragmatics of Performative Utterances. Cambridge: CUP, 1987.Google Scholar

  • Reimer, Marga. "Performative utterances: a reply to Bach and Harnish." Linguistics and Philosophy 18 (1995): 655-675.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Sadock, Jerrold and Arnold Zwicky. "Speech act distinctions in syntax." In Language Typology and Syntactic Description, edited by Timothy Shopen, 155-196. Cambridge: CUP, 1985.Google Scholar

  • Sampson, Geoffrey. "Pragmatic self verification and performatives." Foundations of Language 7 (1971): 300-302.Google Scholar

  • Schiffer, Stephen. Meaning. Oxford: OUP, 1972.Google Scholar

  • Searle, John. Speech Acts. Cambridge: CUP, 1969.Google Scholar

  • Searle, John. Expression and Meaning. Cambridge: CUP, 1979.Google Scholar

  • Searle, John. Intentionality. Cambridge: CUP, 1983.Google Scholar

  • Searle, John. "How do performatives work?" Linguistics and Philosophy 12 (1989): 535-558.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Searle, John., and Daniel Vanderveken. Foundations of Illocutionary Logic. Cambridge: CUP, 1985.Google Scholar

  • Sperber, Dan and Deirdre Wilson. Relevance: Communication and Cognition. Cambridge, MA: HUP, 1986.Google Scholar

  • Stampe, Dennis. "Meaning and truth in the theory of speech acts." In Syntax and Semantics 3, edited by Peter Cole and Jerry Morgan, 170-198. New York: Academic Press, 1975.Google Scholar

  • Strawson, Peter. "Intention and convention in speech acts." Philosophical Review October 1964: 439-460.Google Scholar

  • Zwicky, Arnold and Jerrold Sadock. "Ambiguity tests and how to fail them." In Syntax and Semantics 4, edited by John Kimball, 21-44. New York: Academic Press, 1975.Google Scholar

About the article


Published Online: 2007-07-04

Published in Print: 2007-01-01


Citation Information: Lodz Papers in Pragmatics, Volume 3, Issue -1, Pages 3–21, ISSN (Online) 1898-4436, ISSN (Print) 1895-6106, DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/v10016-007-0002-y.

Export Citation

This content is open access.

Citing Articles

Here you can find all Crossref-listed publications in which this article is cited. If you would like to receive automatic email messages as soon as this article is cited in other publications, simply activate the “Citation Alert” on the top of this page.

[1]
ASTRID DE WIT, FRANK BRISARD, and MICHAEL MEEUWIS
Language and Cognition, 2018, Volume 10, Number 2, Page 234

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in