Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Definitions of illocutionary speech act

Many define the term "illocutionary act" with reference to examples, saying for example that any speech act (like stating, asking, commanding, promising, and so on) is an illocutionary act. This approach has generally failed to give any useful hints about what traits and elements make up an illocutionary act; that is, what defines such an act. It is also often emphasised that Austin introduced the illocutionary act by means of a contrast with other kinds of acts or aspects of acting: the illocutionary act, he says, is an act performed in saying something, as contrasted with a locutionary act, the act of saying something, and also contrasted with a perlocutionary act, an act performed by saying something. Austin (1975: p.123) eventually abandoned the "in saying" / "by saying" test.
According to the conception adopted by Bach and Harnish in 'Linguistic Communication and Speech Acts' (1979), an illocutionary act is an attempt to communicate, which they analyse as the expression of an attitude. Another conception of an illocutionary act goes back to Schiffer's book 'Meaning' (1972: p.103), in which the illocutionary act is represented as just the act of meaning something.
Based on their essential conditions, and attending to the minimal purpose or intention of the speaker in performing an illocutionary act, Searle (1975) proposes a taxonomy of illocutionary acts into five mutually exclusive and jointly exhaustive classes:
·       Representative or assertive. The speaker becomes committed to the truth of the propositional content.
·       Directive. The speaker tries to get the hearer to act in such a way as to fulfill what is represented by the propositional content.
·       Commissive. The speaker becomes committed to act in the way represented by the propositional content.
·       Expressive. The speaker simply expresses the sincerity condition of the illocutionary act.
·       Declarative. The speaker performs an action just representing herself as performing that action.

See also: