Theory of speech acts

Theory of speech acts

The theory of speech acts is one of the first theories proposed by pragmatics, through which we try to explain what people do when they use language. Austin, while studying the opposition between the realizing and confirming act, realizes that saying is also a type of doing, arguing it as follows: “When we suggest embarking on the task of making a list of explicit realizing verbs, we find certain difficulties in determining whether or not an expression is realized, or, in any case, if it is purely Realizing It seemed appropriate, therefore, to return to fundamental questions and consider in how many ways it can be said that saying something is doing something, or that when we say something we do something, or even because we say something we do something ”(Austin, p.153). In simple words, Austin says “every statement involves verbal action” (Gil, p. 202). Taking the idea that all expressions of language should consider as acts, Austin postulated that a statement, at the time of its statement, could perform three different functions:

– Locutionary function. This refers to the act of saying itself, that is, to the production of a meaningful statement (with a certain sense and a certain reference) which in turn is approximately equivalent to the “meaning” in the traditional sense. “It can be understood that to say something is to do something or that when we say something we do something and even that because we say something we do something … I call the act of” saying something “to perform a locutionary act (…)” (Austin, p. 138). This act, in turn, is divided into three types of acts:

1) the phonetic act, consists merely in the emission of certain noises;

2) the “phallic” act consists in the emission of certain terms or words, that is, noises of certain types, considered as belonging to a vocabulary;

3) the “rhetorical” act consists in performing the act of using those terms with a certain meaning and reference, more or less defined (Austin, p.139).

On the other hand, a statement can be an illocutionary act. This is an act performed by saying something, for example, making a promise, issuing an order, etc., that is, acts that have a certain (conventional) force: “An illocutionary act (is) carrying out an act by saying something as a different thing from performing the act of saying something. I will refer to the doctrine of the different types of language function that occupy us here, calling it the doctrine of the “illocutionary forces” (Austin, p.144).

Finally, an act can be perlocutionary , that is, the act performed by saying something: persuade someone to do something, move one to anger, and so on: “Perform a locutionary act and, with it, an illocutionary act It can also be an act of another kind. Often, and even normally, saying something will produce certain consequences or effects on the feelings, thoughts or actions of the audience, or of who emits the expression, or of other people. And it is possible that when we say something we do it with the purpose, intention or design of producing such effects (…). We will call the performance of such an act the performance of a perlocutionary or perlocution act ”(Austin, p.145).

In simple words, speech acts are:

–          Elocutive act: it is the physical act of producing a word.

–          Ilocutive act: it is the act that is performed through the issuance of a statement

–          Perlocutive act: it is the effect achieved through elocution and ilocution

Now, the relationship that exists between these speech acts is mainly that without one one cannot produce another, that is, if a word is not pronounced it will not have consequences, therefore, there will be no response by whom “supposedly” receives the message .

On the other hand, we find the approach given by the sociologist Jurgen Habermas who states that “the speakers postulate that their illocution are valid” (Renkema, 39). This means that the ilocution of an individual will be valid when it is true and sincere. Taking into account what was previously proposed, it can be inferred that there is a relationship between form and function, that is, between the elocution and illocution that develops through the knowledge of the world that both partners maintain.

John Searle focused on the ilocutive acts proposed by his teacher Austin, since he considered them to be the most important, because through this act a statement becomes an action.

For Searle, what defines the type of speech act that is being executed at all times does not reside in the meaning of the sentences that are used, but in what is done with them, that is, their compression. The same statement, with a single meaning, can be used to ask, affirm, order, among others.  If we say “You have to be here before 9 am ” I may be giving an order or informing someone, for example to a labor inspector who has been interested in a company’s schedule. From this point of view prescriptions are made, events in the world.

Searle proposes a classification of these acts in the following five classes. This classification is based on the intention of the speech act.

  1. Representatives : The speaker agrees that a comment refers to reality and that it is a fact. For example: affirm, deny, confess, admit, notify etc.
  2. Managers : They try to force the listener to do one thing. For example: Request, request, order, prohibit, advise etc.
  3. Commitments : They force the speaker to do one thing. Promise, swear, offer, guarantee etc.
  4. Expressive : Express the mood of the speaker. Thank, congratulate, condole, welcome, apologize etc.
  5. Declaratives : Change the status of something. Name, baptize, surrender, excommunicate, accuse etc.

By way of conclusion it can be said first that speech acts have varied over time and with the series of studies that have been carried out, and these will depend on the linguistic-theoretician who investigates them. However, the best known and are the consecutive, ilocutive and perlocutionary acts proposed by Austin. On the other hand, it must be affirmed that speech acts (consecutive, illocution and perlocution act) are dependent on each other, since in a conversation a statement can fulfill more than one function at the same time, taking into account that there are conditions and so that The act is fully accomplished. Along with this, it is possible to say that depending on the context in which the interlocutors are, and how each of them complies with certain communication rules, the statements will fulfill the function of informing, declaring, expressing,

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