2015_08_02_1 - XLinguae

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Flashback: a Reconsideration of Austin’s Performatives
Zuzana Krinkova

DOI: 10.18355/XL.2015.08.02.2-17

This paper follows on from Austin’s search for a definition of performatives, both from a linguistic as well as a pragmatic point of view. In the first chapter we attempt to describe and examine performative verbs, or performative utterances, based on linguistic criteria. We introduce several new terms, and on the contrary we leave out several of Austin’s terms altogether. We regard performatives as a certain kind of action during whose utterance we are also doing something. For the first time, we characterize social validity (the utterance or non-utterance of a performative is associated with social consequences) and conventional consequential meaning (fixed formula, which are under normal circumstances reached for a particular effect on the addressee, have this meaning). For the primary semantic definition of performatives we established the following sentence, “By saying this, I make or do somehow or something”. Based on this format, we analyzed utterances which Austin considers as being performative. The format proves to be satisfactory but sometimes with a necessary degree of abstraction and free application. For performative verbs we use a verbal language analysis, based on which we found conformity with constative verbs describing doing something somehow. As an additional feature of performative utterances, we determined their dynamic nature (making a performative utterance is accompanied by a transformation which is shown as an effect on the addressee). We separate these utterances into explicit verbs (i.e. containing a verb), implicit verbs (the verb is formally omitted, the verb meaning remains) and nonverbal historically fixed. In a performative utterance the addressee is most often (if not exclusively) the person or persons to whom the utterance is intended, either explicitly - directly or indirectly - or implicitly. In the second chapter, we focus on a search for possible “original” performatives and try to determine their characteristics. We focus on the dichotomy of the future versus performatives and come to the conclusion that the auxiliary verbs used today for expressing the future had their original, specific meaning. By applying the method of etymological analysis, we concluded that the first performatives were associated with specific motion tasks or rituals or with general speech.

Key words 
performatives, pragmatics, etymology, philosophy of language, Austin, Czech, English, German, Romance languages, Hungarian, Chinese

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