Austin makes the distinction of 3 kinds of acts:
- A locutionary act: performing the act of saying something.
- An illocutionary act: performing the act in saying something.
- A perlocutionary act: performing the act by saying something.
– Locution: S says to H that X (X = words spoken with a certain sense and reference).
– Illocution: In saying X, S asserts that P
– Perlocution: By saying X, S convinces H that P
Varieties of illocutionary function:
Different kinds of degrees of politeness are called for in different situations. At the most general level, illocutionary functions may be classified into the following four types, according to how they relate to the social goal of establishing and maintaining comity:
- Competitive: the illocutionary goal competes with the social goal, f.i: ordering, asking, demanding, begging.
- Convivial: the illocutionary goal coincides with the social goal, f.i: offering, inviting, greeting, thanking, congratulating.
- Collaborative: the illocutionary goal is indifferent to the social goal, f.i: asserting, reporting, announcing, instructing.
- Conflictive: the illocutionary goal conflicts with the social goal, f.i: threatening, accusing, cursing, reprimanding.
Of these, the first two types are the ones which chiefly involve politeness.
- Where the illocutionary function is competitive, the politeness is of a negative character, and its purpose is to reduce the discord implicit in the competition between what S wants to achieve and what is good manners. They are essentially discourteous.
- The second type, that of convivial functions is on the contrary intrinsically courteous. Politeness takes here a more positive form.
- In the third category are collaborative illocutionary functions for which politeness is largely irrelevant. Most written discourse comes into this category.
- In the fourth category of conflictive functions, politeness is out of the question, because conflictive illocutions are designed to cause offence.
Searle´s categories of illocutionary acts:
The above classification is based on functions, whereas Searle´s classification of illocutionary acts is based on varied criteria.
- Assertives: commit S to the truth of the expressed proposition: stating, suggesting, boasting, complaining, claiming, reporting. Such illocutions tend to be neutral as regards politeness, that is, they belong to the collaborative category.
- Directives: Are intended to produce some effect through action by the hearer: ordering, commanding, requesting, advising, recommending. They frequently belong to the competitive category and therefore comprise a category of illocutions in which negative politeness is important. On the other hand, some directives are intrinsically polite.
- Comissives: Commit S to a greater or lesser degree to some future action f.i: promising, vowing, offering. These tend to be convivial, being performed in the interests of someone other than the speaker.
- Expressives: Have the function of expressing or making known the speaker´s psychological attitude towards a state of affairs which the illocution presupposes: thanking, congratulating, pardoning, blaming, praising, condoling. They tend to be convivial and therefore intrinsically polite.
- Declarations: Are illocutions whose successful performance brings about the correspondence between the propositional content and reality f.i: resigning, dismissing, christening, appointing, sentencing. In this, these actions are, according to Searle a very special category of speech acts: they are performed by someone who is specially authorized to do so within some institutional framework f.i: judges sentencing offenders, ministers of religion christening babies, dignitaries naming ships.
Politeness is not relevant to declarations because they do not have and addressee. The person who makes a declaration uses language as an outward sign that some institutional (social, religious, legal etc.) action is performed.
As Searle´s category go, negative politeness belongs to preeminently to the directive class, while positive politeness is found to pre-eminently in the commisive and expressive classes.
The speech-act theories of Austin and Searle:
The original idea in Austin´s How to do things with words (1962) was that performative utterances (performatives) are fundamentally different from constative (or descriptive) utterances. Whereas constative utterances could be evaluated in traditional terms of truth or falsehood, performatives were neither true nor false, instead they were regarded as felicitous or non felicitous.
Austin makes a difference between explicit performatives such as:
– I promise that I shall be there
or primary performatives (or primary utterances) such as:
– I shall be there
Austin says that in all regular utterances, whether they have a performative verb or not, there is both a doing element and a saying element and this led him to shift to a distinction between locutionary acts (roughly equivalent to uttering a certain sentence with acertain sense and reference) and illocutionary acts (utterances which have a certain force) and to supplement these categories with the further category of perlocutionary acts (what we bring about or achieve by saying something).
The principle of expressability says that it is always possible to elucidate the illocutionary force of an utterance by prefixing an appropriate performative. The illocutionary force may be expressed by a number of illocutionary-force indicating devices including intonation, punctuation etc. as well as performative verbs.
Speech-act verbs in English:
- Illocutionary: report, announce, predict, admit, opine, ask, reprimand, request, suggest, order, propose, express, congratulate, promise, thank, exhort.
- Perlocutionary: bring someone to learn that, persuade, deceive, encourage, irritate, frighten, amuse, get someone to do, inspire, impress, distract, get someone to think about, relieve tension, embarrass, attract attention, bore, comvience.
Classifying illocutionary verbs:
- Assertive verbs: normally occur in the construction: “S verb that X” f.i: affirm, allege, assert, forecast, predict, announce, insist.
- Directive verbs: normally occur in the construction: “S verb (O) that X” or “S verb O to Y” (Y= infinitive clause) f.i: ask, beg, bid, command, demand, forbid, recommend, request.
- Comissive verbs: normally occur in the construction: “S verb that X” or “S verb to Y” f.i: offer, promise, swear, vow.
- Expressive verbs: normally occur in the construction: “S verb (prep) (O) (prep) Xn (abstract noun phrase or a gerundive phrase)” f.i: apologize, commiserate, congratulate, pardon thank.
- Declarations: They are conventional speech acts and device their force from the part they play in a ritual. In any event, most of the verbs associated with declarations (such as adjourn, veto, sentence and baptize) essentially describe social acts
So Searle´s first four categories will provide with the nucleus of the set of English illocutionary verbs.
One of the contents in the syllabuses of he different years of the Official Language School are intentions and speech acts:
- Social contact: greetings, introductions, establishment of social contact, offers and expressions of excuses, desires, thanks.
- Influence exerted on other people: orders, warnings, advice, requests.
- Intellectual appreciation: approval, disapproval, comparison, election, preference, indifference.
- Affective appreciation: satisfaction, gratitude, deception, regret.
- Information: Giving information, asking for information on events, objective data.
- Discussion: agreement, disagreement, argumentation, expression of cause, consequence, purpose, condition, hypothesis.