n the society we live in, it is a social affair which creates and further determines our position in all kinds of different social networks and institutions.
It happens that in some conditions, we are literally contingent on language’s applicable and appropriate usage and there are also moments when we require to be understood quite accurately, without any fault or error. It is actually pertained into almost all human activity fields and probably that is the reason why language and linguistic communication have become a widely discussed topic among linguists, lawyers, psychologists and philosophers.
2.2. Speech Acts
People always do not just produce utterances which involve grammatical structures and words, but also they try to carry out actions along with those utterances, in a seek to convey meanings. In this case, John Austin (1962) at first presented Speech Act Theory and the person who further elaborated it from the key and rudimentary principle that language is used to carry out actions was John Searle (1968). Afterwards, Speech Act Theory has become influential not only within philosophy, but also in linguistics, literary theory, psychology and many other scholarly disciplines (Green, 2010). Austin (1962) introduced a novel picture of examining meaning; meaning is described in a relation among linguistic conventions correlated with words/sentences, the situation where the speaker actually says some-thing to the hearer, and associated intentions of the speaker. The idea that meaning subsists among such relations is shown with success by the concept of acts: in uttering a sentence, that is, in applying linguistic conventions, the speaker with an associated intention performs a linguistic act to the hearer. Speech acts play a crucial role in effective communication and thus are essential constituents of sociolinguistic competence to be mastered.
Speech Act Theory, with a world-shattering contribution to interpersonal communication, enhances many scholars to examine and analyze the ways in which people make use of language to come through the social interaction (Bowe & Martin, 2007; Gass & Neu, 1995; Thomas, 2006; Vanderveken, 2009).
Wittgenstein and Austin laid the foundations for Speech act theory. John Searle is most often associated with the theory. Ludwig Wittgenstein initiated a line of thought called ‘ordinary language philosophy. He believed that the meaning of language is closely related to its actual use. Language, as people use it in everyday life, is a language game since it is comprised of rules. That is to say, people pursue rules to do things with the language.
2.3. Core Assumptions and Statements
As reported by Searle (1976), to apprehend language one must realize the speaker’s intention. After all, language is a deliberate and intentional behavior; it must be handled by like a form of action. Therefore Searle points to statements as speech acts. The speech act is the chief and central unit of language applied to express meaning, an utterance which expresses an intention. Commonly, the speech act is a sentence, still it can be a word or phrase as long as it follows the rules compulsory to achieve the intention. When one speaks, one performs an act. Speech is not only used to denominate something, as a matter of fact, it does something. Speech act emphasizes the purpose of the act altogether. In agreement with Searle, appreciating the speaker’s intention is crucial to capture the meaning. Without the speaker’s intention, it is not possible to understand the words as a speech act. There are four kinds of speech act: utterance acts, propositional acts (referring is a type of propositional act), illocutionary acts (promises, questions and commands) and perlocutionary acts. A perlocutionary act can be adopted to bring forth some behavioral response from the listener. Searle admits that speakers accomplish acts by noticing two rules: constitutive rules or definition rules (create or define new forms of behavior) and regulative or behavior rules (these rules govern types of behavior that already exist).
2.4. Scope and Application
Speech act theory has contributed to the rules outlook in communication since it supplies ground for observing what takes place when speakers use various definition and behavior rules. By the means of examining the rules adopted by each speaker, researchers can better understand the reason why conversational misunderstandings have taken place.
Just as an American language philosopher J.R. Searle mentioned, speaking a language is performing speech acts, acts such as making statements, giving commands, asking questions or making promises. Searle posits that all linguistic communication includes linguistic acts. That is to say, speech acts are the rudimentary or minimal units of linguistic communication (1976, 16). They are not just artificial linguistic constructs, their understanding along with the acquaintance of context in which they are performed are frequently important for decoding the whole utterance and its appropriate meaning. The speech acts are applied in standard quotidian exchanges along with jokes or drama for instance.
The problem of speech acts was established by another American language philosopher J.L. Austin (1962). His observations were delivered at Harvard University in 1955 as the William James Lectures which were posthumously published in his famous book How to Do Things with Words. It is Austin who presents elementary terms and areas to study and tells the difference between locutionary, illocutionary and perlocutionary acts. As Lyons mentions: Austin’s outstanding aim was to challenge the view that the mere philosophically (and also linguistically) appealing function of language was making true or false statements (as cited in Lyons, 1981). Austin affirms that there are assuredly more functions language can practice. The theory of speech acts hence comes to being and Austin’s research becomes a keystone for his followers.
2.5. The Performatives
It is Austin who presents fundamental terms and areas to study and he offers a current category of utterances – the performatives.
Performatives, within the theory of speech acts, are historically the first speech acts to be analyzed. Austin (1962) characterizes a performative as an utterance that includes a particular kind of verb (a performative verb) by the power of which it performs an action. By way of explanation, in applying a performative, a person is not only uttering something but as a matter of fact is doing something (as cited in Wardhaugh, 1992). Austin further explains that a performative, contrary to a constative, cannot be true or false (it can just be felicitous or infelicitous) also it does not describe, report or constant anything. Austin asserts that grammatically, a performative is a first person indicative active sentence in the simple present tense. This criterion is cryptic after all and that is the reason why, in considerations of distinguishing the performative use from other likely uses of first person indicative active pattern, Austin comes out with a hereby test for he identifies that performative verbs exclusively can collocate with this adverb.
1. a. I hereby resign from the post of the President of the Czech Republic.
b. I hereby get up at seven o’clock in the morning every day.
While uttering the second sentence would be rather strange, the first one would make sense under particular conditions. So it can be concluded that (a) is a performative, while (b) is not.
So Austin distinguishes two groups of explicit and implicit performatives, while drawing a chief distinction between them.
2.5.1. Explicit and Implicit Performatives
An explicit performative is one in which the utterance message includes an expression which causes explicit what kind of act is being performed (Lyons, 1981, p. 175). An explicit performative contains a performative verb and thus chiefly, as Thomas (1995, p. 47) p
osits, can be considered to be a mechanism that permits the speaker to cut out any potential of getting the wrong idea and misunderstanding the force behind an utterance.
2. a. I order you to leave.
b. Will you leave?
In the first example, the speaker declares a sentence with an imperative proposition and the goal is making the hearer leave the place. The speaker uses a performative verb and therefore entirely prevents any feasible misunderstanding. The message is fairly clear here.
The second sentence (2b) is somehow ambiguous when it is not placed in an appropriate context. It can be understood in two ways: a yes/no question (as taken literally), or as an indirect request or even command to leave (non-literally). The addressee can become confused and he may not be able to always decode the speaker’s intention favorably. This utterance is called an implicit or primary performative. According to the above definition and Lyon’s assumption, this utterance is considered as non-explicit, since there is no expression in the meaning itself to make explicit the fact that this is to be taken as a request rather than a yes/no question (Lyons, 1981,p. 176).
The explicit and implicit versions of utterance are not the same. Stating a command in the explicit performative version has much greater serious effect than the implicit version utterance (Yule, 1996: 52). Thomas adds that people as a result often prevent using an explicit performative since in many conditions it seems to indicate a diverse power relationship or specific set of rights on the part of the speaker (1995, p. 48). This can be clearly seen in the following examples:
3. a. Speak. Who began this? On thy love, I charge thee. (Othello, 2.3.177)
b. I dub thee knight.
In (3a) Othello says to his ensign Iago and questions him who begins a current fight. Othello approaches Iago from strength and power position and hence he applies the explicit performative ‘I charge thee’. Iago comprehends what is being communicated and cautiously clarifies that he does not know who had initiated it.
The situation is completely different in (3b). Here it is rather the specific set of rights on speaker’s part that enable him to use an explicit performative. Dubbing was the ceremony whereby the candidate’s initiation into knighthood was completed. Only the king or any entitled seigneur could accomplish it, who should strike the candidate first upon the left shoulder, next upon the right shoulder and finally upon the top of the head, three times with the flax of the blade, while saying I dub thee once.. I dub thee twice…I dub thee Knight.
When the knight gained spurs and a belt as indications of chivalry, the ceremony was completed. Levinson (1983, p. 230) affirms that ‘performative sentences achieve their corresponding actions because there are specific conventions linking the words to institutional procedures’. The institutional procedures are not always equivalent, they are distinct significantly in various historical periods and cultures. Austin declares that it is significant for the procedure and the performative to be attained in proper circumstances so that to be successful.
Shiffrin, explaining Austin’s observations, mentions that:
“The circumstances allowing an act are varied: they include the existence of ‘an accepted conventional procedure having a certain conventional effect’, the presence of ‘particular persons and circumstances’, ‘the correct and complete execution of a procedure’, and (when appropriate to the act) ‘certain thoughts, feelings, or intentions’.” (1994, p. 51), These circumstances are more often called felicity conditions.
2.6. Felicity Conditions
Austin proposes the term of felicity conditions and defines the conditions as follows (Austin, 1962, p. 14-15):
A. There must be an acknowledged conventional and common procedure having a specific conventional effect, that