Austin’s Speech Act Theory and the Speech Situation
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The talk starts with a question, why do we discuss Austin now? While answering the question, I will (I) present an interpretation of Austin’s speech act theory, (II) discuss speech act theory after Austin, and (III) extend Austin’s speech act theory by developing the concept of the speech situation. And in the following section, three aspects of the speech situation, that is, (I) conventionality, (II) actuality, and (II) intentionality, will be explained. Then a short conclusion follows. 1. Why do we discuss Austin now?
Half a century ago, John Austin gave a series of lectures, the William James Lectures at Harvard, which were published posthumously as a book entitled How to Do Things with Words. Austin presented a new picture of analysing meaning; meaning is described in a relation among linguistic conventions correlated with words/sentences, the situation where the speaker actually says something to the hearer, and associated intentions of the speaker. The idea that meaning exists among these relations is depicted successfully by the concept of acts: in uttering a sentence, that is, in utilizing linguistic conventions, the speaker with an associated intention performs a linguistic act to the hearer. Austin’s analysis of meaning is unique in the sense that meaning is not explained through some forms of reduction.
In reductive theories of meaning, complexities of meaning expressed by a sentence are reduced by a single criterion to something else, and this is claimed to be the process of explaining the meaning of the sentence. We can find this reductive «explanation» of meaning typically in Russell: using a logical/mathematical model, Russell reduces the meaning of a sentence to a fact to which the sentence corresponds. The strictest reductionists are logical positivists. According to Warnock (1969), by «verification principles» logical positivists reduced complexities of sentence meaning to something «verifiable», and condemned an unverifiable sentence as, strictly speaking, nonsense. Tarski also took a reductive approach and defined the meaning of a sentence in terms of a state of affairs to which the sentence corresponds. Modern truth-conditional semanticists adopt the Russellian idea of explaining
Esercizi Filosofici, 1, 2006, pp. 1-14. ISSN 1970-0164
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the meaning of a sentence and the Russellian/Tarskian idea of correlating a sentence, as its meaning, with a fact or state of affairs. Dowty, Wall, and Peters (1985) say, to explain the meaning of a sentence is «to specify its truth conditions, i.e., to give necessary and sufficient conditions for the truth of that sentence». Austin, on the other hand, tried to describe «the total speech act in the total speech situation» and warned against oversimplifying complexities of meaning, in particular, by reducing meaning to descriptive meaning:
It has come to be seen that many specially perplexing words embedded in apparently descriptive statements do not serve to indicate some specially odd additional feature in the reality reported, but to indicate (not to report) the circumstances in which the statement is made or reservations to which it is subject or the way in which it is to be taken and the like. To overlook these possibilities in the way once common is called the «descriptive» fallacy. (Austin 1962: 3) [italics added]
By the concept of speech acts and the felicity conditions for performing them, Austin showed that to utter a performative sentence is to be evaluated in terms of, what we might call, conventionality, actuality, and intentionality of uttering the sentence. Uttering a performative sentence is to be described in terms of (I) associated conventions which are valid (without which the purported act is disallowed; a violation of the felicity conditions (A)), (II) the speaker’s actual, accurate utterance of the sentence to the hearer, which induces an associated response from the hearer (without which the purported act is vitiated; a violation of the felicity conditions (B)), and (III) an associated intention of the speaker (without which the purported act is abused; a violation of the felicity conditions (Γ)).
Through a description of the success/failure of the speech act purported, which is explained as a violation/observation of the felicity conditions, Austin formulated a method to describe a sentence in terms of the speech situation where it is uttered: by means of associated linguistic conventions, the speaker, with an associated intention, actually performs an act to the hearer, which induces a certain response from the hearer. As we will develop later, Austin’s idea can be interpreted in the following way: by uttering a performative sentence, the speaker indicates a certain speech situation where (I) a certain convention exists, as shown by the felicity condition (A.1), (II) there are certain persons and circumstances, as shown by the felicity condition (A.2), (III) the speaker performs the act in a certain way, as shown by the felicity condition (B.1), (IV) the hearer reacts to it in a certain way, as shown by the felicity condition (B.2), (V) the speaker has certain thoughts, feelings, or intentions, as shown by the felicity condition (Γ.1), and (VI) the speaker is supposed to execute a certain task in the future, as shown by the felicity condition (Γ.2). In this frame2
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work, the success of the purported speech act is explained as an identification of the present speech situation with the speech situation indicated by the performative sentence. The failure of the purported speech act is, on the other hand, explained as a gap between the present speech situation and the speech situation indicated. We will elaborate on this later.
Austin then delineates the concept of performativity. He shows that performativity does not conflict with statements as the initial distinction between performatives and constatives suggests. In its extended sense, performativity is interpreted as a quintessential feature of communication which is expressed with numerous verbs. So even uttering a sentence of «I state …» can be infelicitous in six different ways in the same manner as uttering a sentence with a performative verb. For example, we can imagine a language whose lexicon lacks a verb with a sense of «to state» in English, although it has verbs with a sense of «to make a sound», «to utter», or «to say». The speaker of the language cannot perform the same act that the English speaker would perform in uttering the sentence «I state …», therefore violating the felicity condition (A.1), although it is quite likely that she can perform similar acts or achieve similar effects by uttering the sentence with alternative verbs. The utterance of «I state that he is sad» or «I state that such-and-such happened in the year 1651» is infelicitous because you cannot state something in absentia, so to speak; in this case, another person’s feelings or an event that took place in 1651, hence a violation of the felicity condition (A.2).
I cannot state something if I do not utter the sentence correctly. Imagine that, instead of saying «I state I saw Sam and Ellie», I, as a slip of the tongue, utter something which sounds more like «I state I saw salmonella»: I did not state «I saw Sam and Ellie», as intended, therefore violating of the felicity condition (B.1). I cannot state such-and-such if the hearer is not listening to me, or thinks that I am joking, hence a violation of the felicity condition (B.2). Also if I state such-and-such without believing it is the case, the utterance is infelicitous, hence a violation of the felicity condition (Γ.1). Similarly, if I state such-and-such, and later I refuse to make the same statement under the same circumstances, my earlier statement becomes rather questionable, therefore in violation of the felicity condition (Γ.2). These examples demonstrate that even an utterance of the sentence of «I state …», which would appear to be more directly related to making a statement rather than performing an act, is evaluated in terms of the elements of the speech situation, namely, conventionality, actuality, and intentionality, and, accordingly, is subject to infelicities related to them.
In the latter part of the William James Lectures, Austin specifies performativity, formerly introduced as an intuitive idea of «performing an act». He introduces the concept of illocutionary acts, and carefully distinguishes them from locutionary acts and perlocutionary acts. Locutionary acts include phonetic acts, phatic acts, and rhetic acts. Phonetic acts are acts of pronouncing sounds, phatic acts are acts of uttering words or sentences in accordance with the phonological and syntactic rules of the language to which they belong, and rhetic acts are acts of uttering a sentence with sense and more or less definite reference. Perlocutionary acts are, on the other hand, acts attributed to the effect of uttering a sentence. Austin says that in uttering a sentence the speaker performs an illocutionary act of having a certain force, which is different from the locutionary act of uttering the sentence, which is to have a meaning, and also from the perlocutionary act performed by uttering the sentence, which is to achieve certain effects. By these distinctions, Austin shows that, unlike locutionary acts, illocutionary acts have a force, and, unlike perlocutionary acts, illocutionary acts are valid and complete without being reduced to the effect of it.
Austin classifies illocutionary acts into five types, i.e., verdictives, exercitives, commissives, behabitives, and expositives. Although it is often argued that Austin’s classification is not complete and those coined categories are not mutually exclusive, Austin’s classification is best seen as an attempt to give a general picture of illocutionary acts: what types of illocutionary act one can generally perform in uttering a sentence. One can exercise judgment (Verdictive), exert influence or exercise power (Exercitive), assume obligation or declare intention (Commissive), adopt attitude, or express feeling (Behabitive), and clarify reasons, argument, or communication (Expositive). The long list of illocutionary verbs in each class also illustrates how many subtly differentiated illocutionary acts exist in a language like English. The fact that Austin includes the same word in two different classes and he does not regard it as a problem suggests that it is not an issue for Austin which class a particular illocutionary verb/act actually belongs to.
The importance of introducing this classification of illocutionary acts is rather to explicate, as we explained above, what type of illocutionary act one can generally perform by uttering a sentence; and, with additional specifications, how much more diversified illocutionary acts are than we are usually aware of. The purpose of the classification of illocutionary acts, if interpreted in this manner, is compatible with Austin’s beliefs as a major proponent of Ordinary Language Philosophy, which is typically expressed in remarks such as the following: our common stock of words embodies all the distinctions men have found worth drawing, and the connexions they have found worth marking, in the lifetimes of many generations: these surely are likely to be more numerous, more sound, since they have stood up to the long test of the survival of the fittest, and more subtle, at least in all ordinary and reasonably practical matters, than any that you or I are likely to think up in our arm-chairs of an afternoon — the most favoured alternative method. (Austin 1961: 182)
When we approach Austin’s speech act theory from this angle, it highlights some important issues addressed by Austin that still remain virtually untackled. Generally speaking, the speech act theorists after Austin focus on explaining illocutionary acts in a narrow sense. John Searle, a major proponent of the speech act theory, inherits his ideas from Austin and elaborates on some of them (Searle 1969), but develops the theory in his own fashion: the essence of it being that to perform an illocutionary act is to express an illocutionary intention (Searle 1979). Searle’s notion of the speech act theory is developed along this line, and Searle (1983) and Searle and Vanderveken (1985) attempt to explain illocutionary force in a formal model which is compatible with the formal analysis of propositional contents. Schiffer (1972) describes illocutionary acts in terms of the speaker’s intention to produce a certain response r in a certain audience, and the value(s) of «r».
While each of these speech act theories has some merit, they are at odds with Austin’s original theory. In giving explanation of illocutionary acts, the theorists have wittingly or unwittingly reduced them to something else, specifically, intentions, and they explain how one type of illocutionary act differs from another in terms of intentionality. This is, ironically, exactly what Austin criticised. With the concept of performatives, Austin demonstrated that meaning of a sentence cannot be fully explained by one criterion, i.e., the propositional/descriptive content it expresses. Austin also emphasised the importance of describing the total speech act in the total speech situation in which the language users employ the language: the speaker utters a sentence and performs a speech act to the hearer. While doing so, Austin proposed (I) the felicity conditions, which define the elements in the performance of illocutionary acts, (II) the distinction between locutionary, illocutionary, and perlocutionary acts, which specifies the sense of illocutionary acts performed in terms of other acts performed in communication, and (III) the classification of illocutionary acts, which gives general ideas of what acts are performed and in terms of what they are specified.
In spite of the possibilities Austin suggested, these speech act theorists persistently concentrate on explaining an illocutionary act in terms of an intention. From Austin’s point of view, it is debatable whether reducing meaning, expressed by uttering a sentence, to the intention is any better than reducing it to a propositional/descriptive content which the sentence expresses. The purpose of the present talk is to construct a theoretical framework in which to develop Austin’s original, unadulterated, speech act theory. We begin with the hypothesis. Speech act theorists after Austin failed to develop the speech situation concept, and they described illocutionary acts in isolation, thereby necessitating an explanation of illocutionary acts in terms of something else, or reducing them to something else, such as intentions or attitudes. However, we propose that the most important contribution by Austin was his development of the idea of the speech situation clarified by identification of illocutionary acts. As the name suggests, the speech situation is a situation which is, in one sense, a situation just like other situations which are in a particular spatiotemporal location, but, in another sense, psychological space animated by linguistic communication and specified by linguistic devices: it exists only because I speak to you, and it doesn’t exist where there is no communication.
This suggests that to utter a sentence as a piece of communication, i.e., to perform a speech act in a general sense, is to indicate the speech situation where the sentence is uttered, as well as it expresses what the sentence is made to express, i.e., a propositional/descriptive content. Austin’s concept of illocutionary acts sheds light on the speech situation, and that it is indicated not only as a general speech situation where the speaker speaks to the hearer, but also as a more specified speech situation which varies in conventions activated, actual performances and reactions executed, and intentions expressed. Austin’s initial concept of performatives in contrast to that of constatives emphasises this specification of the speech situation: to utter a sentence such as «I name this ship the Queen Elizabeth» and «I bet six pence it will rain tomorrow» is to indicate the speech situation, and it does not have a separate descriptive content. To describe this aspect of communication, we have to first clarify the concept of the speech situation itself, and then explain illocutionary acts in relation to it. We explain performing an illocutionary act as follows: in uttering a sentence, the speaker indicates a certain speech situation as the present speech situation. This, of course, needs explanation.
Just like signs in general, linguistic signs are to express something other than themselves. The word «apple», as a linguistic sign, does not mean the sound [æpl] or a person or a thing associated with uttering this sound: it simply means what it is made to mean, i.e., a particular kind of fruit. Some words such as demonstratives are, on the other hand, self-reflexive: when an actual token of a word is uttered, it indicates a person, thing, place, or time which is associated with uttering this token. For example, when the word «I» is uttered, it indicates the person who utters this token, and when the word «now» is uttered, it indicates the time of uttering this token.
If language is equipped with this function, it is not difficult to imagine that this function is extended to the whole utterance. Just like uttering the word «I» indicates the person who utters this token, uttering a sentence such as «I name this ship the Queen Elizabeth» indicates the present speech situation where this utterance is uttered. Furthermore, just like the hearer/addressee is indicated by either a T-form or a V-form of the second person pronoun, in which the social relation between the speaker/addresser and the hearer/addressee is implied, the utterance of «I name this ship the Queen Elizabeth» indicates, as the present speech situation, a speech situation of naming, which is linguistically differentiated from other situations. To explain this we say: in uttering a sentence, the speaker indicates a certain speech situation as the present speech situation.
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situation, in terms of which a purported act succeeds/fails. We have suggested describing these aspects of the speech situation as the aspect of conventionality, more explicitly, certain conventions activated; the aspect of actuality, more explicitly, certain performances and responses executed; and the aspect of intentionality, more explicitly, certain intentions expressed. These aspects correspond respectively to Austin’s felicity conditions of (A), (B), and (Γ).
2. Conventionality, actuality, and intentionality of the speech situation Now we explain conventionality, actuality, and intentionality of the speech situation.
Austin’s felicity conditions are as follows:
(A.1) There must exist an accepted conventional procedure having a certain conventional effect, that procedure to include the uttering of certain words by certain persons in certain circumstances, and further,
(A.2) the particular persons and circumstances in a given case must be appropriate for the invocation of the particular procedure invoked. (B.1) The procedure must be executed by all participants both correctly and (B.2) completely.
(Γ.1) Where, as often, the procedure is designed for use by persons having certain thoughts or feelings, or for the inauguration of certain consequential conduct on the part of any participant, then a person participating in and so invoking the procedure must in fact have those thoughts or feelings, and the participants must intend so to conduct themselves, and further (Γ.2) must actually so conduct themselves subsequently. (Austin 1962: 1415) Violations of the conditions in (A.1) and (A.2) are described as «misinvocations», in which the purported act is disallowed (Austin 1962:18). This, in turn, indicates the speech situation in which the purported act would be allowed.
The felicity condition in (A.1) reveals an aspect of the speech situation in which the speaker and the hearer share linguistic conventions according to which to utter certain words in certain circumstances by certain persons is counted as performing a certain speech act, which has a certain conventional effect. So the utterance in example (1) indicates a speech situation in which the speaker and the hearer share a Muslim convention of divorce: to utter the sentence in (1) is counted as performing an act of divorce and, as a conventional result, divorce occurs.
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Similarly the utterance of the sentence in example (2) indicates a speech situation in which the speaker and the hearer share the linguistic convention of performing an act of reprimand: a certain action or the failure to take a certain action is subject to criticism, and the responsible person is to be blamed formally and publicly for the neglect of her official duties (unlike the act of «telling someone off» or scolding), by a person in that official capacity, with conventional consequences (unlike the act of blame, criticism, or reproach). (2)
I reprimand you for your negligence.
The felicity condition in (A.2) reveals another aspect of the speech situation, in which particular persons and particular circumstances exist. So the utterance in (3) indicates a speech situation in which the speaker is a Christian priest and the hearer is an infant. They are in religious circumstances, such as in a Christian church, and in the presence of the infant’s parents.
I baptize thee in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Similarly the utterance in example (4) indicates a speech situation in which the speaker and the hearer have a formal, hierarchical relationship to one another, by which the speaker can charge the hearer to execute a certain action (unlike the act of asking or begging), and does so for his own interest rather than for the hearer’s (unlike the act of allowing or authorizing), and disobedience to the command may have severe consequences.
I order you to release the prisoners.
These scenarios establish that the speech situation can be specified linguistically. By specifying the present act as divorce, reprimand, baptize, and order, the speaker indicates, as the present speech situation, a speech situation where associated conventions are activated, and persons and circumstances specified by those conventions are present. In other words, by specifying what the speaker is currently doing in uttering what he utters, the speaker specifies the speech situation which currently exists between him and the hearer. Those specifications are dependent upon the language. What is regarded as an act and how that act is specified in terms of related acts are largely determined by the language that the speaker uses. We describe this aspect of the speech situation as conventionality of the speech situation.
A violation of the second type of condition in (B.1) and (B.2) is described as «misexecutions», in which a purported act is vitiated (Austin 1962:18). This, in turn, depicts a speech situation in which a purported act would be executed in a very specific manner.
The felicity condition in (B.1) describes an aspect of the present speech situation in which the present speaker actually utters words in a specific manner to the present hearer. That is, in uttering a sentence, the speaker presents himself as the performer of a certain act to the present hearer: in uttering a sentence, the speaker conveys that I perform this act to you. In specifying the act as, say, an act of reprimand, the speaker indicates the present speech situation in which the speaker (I) performs this act of reprimand to the hearer (you). The felicity condition in (B.2) exposes another aspect of the present speech situation which is acknowledged and revitalised by the hearer. The present speech situation indicated by the speaker as a certain situation can either be acknowledged and revitalized by the hearer who behaves/responds in a given manner, or be dismissed by the hearer who does not do so. For example, when the speaker indicates the present speech situation as a situation of an order in uttering the sentence in (4), i.e. the speaker indicates that I perform to you this act of an order, the hearer may acknowledge and revitalise it by indicating that he is following the order. The hearer may say something like the following: (5)
Alternatively, the hearer may simply release the prisoners. We explain this aspect of the speech situation as actuality, in which actual performance and response are executed. Austin’s felicity conditions in (A) and (B) allude to two different ways in which speech acts fail. They fail because the conventional procedures for performing acts do not exist or those procedures are such that they cannot be applied to particular cases. They also fail because actual performances do not correspond to conventional procedures: the speaker simply makes a mistake and produces a wrong sound, produces an inaudible sound, misunderstands conventional procedures for the performance of a specific act, or the hearer does not acknowledge the purported act. These infelicitous cases, in turn, expose felicitous cases where actual performances correspond to conventional procedures, i.e., a purported act is the act actually performed by the present speaker: an indicated speech situation is the present speech situation. This is the point at which abstract convention coincides with physical performance. In one sense, this is the point at which a convention is actualized as a part of the reality with its substance, i.e., an actual illocutionary act; and, in another sense, it is the point at which an action, which is in itself accidental and pointless, is specified by the language as a system of value.
Let us move on to discuss Austin’s felicity conditions in (Γ.1) and (Γ.2). A violation of these conditions is described as an «abuse», in which the professed act is hollow (Austin 1962: 18). Austin distinguishes these conditions from the former conditions: (A.1) to (B.1). While a violation of the felicity conditions from (A.1) to (B.1) results in non-performance, that is to say, a purported act is not performed, a violation of the felicity conditions in (Γ.1) and (Γ.2) does not result in non-performance. Although it is a case of abuse, a purported act is performed nonetheless. Austin says:
The first big distinction is between all the four rules A and B taken together, as opposed to the two rules Γ (hence the use of Roman as opposed to Greek letters). If we offend against any of the former rules (A’s or B’s)—that is if we, say, utter the formula incorrectly, or if, say, we are not in a position to do the act because we are, say, married already, or it is the purser and not the captain who is conducting the ceremony, then the act in question, e.g. marrying, is not successfully performed at all, does not come off, is not achieved. Whereas in the two Γ cases the act is achieved, although to achieve it in such circumstances, as when we are, say, insincere, is an abuse of procedure. Thus, when I say ‘I promise’ and have no intention of keeping it, I have promised but …. (Austin 1962: 15-16)
The cases of abuse which are clarified by felicity conditions in (Γ.1) and (Γ.2), hence, reveal a speech situation where the professed act is sincere and substantial: the speaker means what she says and intends to fulfill her future responsibility. For example, in uttering the sentence:
I welcome you, the speaker demonstrates herself as a sincere performer of this act of welcome: the speaker is genuinely delighted to have the hearer in her company, such as a place or an organization. In other words, the speaker indicates the present speech situation as a situation where the act of welcome is sincere and substantial. Specifically, the speaker means what she says, and she approves of and is delighted by the hearer’s presence. This is the aspect of intentionality of the present speech situation, which the felicity condition in (Γ.1) clarifies. Another aspect of intentionality, which the felicity condition (Γ.2) clarifies, concerns a future responsibility. That is, the present speech situation is indicated not only as a situation where a purported act is sincere and substantial, but also as a situation where associated future commitment is expressed. For example, in uttering the sentence:
I promise to support you, the speaker indicates the present speech situation as a situation which does not exist only at the time of utterance but which will last for a longer period of time, wherein the speaker’s support for the hearer is promised. That is, the felicity conditions in (Γ.1) and (Γ.2) clarify how the present speech situation is substantiated by the speaker’s associated intention and future responsibility expressed. The structure of illocutionary acts which we have described would appear to be a source of force. Conventions do not make a move in communication. Accidental/pointless actions do not have value in themselves. And intentions are vague in nature. However, an actual act which is performed on the basis of linguistic conventions, and strengthened by associated intentions expressed by the speaker has a force in communication.
Such an act has (I) a linguistic value, e.g. an act of divorce or welcome; (II) a concrete artefact with substance; and (III) it is an expression of the speaker’s intention. In other words, the performance of an illocutionary act makes the present speech situation a certain speech situation specified by the convention, and strengthened by the present speaker’s expressed intention. As we suggested earlier, Austin proposes an alternative model of meaning. It is not merely to explain conventional relations between sentences and states of affairs, or between sentences and intentions. Rather, to explain meaning, Austin implicates linguistic artefacts, i.e., illocutionary acts, which are created by linguistic conventions, actual performance, and the speaker’s expressed intentions. We reanalyse this explanation, and propose to treat the artefacts as acts that indicate the speech situation: to perform illocutionary acts is to indicate, as the present speech situation, a certain situation, which is substantiated by an associated intention expressed. The aforementioned concepts of conventionality, actuality, and intentionality describe these aspects of the speech situation.
This represents a unitary view of meaning. Meaning is explained by an examination of linguistic conventions (contained in a language), actual performance (language use), and associated intentions. In linguistics the general tendency is to describe one aspect of meaning as if it were the essence of meaning. In semantics, linguistic conventions are generally explained by correlating sentences with states of affairs. In pragmatics, actual performances are studied to describe a certain type or aspect of communication. Intentionality is described, semantically, in terms of the relation between sentences and associated intentions. Or it is described, pragmatically, as actual performances in which the speaker expresses his intentions. As a result, semantics theories tend to offer the linguistic means that are available to the users without explaining how those means are used to make communication possible. Whereas pragmatic theories tend to explain what is happening in communication without explaining the available linguistic means. Austin’s theory is promising because it unites all three aspects of meaning, namely linguistic conventions, language use, and intentionality.
In this sense, it is a credible general theory of communication. Another uniqueness of Austin’s theory lies in the fact that meaning is explained in a non-tautological way. In correspondence theories of meaning, a sentence is correlated, as its meaning, with a state of affairs. However, the state of affairs correlated with the sentence is not an actual state of affairs in the world, but rather a state of affairs which is segmented by the sentence in question. That is, to explain what a sentence expresses is to explain how the sentence is different in meaning from other sentences. And, since the sentence expresses what it expresses because of syntax and semantics of the language, to explain meaning of the sentence is to explain syntax and semantics of the language. Therefore, to explain meaning is not to explain what a sentence means in communication nor what the speaker means in uttering a sentence. It explains the language by positing another abstract level of the language. This is what Tarski does by his theory of truth in his famous example: (8)
«Snow is white» is true if and only if snow is white, where the phrase «Snow is white» on the left side of this equivalence in question marks belongs to an object language and the one on the right without quotation marks belongs to meta-language. The sentence of an object language «Snow is white» is true if and only if «snow» designates snow and snow satisfies the sentential function, «x is white». (Tarski 1944: 585) Furthermore, Tarski allows more than one abstract level of the language. He says: It should be noticed that these terms «object-language» and «metalanguage» have only a relative sense. If, for instance, we become interested in the notion of truth applying to sentences, not of our original objectlanguage, but of its meta-language, the latter becomes automatically the object-language of our discussion: and in order to define truth for this language, we have to go to a new meta-language — so to speak, to a metalanguage of a higher level. In this way, we arrive at a whole hierarchy of languages. (Tarski 1944: 597-598)
Then to explain meaning is to explain the semantic system of the language in question by positing one or more abstract levels of the language, not to explain what the speaker means in using the language. Austin’s speech act theory, however, theoretically distinguishes the language, the present speech situation, and the intentions of the present speaker. As Austin’s felicity conditions in (A) show, a purported speech act can be infelicitous because of the language, i.e. linguistic conventions, irrespective of actual performances in the speech situation and the intention of the present speaker. As the felicity conditions in (B) show, an actual performance can be infelicitous in its own way irrespective of the linguistic conventions and the present speaker’s intention. And, finally, as the felicity conditions in (Γ) show, a speech act can be abused irrespective of the linguistic conventions and the performance of the present speaker. So to describe linguistic conventions, to describe an actual performance in the speech situation, and to describe the speaker’s intention expressed are theoretically independent of
For this reason, the success of the speech act is explained as the coincidence of these three distinctive elements: a purported act becomes the act performed, which is substantiated by an associated intention expressed. We have proposed to explain performing an illocutionary act as follows: in uttering a sentence, the speaker indicates, as the present speech situation, a certain speech situation (specified by linguistic conventions), which is substantiated by an associated intention of the present speaker. When there is no gap among these, i.e. the present speech situation, a speech situation indicated, and the intentions of the speaker expressed, the purported act is successful: the present speech situation becomes an indicated speech situation, with the intention expressed. According to this theory, the language, that is linguistic conventions, expresses things outside of the system of the language.
We have expanded on Austin’s speech act theory so that «the total speech situation in the total speech situation» can be better understood. Unlike other speech act theorists who essentially describe how illocutionary acts differ from one another in terms of intentionality, we have proposed an alternative scheme: to describe illocutionary acts in terms of different aspects of the speech situation. After initially discussing the speech situation and its theoretical import, and subsequently using Austin’s felicity conditions as a starting point, we illustrated three aspects of the speech situation, conventionality, actuality, and intentionality, according to which a purported act succeeds or fails. And next we explained the performance of an illocutionary act as follows: by uttering a sentence, the speaker indicates, as the present speech situation, a certain speech situation, which is substantiated by an associated intention.
The purpose of the present paper is merely to provide a theoretical framework, through an analysis of illocutionary acts, which gives a clearer and more concise description of the speech situation on which communication is based. To actually «enflesh» this framework, more thorough analyses of the speech situation and both types of speech act are needed.
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