Performative Utterances: Seven Puzzles It was John Austin who introduced the word "performative" into the philosophy of language and linguistics. His original idea was that there are utterances which are more correctly characterized as doing something rather than stating something. Austin wrote: "when I say ‘I do’, I am not reporting on a marriage, I am indulging in it." As is well known, Austin went on to work out this notion of a performative utterance in a number of directions, but in the end the attempt to isolate performatives from constatives failed dramatically, and the idea of viewing language use in terms of the performative-constative dichotomy gave way to the study of speech acts: "The total speech act in the total speech situation is the only actual phenomena which, in the last resort, we are engaged in elucidating." But giving up the performative-constative distinction does not mean giving up theorizing about performatives, and there is a cottage industry in the theory of language devoted to them. We identify seven puzzles for theorizing about performatives. We consider how Austin might have dealt with some of them. Finding his answers problematic, we then survey recent theories of performatives and zoom in on the major contenders, identifying one theory in particular for scrutiny and seeing how it fares with the seven puzzles. The upshot is that there is still work to be done understanding performatives.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.2478/v10016-007-0002-y
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 52,739
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Intention and Convention in Speech Acts.P. F. Strawson - 1964 - Philosophical Review 73 (4):439-460.
A Reply to My Critics.George Edward Moore - 1942 - In Paul Arthur Schilpp (ed.), The Philosophy of G. E. Moore. Open Court.
Performative Utterances.J. L. Austin - 1961 - In J. O. Urmson & G. J. Warnock (eds.), Philosophical Papers. Clarendon Press.
How Performatives Work.John R. Searle - 1989 - Linguistics and Philosophy 12 (5):535 - 558.

View all 15 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Performatives and Imperatives.Anna Brożek - 2011 - European Journal of Analytic Philosophy 7 (2):17-34.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

On Performatives.Ivana Prelevic - 2010 - Facta Universitatis 8 (2):105-113.
Are Explicit Performatives Assertions?Mark Jary - 2007 - Linguistics and Philosophy 30 (2):207 - 234.
On Juren Habermas’s Misinterpretation of J.L. Austin.Aydan Turanl - 2008 - Proceedings of the Xxii World Congress of Philosophy 39:237-243.
The Reflexivity of Explicit Performatives.Cristina Corredor Lanas - 2009 - Theoria: Revista de Teoría, Historia y Fundamentos de la Ciencia 24 (3):283-299.
The Reflexivity of Explicit Performatives.Cristina Corredor - 2009 - Theoria: Revista de Teoría, Historia y Fundamentos de la Ciencia 24 (3):283-299.
On Performative in Legal Discourse.L. Fiorito - 2006 - Metalogicon 2:101-112.
Austin on Meaning and Use.Marina Sbisa - 2012 - Lodz Papers in Pragmatics 8 (1):5-16.
Speech Acts and Performatives.Jennifer Hornsby - 2008 - In Ernest Lepore & Barry C. Smith (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Language. Oxford University Press.
Performatives and Imperatives.Anna Brożek - 2011 - European Journal of Analytic Philosophy 7 (2):17-34.


Added to PP index

Total views
10 ( #810,397 of 2,340,325 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #514,582 of 2,340,325 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes