Explicit performatives revisited

Manuel García-Carpintero
2013 Journal of Pragmatics  
The paper defends a version of a traditional account of explicit performatives, according to which they are a kind of self-verifying indirect speech act, from recent arguments by Jary and Pagin. I rely on a distinction, made by Bach, between a locutionary and a stative sense of what is said. Although derivations of conversational implicatures and indirect speech acts in general need only depart from the locutionary sense of what is said, and do not require the stative sense (so the speaker does
more » ... not need to be actually asserting the literal content), in response to Jary's and Pagin's arguments I argue that in the case of explicit performatives speakers do assert it, even if only on their way to making the speech act they primarily intend to perform. In this paper I defend a version of a traditional account of explicit performatives, according to which they are standardized indirect speech acts, from recent criticisms by Pagin (2004) and Jary (2007) . The core of the traditional proposal is that, in performatively uttering 'I (hereby) promise never to drink again', the speaker (firstly in the order of explanation, and taken literally) states that he himself makes a promise, reflexively by means of that very act of stating; and (secondly and indirectly) as a consequence of this, given the further satisfaction of relevant conditions, he additionally in fact makes the promise described. Austin's (1962) alternative view has it that such an utterance is directly and uniquely a promise, and cannot be properly classified as being true or false, or as having fulfilled/unfulfilled truth-conditions the way statements do. advanced versions of the traditional account. On this view, explicit performatives achieve their main intended effects through the mechanism of indirect speech acts, standardized by precedent. Successful explicit performatives are hence self-verifying; to use Dummett's (1993, p. 223) illuminating metaphor, in explicit performatives a self-verifying speech act in the constative family is made tactically, with the strategic goal of performing a different speech act denoted by the verb, a promise, an order, or a more substantive assertion. As Bach and Harnish (1992, p. 98) put it, "a performative sentence when used performatively is used literally, directly to make a statement and indirectly to perform the further speech act of the type (an order, say) named by the performative verb". Now, both Jary and Pagin make interesting objections against proposals of this sort. Their objections may have a point against some of them; but I want to reply to their criticisms from the perspective of a model for indirect speech acts that I will
doi:10.1016/j.pragma.2013.01.005 fatcat:kzampnioird6tma6qfp2dsnjua