Performative Utterances

J. L. Austin, J. O. Urmson and G. J. Warnock

in Philosophical Papers

Third edition

Published in print March 1979 | ISBN: 9780192830210
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191597039 | DOI:

Series: Clarendon Paperbacks

Performative Utterances

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Austin attacks the view that language is referential, based on the simplistic division of utterances into the ‘descriptive’ and ‘evaluative’, using his notion of performative utterances. Such utterances, in the appropriate circumstances, are neither descriptive nor evaluative, but count as actions, i.e., create the situation rather than describing or reporting on it. In saying ‘I promise to go’ one is making a promise, not stating that one is making it. A performative promise is not, and does not involve, the statement that one is promising. It is an act of a distinctive sort, the very sort (promising) named by the performative verb. And, according to Austin, making explicit what one is doing is not describing what one is doing or stating that one is doing it.

Keywords: action; Austin; descriptive; evaluative; language; performative utterance; promise

Chapter.  7720 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Language

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