illocutionary act

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In linguistics, and more specifically pragmatics, an interpersonal act performed by saying something in a sufficiently explicit form to be understood (in a relevant context) to have ‘conventional consequences’. The most obvious examples employ performative or illocutionary verbs (describing the performance of an action): for example, promise, arrest, baptize. The definitive focus here is on a particular communicative purpose or function rather than on effects; recognition of the communicative intent is crucial. Such acts are said to have illocutionary force: in such acts to say is to do, as in ‘You're fired!’. The term was introduced into linguistics by Austin and developed by Searle (for the latter the term is synonymous with ‘speech act’). See also locutionary act; performatives; perlocutionary act; speech act.

Subjects: Arts and Humanities.

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