Performative Linguistics: Speaking and Translating as Doing Things with Words

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With his habitually infectious argument and illuminating intellectual insights, Robinson engages the reader throughout the entire book in the discussion and development of ''performative linguistics'' and the establishment of its place in the explanatory framework of language against the hegemonic constative linguistics. Now let's take a closer look at the full force of Robinson's argument. Part I draws our attention to J.

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Austin's distinction between constative and performative utterances, first proposed in his posthumous work How To Do Things With Words. Rather than taking the terms to apply to utterances, Robinson chooses to apply them to approaches to utterances, and proposes a new distinction between constative and performative linguistics, with the former focusing on the stability of linguistic structures and the latter language use in real-world contexts.

By way of introduction, Robinson explores the relationship between linguistics and translation, pointing out that the inadequacy of the explanatory power of traditional linguistics is largely due to the treatment of translation as a ''mechanistic process'' p. Chap 2 highlights the rediscovery of the performative, its subsequent changes by a number of scholars, a brief history of the tension between the performative and the constative and the integrational linguists' critiques of the constative.

In Chap 3 the ''key'' or ''definitive'' issue of the entire book - ''whether a translation might ever be thought of as a performative utterance'' p. Part II provides Jacques Derrida's notion of ''iterability'' as one of two possible answers Robinson offers to Austin's question of parasitic speech acts, the other being Paul Grice's conversational implicatures see below.

Review: Translation/Pragmatics: Robinson (2003)

By way explanation, Derrida's theory is outlined in Chap 4. However, due to the fact that Derrida's abstract philosophical concept may thwart easy understanding, a series of theoretical approaches such as Robinson's somatic theory of language, Antonio Damasio's neurological studies and Daniel Simeoni's the translator's habitus, and more importantly, Mikhail Bakhtin's theory of ''double- voicing'', is called for as the wonderful analytical tools to shed illuminating lights on ''iterability'' and puts Austin's settled problem of parasitism into the perspectives of language history, language change and language evolution p.

Part III is an extended discussion totaling seven chapters: Chaps 8- 14 of Paul Grice's concept of conversational implicature , which is offered as the second answer to Austin's problem of parasitism. Except for Chap 8 which is confined to the presentation of the core of the theory itself the cooperative principle and its maxims , the rest 6 Chaps in this part are in fact devoted to a drastic analytical expansion of the theory with an obvious bias in favor of the performative approach. Starting from the constative applications of Grice to translation, Chap 9 demonstrates that Lawrence Venuti's critique of Grice is not only misdirected but fails to see that Grice virtually solves ''all Venuti's problems'' p.

This is by no means a sure indication of Robinson's alliance with Grice. In fact, the Gricean conversational implicature is, according to Robinson, ''riddled with problems'' p.

Therefore, as one of the series of explanations that follows, Chap 10 explores illocutionary and perlocutionary implicature by framing Grice's implicature in Austin's concept, and suggests a ''metalocutionary implicature'' which views translation as self-discovery. Chap 11 slots Grice into the ''interpretant triad'' of Charles Sanders Peirce in order to show different levels of implicature, namely, conversational and conventional implicatures in Chap 12 and ''invocative'' implicature in Chap Chap 14 examines the interpretive power of metalocutionary implicature in cross-cultural contexts.

The last chapter - Conclusion - ends the book with a nutshell summary of the argument and a prediction on the ''next thing'' in language study. However, when one proceeds to venture into an intellectual dialogue with Robinson, one could not help but be overwhelmed by his special rhetoric in developing his argument: Austin, in providing his theory of speech acts, makes a significant challenge to the philosophy of language, far beyond merely elucidating a class of morphological sentence forms that function to do what they name.

Austin's work ultimately suggests that all speech and all utterance is the doing of something with words and signs, challenging a metaphysics of language that would posit denotative, propositional assertion as the essence of language and meaning. Austin was educated at Shrewsbury School in , earning a scholarship in Classics, and went on to study Classics at Balliol College, Oxford in In , he received a First in Literae Humaniores Classics and Philosophy as well as the Gaisford Prize for Greek prose and first class honours in his finals.

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Literae Humaniores introduced him to serious philosophy and gave him a lifelong interest in Aristotle. His more contemporary influences included especially G.

Moore , John Cook Wilson and H. The contemporary influences shaped their views about general philosophical questions on the basis of careful attention to the more specific judgements we make. They took our specific judgements to be more secure than more general judgements. It's plausible that some aspects of Austin's distinctive approach to philosophical questions derived from his engagement with the last three.

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It has been said of him that, "he more than anybody was responsible for the life-saving accuracy of the D-Day intelligence" reported in Warnock Austin left the army with the rank of lieutenant colonel and was honored for his intelligence work with an OBE Officer of the Order of the British Empire , the French Croix de guerre , and the U. Officer of the Legion of Merit. He began holding his famous "Austin's Saturday Mornings" where students and colleagues would discuss language usages and sometimes books on language over tea and crumpets, but published little.

Austin visited Harvard and Berkeley in the mid-fifties, in delivering the William James Lectures at Harvard that would become How to Do Things With Words , and offering a seminar on excuses whose material would find its way into "A Plea for Excuses". He was president of the Aristotelian Society from to Austin died at the age of 48 of lung cancer. In contrast to the positivist view, he argues, sentences with truth-values form only a small part of the range of utterances.

After introducing several kinds of sentences which he asserts are neither true nor false, he turns in particular to one of these kinds of sentences, which he calls performative utterances or just "performatives". These he characterises by two features:. He goes on to say that when something goes wrong in connection with a performative utterance it is, as he puts it, "infelicitous", or "unhappy" rather than false.

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The action which is performed when a 'performative utterance' is issued belongs to what Austin later calls a speech-act [13] more particularly, the kind of action Austin has in mind is what he subsequently terms the illocutionary act. For example, if you say "I name this ship the Queen Elizabeth ," and the circumstances are appropriate in certain ways, then you will have done something special, namely, you will have performed the act of naming the ship.

In all three cases the sentence is not being used to describe or state what one is 'doing', but being used to actually 'do' it. After numerous attempts to find more characteristics of performatives, and after having met with many difficulties, Austin makes what he calls a "fresh start", in which he considers "more generally the senses in which to say something may be to do something, or in saying something we do something".

John has produced a series of bodily movements which result in the production of a certain sound. Austin called such a performance a phonetic act , and called the act a phone. Austin called this a phatic act , and labels such utterances phemes. To use a pheme with a more or less definite sense and reference is to utter a rheme , and to perform a rhetic act. Note that rhemes are a sub-class of phemes, which in turn are a sub-class of phones.

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domaine-solitude.com: Performative Linguistics: Speaking and Translating as Doing Things with Words (): Douglas Robinson: Books. Book review. Performative Linguistics. Speaking and Translating as Doing Things with Words: Douglas Robinson, London: Routledge, , pp.

One cannot perform a rheme without also performing a pheme and a phone. The performance of these three acts is the performance of a locution —it is the act of saying something. John has therefore performed a locutionary act. He has also done at least two other things. He has asked a question, and he has elicited an answer from Sue. Asking a question is an example of what Austin called an illocutionary act.

Other examples would be making an assertion, giving an order, and promising to do something.

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He states that perceptual variation, which can be attributed to physical causes, does not involve a figurative disconnect between sense and reference, due to an unreasonable separation of parts from the perceived object. Notice that if one successfully performs a perlocution, one also succeeds in performing both an illocution and a locution. Other examples would be making an assertion, giving an order, and promising to do something. Describe the connection issue. Constative linguistics, Robinson suggests, includes methodologies aimed at 'freezing' language as an abstract sign system cut off from the use of language in actual speech situations. Austin visited Harvard and Berkeley in the mid-fifties, in delivering the William James Lectures at Harvard that would become How to Do Things With Words , and offering a seminar on excuses whose material would find its way into "A Plea for Excuses". Moore , John Cook Wilson and H.

To perform an illocutionary act is to use a locution with a certain force. It is an act performed in saying something, in contrast with a locution, the act of saying something. Eliciting an answer is an example of what Austin calls a perlocutionary act , an act performed by saying something. Notice that if one successfully performs a perlocution, one also succeeds in performing both an illocution and a locution.

In the theory of speech acts, attention has especially focused on the illocutionary act, much less on the locutionary and perlocutionary act, and only rarely on the subdivision of the locution into phone, pheme and rheme. Austin, " performative utterance " refers to a not truth-valuable action of "performing", or "doing" a certain action. For example, when people say "I promise to do so and so", they are generating the action of making a promise. In this case, without any flaw the promise is flawlessly fulfilled , the "performative utterance" is "happy", or to use J.

Notice that performative utterance is not truth-valuable, which means nothing said can be judged based on truth or falsity. There are four types of performative s according to Austin: Urmson and Marina Bissau, records Austin's lectures on this topic. In this book, Austin offers examples for each type of performative mentioned above. For explicit performative, he mentioned "I apologize", "I criticize" Page 83 , which are so explicit to receivers that it would not make sense for someone to ask "Does he really mean that?

In explicit performative are opposite, so the receiver will have understandable doubts. For primary performative, the example Austin gave is "I shall be there". Compared with explicit performative, there is uncertainty in implicit performative. People might ask if he or she is promising to be there with primary performative, however, this uncertainty is not strong enough as in in explicit performative.

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Most examples given are explicit because it is easy to identify and observe, and identifying other performative requires comparison and contrast with explicit performative. In the posthumously published Sense and Sensibilia the title is Austin's own, and wittily echoes the title of Sense and Sensibility , Jane Austen 's first book, just as his name echoes hers , [16] Austin criticizes the claims put forward by A.

He states that perceptual variation, which can be attributed to physical causes, does not involve a figurative disconnect between sense and reference, due to an unreasonable separation of parts from the perceived object. Austin argues that Ayer fails to understand the proper function of such words as "illusion", "delusion", "hallucination", "looks", "appears" and "seems", and uses them instead in a "special way By observing that it is i a substantive-hungry word that is sometimes a ii adjuster-word, [18] as well as a iii dimension-word [19] and iv a word whose negative use "wears the trousers," [20] Austin highlights its complexities.

Only by doing so, according to Austin, can we avoid introducing false dichotomies. Austin's papers were collected and published posthumously as Philosophical Papers by J. Urmson and Geoffrey Warnock. The book originally contained ten papers, two more being added in the second edition and one in the third. His paper Excuses has had a massive impact on criminal law theory. Chapters 1 and 3 study how a word may have different, but related, senses.