Illocutionary Forces and What Is Said


  • I am very grateful to Billy Clark, Marc Dominicy, Mitchell Green and Deirdre Wilson for their insightful comments and remarks on earlier drafts. More than ever, the usual disclaimer applies. This research was funded by a research-fellow grant from the Fonds National de la Recherche Scientifique de la Communauté Française de Belgique (FNRS). The results presented below are also part of the research carried out within the scope of the ARC project 06/11-342 Culturally modified organisms: ‘What it means to be human’ in the age of culture, funded by the Ministère de la Communauté française—Direction générale de l’Enseignement non obligatoire et de la Recherche scientifique.

CP 175, Laboratoire de linguistique textuelle et de pragmatique cognitive, Université Libre de Bruxelles, avenue F.D. Roosevelt, 50, B-1050 Bruxelles, Belgium.


Abstract:  A psychologically plausible analysis of the way we assign illocutionary forces to utterances is formulated using a ‘contextualist’ analysis of what is said. The account offered makes use of J. L. Austin’s distinction between phatic acts (sentence meaning), locutionary acts (contextually determined what is said), illocutionary acts, and perolocutionary acts. In order to avoid the conflation between illocutionary and perlocutionary levels, assertive, directive and commissive illocutionary forces are defined in terms of inferential potential with respect to the common ground. Illocutionary forces are conceived as automatic but optional components of the process of interpretation.