Speech Acts: An Essay in the Philosophy of Language

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For example, in the above case of the command, the speaker must be in a position superior to the hearer such that he is in a position to command him. Other facts of the situation which would have to be taken into account would be whether the speaker were reciting a poem, quoting a newspaper, acting in a play, etc.

The author must however also be a competent speaker of some language. Thus a person who knows how to speak English i. Searle gives the rules for performing normal speech acts such as asserting, commanding or promising.


Or rather he gives the rules of explicit asserting, etc. Thus he distinguishes between i. In fact Searle admits that his rules of speech acts are rules for idealized speech acts:. Here Searle is, in effect, pointing out that the concept of a promise like that of assertion and command, etc. Below we shall return to this differentiation among the explicit, the marginal and the parasitic.

Derrida maintains that the Searlean criterion for distinguishing between the normal and the parasitic is inadequate because language is by its very nature not controllable in the way required to make such distinctions. How words and expressions are understood is determined by how they are used throughout the community.

Searle, John.

But such uses vary from time to time and from place to place. There is nothing so permanent as to be accountable for in terms of rules or to be determined as dependent on, or independent of, some other use.

In short, Derrida maintains that language cannot be intentionally controlled in such a way as to be treated as an object that is rule-governed and susceptible of being consciously modified to yield parasitic utterances. And contexts are not totalizable. Thus, things are not such as to allow one to make a distinction between normal and parasitic uses of language. I shall examine his arguments for these points in a moment. In order to appreciate his criticisms it is necessary, at this point, to digress in order to give an account of how Derrida deals with concepts and thus with the concepts of promising, commanding, asserting, etc.

I shall use this notion to explain why Derrida claims that, since there is no proper context and I shall explain this term in a moment for any utterance, and thus no normal as opposed to parasitic context, a normal context can never be determined. What Derrida seeks to account for with this concept of iterability is what is commonly understood under the rubric of the type-token distinction.

This distinction may be accounted for as follows. Consider the following figure:. In so far as there is one word in this figure, it is a type; and in so far as there are two words, they are tokens.

Speech Acts: An Essay in the Philosophy of Language - Semantic Scholar

The figure may also be said to contain one word or sign which is repeated. When something is repeated, another instance of that something comes into existence. Thus repetition is tied to alterity, i. And the word may be written in many different scripts and uttered with different pronunciations. All of these differences are differences of the same sign. There are other differences however that would make such a difference as to yield a different sign. The identity of a sign is determined by whatever the speakers-writers of the language in question regard as the same in spite of differences between two or more items.

In nominalistic terms, two entities may become atoms, or parts, of an individual through being decided to be, or recognized as, the same or as repetitions of one another. Despite all the differences between the entities e. In Derridean terms, to decide that one word-token is a repetition of another is to determine the two tokens, thus determined as the same, to be parts of one overall thing, the word-type in question. This is what is essentially behind the following distinction made by Derrida:. Something may be a word- or sign-token only in so far as it is repeatable; and its status as a word-token comes through its being repeated.

Another way of saying this is to say that a sign must have a replica. There must be something about the original that is in some sense repeatable in order for it to be a sign. And there need be no necessary or sufficient conditions of what counts as a repetition. This is decided by usage. Whatever is generally but not necessarily universally recognized as a repetition is a repetition. Both speech and writing are said, because of iterability, to function in the absence of the author and this absence is characterized in terms of detachability.

Consider that whether they be words or phrases, the elements of speech or writing may be used in different contexts. Because of these three features, the elements of speech may be said to be detachable from what they signify. This applies to both speech and writing:. Speech functions despite the absence of its referent from either the speaker or the hearer.

Speech Acts: An Essay in the Philosophy of Language

The utterance is thus iterable in the absence of its referent. It is intelligible even if the speaker is mistaken or lying. Not only can the referent be absent without speech failing to be intelligible, so also may the signified.

Speech Act Theory Presentation

The speaker may say things without paying attention to, or understanding, what he is saying. On the basis of this detachability, which applies in the case of both speech and writing, Derrida claims that, strictly speaking, there is no proper context of an utterance. That is, there is no context to which the utterance belongs, to which it is anchored in order to secure its meaning. If speech or writing can be understood in the absence of the original referent, signified and intention, then neither spoken nor written utterances are tethered to a present context which could be called their proper context.

The context for the sender and for the receiver may be different, and there is no way of speaking or writing to avoid this essential possibility since any further attempt to fix the context will itself be re-interpretable in further contexts.

Speech Acts: An Essay in the Philosophy of Language.

But if there is no way of fixing a context, then there is no proper context:. Any sign can, because of iterability and detachability, be meaningful in different ways in an indeterminate number of contexts and there is no criterion of normalcy of context that will select just one of those contexts as proper or central. Detachability or disengagement and citational graft are possibilities; and every sign can be cited.

Some uses of language are clearly strange in certain contexts and others are more natural. However there may be much disagreement over whether certain uses of language are normal or abnormal. Throughout his works Derrida gives many examples of how the texts of various authors can be read very differently in different contexts. Some readings are accepted as conventional; or, at least, such readings are so widely adhered to sometimes with slight variations that they become regarded as the meaning of the text. They are thought to be interpretations that get at what the author intended.

Derrida however demonstrates that such texts yield interpretations that subvert their conventional readings. This is one example of how the writer cannot control language to make it say only what he intends—if indeed he can still be said to have intended anything definite, an issue I shall examine more in the next section. Language ends up saying other things as well, even contradictory things. This shows how language is beyond the control of the writer.

He cannot make it univocally express what he intends, or thinks he intends, it to express. Thus he cannot communicate univocally by means of it. The reader may interpret it otherwise than putatively intended; he may even interpret it in ways that contradict, or subvert, the meaning putatively intended by the author.

But does this mean that the text in question does not mean what its author intended it to mean, that it means what he intended it to mean and other things as well and thus that we can never be certain what the author meant , or that its meaning, and even what the author may be said to have intended, varies depending on how it is being read? Is the question ontological viz. In what follows I shall go on to investigate and answer these questions. I shall show that an utterances means whatever it can be interpreted to mean, given that context can never be fixed.

  1. Speech Acts.
  2. Account Options.
  3. VII.—CRITICAL NOTICES | Mind | Oxford Academic.