Such an antidote can be found in J. L. Austin's speech act theory. In this paper, I How to do things with words: speech acts in education1. J. L. Austin's How To Do Things With Words () is one of those books that at first popularized and deepened Austin's work in his book Speech Acts (). perform actions, or, according to Austin “things that people do with words”. sequence of commands can make computers “do things with words”, literally. The .
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Austin delivered lectures at Oxford under the title 'Words and Deeds', each year from a partially re- written set of notes, each of which covers. St. Stephen's College, University of Delhi, Philosophy, 3rd year B A Hons Philosophy of Language/Instructor: Nilanjan Bhowmick Handout on J. L. Austin. How to Do Things Without Words Tom Grimwood and Paul K. Miller Introduction The impact of J.L. Austin's Speech-Act Theory has resonated throughout the.
Perhaps non-verbal acts actually require, for Austin, some kind of visual action — after all, one problem of describing a non-verbal act in terms of conventions is that such conventions are presumably based on a degree of repetition. I bet you sixpence it will rain tomorrow. Princeton University Press. Speech Acts. Social Psychology Quarterly, 59 1 , Google Books no proxy Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server Configure custom proxy use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy. Applied ethics.
The former verifiable by its referential truth or falsity: The latter establishes its truth only through its performance. Saying nothing is simply not speaking at all, and therefore seems rather irrelevant to what is, after all, a speech-act theory. Indeed, G.
Austin has in mind here particular non-verbal actions; the raising of a hand to stop someone, in place of a verbal warning, for example. As such, the structure of the non-verbal act follows that of its verbal equivalent. Gesture is, very arguably, not identical with silence. Perhaps non-verbal acts actually require, for Austin, some kind of visual action — after all, one problem of describing a non-verbal act in terms of conventions is that such conventions are presumably based on a degree of repetition.
It may well, however, be difficult to recognise when silence is a repetition of a previous silence, or a completely new silence.
Either way, using these particular examples of non-verbal communication allows Austin to retain the unit of measure that remains consistent throughout his Speech-Act Theory, which is the sentence uttered by someone, or the action done by someone. It should be noted, though, that these are usually based on conventions of monologue rather than dialogue.
That is to say, the audience is taken to be essentially passive at least, if the illocution is successful , and, by the wider conventions that guarantee its success, they are not expected to interrupt.
Silence, in this sense, is not ambiguous although this lack of ambiguity depends on conventions of speaking that go well beyond a mere propositional framework. The distinction between active and passive audiences is, perhaps, a subtle but telling incongruity between that which is taken as ordinary language and that which is understood to be ordinary conversation. Moving aside from the conventions of public oration, then, Helen Steward has discussed the case of silence in her book The Ontology of Mind.
Sometimes, as it were, we use our language to carve out events from a part of space and time where things remain unaltered. Usually, there is nothing to command our attention in such dreary scenes, but from time to time, an aspect of an unchanging situation can have a significance which warrants the use of the language of events. Steward, , p. This seems to confirm a pre-existing order of meaning. In short: Fundamentally, silence represents nothing and is, therefore, also ostensibly nothing.
We could also look back to medieval negative theology and the significance of apophaticism. They also take us into discussions of particular institutional and legal conventions that are beyond the scope of this paper to address. But it is not clear that this is necessarily the case.
But if meaning is located in force, then nobody could reasonably dispute that silence can be extremely powerful. To this end, there are a number of more successful silences we might identify: The point herein is that silence communicates, and does so in ways that cannot be completely satisfied by any straightforward analogy with the propositional spoken word.
Silence is as such is as much a part of everyday conversation as non-silence statistically and functionally. But that is not to say that such symbols do not flood our day to day activities and, while mundane, they are certainly not trivial. The problem, perhaps, is not silence itself, but a contextual framework that allows us to identify silence as meaningful or not. It is this, after all, that meaningful silence is an anomaly or exception to. Context is, of course, something of a sticking point within Speech-Act Theory.
But there are two issues that need to be raised at this stage. Firstly, there is something of an inherent ambiguity to all of the hypothetical examples above that problematises the notion of context as a relatively static ground upon which meaning and non-meaning is decided. For Austin, this attention to the possible failures of ordinary language leads to two important points: As such, Austin stresses the need to move beyond propositional understandings of language.
The same is often done for silence: But this tacitly accepts the hierarchy of speech over non-speech before we have engaged with any actual data. Furthermore, it does not matter from this point on how many invented examples are brought forward to support the case, as they will all implicitly conform to the presupposed model. The data becomes a mere illustration of what is effectively the necessary structure for philosophically understanding everyday language. It can be argued, however, that this implicit ordering of silence as an anomaly of speech leads Austin back to a form of intentionalism that would seem to remove any need to look at conversational dialogue in the first place.
We therefore need to sidestep the recourse to intentionality that establishes a particular order of convention or context. Sacks, CA and Silence Whereas Austin writes of the total speech situation, Harvey Sacks — like Harold Garfinkel - points to an altogether different model of context, based on the ethnomethods utilised by participants in everyday conversation themselves.
These utterances both influence and verify intersubjective meaning in-situ, which is to say that talk itself is both context-shaped and context-renewing Heritage, The situation of action is essentially transformable. It is identifiable as the reflexive product of the organized activities of the participants. As such, it is on- goingly discovered, maintained, and altered as a project and a product of ordinary actions.
Participants use prior turns as resource for the design of utterances, and how utterances themselves delimit the range of possible following turns.
As such, the observation of naturally-occurring conversation allows for an analyst to provide a description of the interpretative work, the practical reasoning, being done by the participants regarding what has been said and what, thus, ought to be said in order to maintain the flow of communication. Interlocutors do not simply produce an isolated sentence following another. Steve Levinson notes that participants in conversation analyse and respond to their fellow speakers , p.
It is through this shift of emphasis that silence becomes less of an anomaly in conversation, and instead just as significant as speech itself. The lack of intuition for how a conversation might develop is an ad hoc issue for interlocutors.
This is what makes it communication: But as analysts of speech, we have much the same problem when inventing examples. One might not presume that one can gauge the kind of answer a question receives, but one might reasonably presume an answer will follow a question.
But is even that necessarily a strong presumption? In this sense, while at first silence may prospectively mean anything, the sequencing of conversation often gives a different picture.
Consider the sequence of talk below: Is there something bothering you or not? Yes or no 4. This exchange illuminates several important points. The first, and hardly revolutionary, issue is that the question is ultimately followed by an answer. This further demonstrates that, first, the rules of adjacency pairing are not inveterate or mechanical i. This ordering is 9Used here is the standard expression within CA for designating the length of a silence in seconds.
For Austin, utterances are taken on their own, for the sake of analytic clarity; but, simply put, such a move to clarity steps rather too quickly over the fundamental issue of how the situation of the situational ambiguity is constructed within the discourse itself, as much as the ambiguity is. In doing so, speaker A also contextually assigns those silences to speaker B.
The exchange is finally ended by the provision of a firm answer by B, completing the pair. In short, both participants visibly carry out situationally-relevant interpretative work during the interaction regarding the nature of the prior turns or non-turns.
By examining the sequential unfolding of the conversation, two short periods during which nothing is said can be seen to be, in-context, highly meaningful products of a particular speaker. The sands shift for the participants in the interaction with each turn. It is very difficult to predict what kind of utterance might cause offence, or be deemed inappropriate without attention to the specific unfolding of real sequences. Consider this transcript10 of a doctor delivering a diagnosis to a patient with clinical depression.
And in a minor case like this, there should be no problem. Initially, this would seem to be nothing other than a straightforward account of what has been said. If we observe the extant silences within this conversation, however, our understanding of the interaction is perhaps slightly different I know there are some. In short, these microscopic lapses in activity are of sufficient duration for the doctor to monitor them as being prefatory to some mode of rejection, and precipitate further action from him designed to mitigate such an unfavourable or difficult outcome.
In this sense, we can observe the inherent reflexivity of context and action at-work. The constant reflexive shifts in the contexts of silence also bring to light the dimensions of power within our everyday conversations. A pause of one second may seem of relatively little consequence, but it are precisely these kinds of pauses that often prompt us to identify, firstly, whose silence it is i.
Are they resistant? Or upset? And so forth. Implications for Austin The two key themes central to this chapter — that conversation must be dealt with in its full sequential context, and that the limits of this context are constructed within conversation itself — press the philosophy of language to reconsider the abstractions it has previously made for the sake of clarity. We will remember that, for Austin, illocutionary intention is fulfilled on the sole condition that it is recognised: Each participant analyses and engages with the situation they are in, and in acting provide an interactional contribution that moves the event forward.
What renders silence such an interesting case study is how it illustrates the way in which speakers simultaneously account for what happens and their reflexive role in accounting for it. Arguably, then, the problem for Austin is not his appeal to context per se, but rather the appeal to the orthodoxy of context.
In sum, thus, if we want to produce a strong and systematic philosophy of the form and function of silence within ordinary language, then we may need to take stronger account of the flexibility and mobility of local contexts, and the manner in which silence itself is integrated into, and rendered meaningful within, sequences of real speech-acts. References Adorno, T. Negative dialectics. Atkinson, J. Order in court: The organisation of verbal interaction in judicial settings.
Austin, J. Philosophical papers. Clarendon Press. How to do things with words. The William James lectures delivered at Harvard university in Butler, J. Excitable speech. Davidson, J. Subsequent versions of invitations, offers, requests, and proposals dealing with potential or actual rejection. Heritage Eds. Studies in conversation analysis pp.
Cambrige University Press. Fogelin, R. Taking Wittgenstein at his word: A textual study. Find it on Scholar. Request removal from index. Revision history.
Google Books no proxy Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server Configure custom proxy use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy. Configure custom resolver. Epistemic Vigilance.
Conversational Impliciture. Kent Bach - - Mind and Language 9 2: Second-Hand Knowledge. Elizabeth Fricker - - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 73 3: General Semantics.
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