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Alkazi Theatre Archives

A Bibliographic Listing from the Archive

Speech Acts: An Essay in the Philosophy of Language

Book: Speech Acts: An Essay in the Philosophy of Language
Written by: John R Searle
Published by: Cambridge University Press, 1969.

John Searle’s ‘Speech Acts: An essay in the Philosophy of Language’ amplifies Austin’s conceptualization of speech acts. The book delves into the simple yet complex questions— how do words relate to the world? How do words stand for things? What is the difference between a meaningful string of words and a meaningless one? The book deliberates over the philosophies of Wittgenstein, Austin, Strawson, Gottlob Frege, Stuart Mill and Russel. The book is divided into two main sections— the first section, ‘A Theory of Speech Acts’ complicates Austin’s theory of speech act and suggests that there are a series of  analytic connections between the notion of speech acts—  what the speaker means, what the sentence uttered means, what the speaker intends, what the hearer understands, and what the rules governing the linguistic elements are (p.21). The author argues that speaking a language is engaging in a (highly complex) rule-governed form of behavior (p.12), and  explains the sense in which language is to be regarded as rule-governed.

The second part of the book, ‘Some Applications of the Theory’, applies the speech act theories to the clarification of various fallacies in philosophy, and to the solution of certain philosophical problems. The section deals with the fallacies such as ‘naturalistic fallacy’, ‘speech act fallacy’, and ‘assertion fallacy’. This section further considers how theory of reference advanced, engaging Russel’s theory of definite descriptions and the meaning of proper names. In the course of discussing the propositional act, Searle examines the idea of reference. 

“When I say that speaking a language is engaging in a rule governed form of behavior, I am not especially concerned with the particular conventions one invokes in speaking this language or that (and it is primarily for this reason that my investigation differs fundamentally from linguistics, construed as an examination of the actual structure of natural human languages) but the underlying rules which the conventions manifest or realize…(p.41)”

Speech Acts- An Essay in the Philosophy of Language