At the beginning of this class Sarah and Andrei will perform from memory. Andrei will do “Lesson One,” a track by Korean rapper MC Tablo, and Sarah will recite the final passage of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray.

In this week’s class we are going to take a rather drastic detour from our discussions of particular performances by particular poets, artists, genres, schools, in order to talk more theoretically about what happens when we perform texts. There is something fundamentally different about reading a text to oneself and reading or reciting it aloud before other people, in a social context, and one way of looking at that difference is to ask, what can one accomplish by saying things? Let’s zoom out to an even larger scale and talk about the import of speech acts in general. In certain cases, according to language philosopher J.L. Austin, the simple act of saying something is equivalent to accomplishing something, and he calls these cases “performative utterances.” Examples would be “I hereby pronounce you husband and wife,” or “I bet you twenty dollars you can’t eat this entire package of cheese doodles.” In both cases, simply saying the words has brought a certain state of affairs into being: a marriage, or an obligation to pay $20 if the cheese doodles are successfully consumed. This is different from saying “Billy and Sue are married,” or “It would be hard for you to eat all those cheese doodles,” which describe states of affairs rather than enact them and are what Austin calls constative utterances.

So far, this is a fairly straightforward and seemingly insignificant distinction, but it gets much more complicated, even in J.L. Austin’s attempt to explicate it, because language is slippery and it turns out to be very difficult to separate what qualifies as a performative from what doesn’t. The entire debate, to which philosophers such as John Searle, Jacques Derrida, and Judith Butler have all contributed, is known as speech act theory. We’re going to talk about the outlines of this debate, and we’ll also look at how it relates to the concept of performativity, which Butler has used, most famously, in describing gender as something that is constituted by our actions and utterances. All of this may not seem immediately to have much to do with oral poetry as we’ve discussed it so far, but speech act theory and performativity, besides being interesting in their own right, are vital to understanding the social significance of literary performance in a contemporary theoretical context.

I’d like you to start by reading this: “Till Derrida Do Us Part,” from Harper’s magazine.

The text that instigated speech act theory is J.L. Austin’s series of lectures published as How to Do Things With Words. The lectures were given in 1955 and the book, published in 1962, is actually rather entertaining to read. It’s not very long, so if you have time I advise you to get it and read it. Here, though, are three short chapters from it (one, two, and nine), which will cover the important points and give you the flavor of Austin’s approach to the question.

In 1971, the French philosopher Jacques Derrida wrote an essay called Signature Event Context, in which he makes some observations about the differences and similarities between spoken and written language, in the process undermining the assumption that language communicates meaning by passing an idea from a sender to a receiver. He also presents a critique of J.L. Austin, specifically of Austin’s claim that non-serious language, such as theatrical performances, jokes, etc.—what Austin calls “parasitic” uses of language—can be excluded from the rules of performative utterances. I want you to read the essay not only for its valuable intervention in speech act theory, but also because it is a great short example of Derrida’s thinking more generally. There are a lot of background texts that Derrida uses to frame his argument—note his reference to Plato’s Phaedrus, which we discussed—but I think the general point can be understood without also having Husserl open on your desk, for example. For our purposes, the most relevant section is the one titled “Parasites […],” so if you’re having any trouble, focus on that.

I would also like to discuss Judith Butler’s Excitable Speech: Politics of the Performative. I say I would like to, but again, it’s hard to select just an excerpt, and I’m not sure you’ll have time to read all this as it is, or that we’ll have time to discuss it. So perhaps in class I’ll bring up some points she raises in relation to hate speech and censorship and how they can be understood through speech act theory. If you have the time and interest, get the book from the library or go to Amazon.com, click Look Inside, and read the introduction.

I’ll watch for your comments/questions.

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  1.   nmatth01

    Constative, performative, illocutionary, prelocutionary, and last but not least”Differance”. These are all words that are attempting to explain, or perhaps understand, what “words” actually do (interesting right?). Are we performers indirectly by every utterance we make? Or rather, is performance carefully calculated speech that is successful only if it is understandable?

    Austin, Derrida, and countless others have become embroiled in the never-ending matrix of this argument, yet it brings to light the interesting notion of word usage in accordance to performance. For example, as opposed to looking at a performance of say, Ginsberg’s “Howl”, as a complete and total package, I imagine such Speech-Act theorists would attempt to explicate the very origins of such a motivation. Why “perform” words in such a manner? To what end are words being used, being misused, and of course, being misunderstood?

    I imagine it boiling down to an argument over the effective use of language–as though language were an instrument capable of being played both majestically and miserably. I think much of the argument hinges upon the ability of speech to be both conscious and unconscious. By this I mean the presence of reactionary speech: exclamations of pain, inarticulations of emotion, and pure, nonsensical sound. What constitutes speech, a derivation of meaning? Because an inarticulate cry of pain is successful in conveying a fact without “effectively” using words. The cycle seems endless, the chain of signifiers unending, perhaps this why Derrida writes it all off on “Differance”– maybe signification truly is an endless chain.

  2.   sarahcoluccio

    Right off the bat, I have to honestly say I had a bit of a hard time getting through the readings for this week. I knew the excerpts of Austin’s book were going to be difficult to get through when he started off by comparing grammarians and philosophers. While they made some interesting points, the chapters felt a lot like a philosophy essay to me, with all of his various criteria that had to be met in specific orders, or changed the outcome of an action if certain part of the process or criteria was missing. His reasoning reminded me of a typical “If…then…” statement, though pertaining to words rather than whether or not something exists.

    That being said, the idea that struck me most was his argument that words outside of a particular context are just words and mean nothing. Reading this, my immediate thought was of the saying “Actions speak louder than words.” I had never really considered that idea in much depth, but after reading Austin it actually makes a lot of sense, at least to me. Unless you actually back up what you say you intend to do, it means nothing. You can tell someone you’re going to learn to clean up after yourself, or start volunteering with the homeless, but they are empty words if there’s no action or performance to back it up or give a value to the words.

    I particularly liked the constant metaphor of the marriage, and his deconstruction of the entire affair. You can tell someone you love them, or want to marry them, or even say the vows to them, but the criteria all has to be there and fit in the correct order in order for the words to mean anything or actually do what they are meant to do. Like the Judge says in “Till Derrida do us part,” “…it’s not enough to just say [the words]. (If it were, Allison and Cary could just recite these lines to each other on the subway, say, or while making risotto, and – voila – they’d be married.)” If that were the case, we would have people getting married every minute to people they barely know and think they love, or cute strangers on the subway. The divorce rate is high enough already, isn’t it? This in turn made me think of the promises parents so often make to young children, and the fact that more often than not they’re made with no intention to actually come to fruition (but don’t tell the kids that).

  3.   gfl11131988

    Queens College
    Professor Corey Frost
    ENGL 781
    Response # 7
    George Festin Lorenzo
    10/19/2010

    This weeks set of readings were very interesting being that they truly took the concept of language and speaking and took it to a whole new level. Specifically, the literal level. The article from Harper’s Magazine was a very fun read as it was able to explain the whole concept of a couple going from fiancées to legally married in the simple act of saying the words, “I do”, to one another. It was interesting to note that the words themselves aren’t powerful but rather, the setting, as exemplified by the article poking fun at the words. According to the article, if it simply were the words, a couple could be wedded over a dinner of pasta. When Silverman writes, “First of all—according to Austin and according to the law—the words must be meant “seriously” and not self-referentially”, that is truly the way it works in a nutshell and the fact that a priest, deacon, judge, etc is present, as well as a crowd, is what helps give it such seriousness and legal power.
    To comment on what Sarah said, I would like to say that I wholeheartedly agree. Sarah wrote in her response, “Unless you actually back up what you say you intend to do, it means nothing”. Man, is that not the truth! It actually reminds me of what I taught my students last week, about how saying sorry means nothing. Sorry is just a word, nothing more, nothing less. But actually doing things to show your remorse, to show you want forgiveness takes your sorry into another level and helps build a reputation that when you say sorry, you mean it.
    Jacques Derrida’s essay, Signature Event Context was another unique and interesting text that helped establish this weeks set of readings being the way the text distinguishes spoken language and written language. Admittedly so, this text was quite difficult to understand and grasp at times but the part that stood out to me was when Derrida wrote, “Through empirical variations of tone, voice, etc., possibly of a certain accent, for example, we must be able to recognize the identity, roughly speaking, of a signifying form” (10). What I took from this somewhat complicated sentence, is that the way things are said are often definable from the way they are said. Tone and voice play a major factor in that and the same exact sentence, or even word, can be uttered, but whether it shows seriousness or comedy, happiness or anger, nervousness or excitement, is all determined in the way it is spoken.

  4.   alee909

    I agree with Sarah about having a hard time getting through the readings for this week. I always find that I can’t really fully understand what these theorists are saying and can’t really relate to why they find semantics so interesting. I think a lot of what I’m feeling comes from not understanding the stuff too well, so I’ll take credit if my lack of intelligence or understanding is what’s causing me to feel this way. . .

    More than any other theory we’ve had to read for any ‘English’ class, I found myself asking myself during Austin’s lectures why any of this is important and why we should take conscious notice of what he is saying. I think about one of the things we’re supposed to think about when we’re writing a paper; the ‘so what?’ question. Austin describes a lot of terms and situations; words like illocutionary, perlocutionary, locutionary, constative, performative, etc. . . Not to take anything away from him, but I feel like he just takes obvious occurrences and tendencies that we subconsciously notice and just expounds on them, without asking himself, ‘so what?’ I think we can all do this on a certain level, but is it significant or is it just intellectual masturbation? Maybe I’m just not seeing the connection that Prof Frost mentions between this and the ‘social significance of literary performance in a contemporary theoretical context.’

  5.   Sean Nicholson

    One thing that I noticed before I even began reading the Austen work was in Professor Frost’s introduction to the work he said of the work that it, “…is actually rather entertaining to read”. The inclusion of the word ‘actually’ gave me the impression that you went into reading the work with the notion of expecting it to be less than entertaining. This backhanded comment left me with the notion that this work was going to be less than enjoyable, but I have to say after struggling through some of it, it was actually better than I had expected. To tie it in to Sarah’s discussion of marriage and divorce, it seems to me that performative utterances seem to have a diminishing degree of finality to them. With the exception of the example of the bet, the rest of the examples of performative utterances that Austen uses all require paperwork to make them official; the marriage requires a license, the boat would need paperwork to change the name, and a will that is only spoken would probably not hold up in a court of law.

    While reading the excerpt from Harper’s magazine, I found the following to be quite interesting, “They do not understand that the power of the wedding vow as a performative utterance derives not from its external registration of the bride and groom’s intimate, spiritual feelings—as if somehow the more heartfelt and confessional your ceremony is, the more married you are—but rather from the external, conventional nature of the act itself.” The concept of writing your own vows is not because people lack an understanding of the power of the performative utterance, but because they understand that there is also the matter of the utterance becoming cliché and therefore losing its power.

  6.   Najila

    I, too, had a little hard time getting through the readings and in reading through the class comments, I found myself agreeing with “alee909” ‘s post in regards to “why any of this is important and why we should take conscious notice of what he is saying.” It’s quite evident that Austin put a great deal of work and effort into this topic but I couldn’t find a way to apply it to anything I’ve ever read in any class or during leisure reading. Also, to better understand it, I found myself reading it out loud from time to time. When I got to his paragraph where he writes “We must distinguish the illocutionary from the perlocutionary act: for example we must distinguish ‘in saying it I was warning him’ from ‘by saying it I convinced him, or surprised him, or got him to stop” (p. 100) I did find that interesting because I had never really thought that there would ever come a time when that differences would have to be made. If you mean one and not the other then isn’t it just simple enough to just to use the right words in the first place without having to wonder if your words are “doing an action” or not. I admire that Austin *has* figured it out and I do know a friend of mine who would really be interested in this topic but after a certain point, something like this ends up going right over my head.

  7.   jaygwelsh

    In regards to what Nick asks about our everyday speech being a constant performance, I would have to say – within the context of the readings – yes. We see the affirmation of this being in “Till Derrida do us part”; in the text, Derrida is said as being against the idea of distinguishing jest from seriousness. In that vein, then, everything we say is gold in the ears of everyone listening. There is no way of picking apart the act from the reality. And, in a sense, that is something that we just have to contend with; since we are unable to read peoples’ minds, we simply have their spoken word as a poor substitute. And in regards to what Nick says concerning the makeup of speech – and if articulation is the necessary ingredient – I would have to say that, essentially, anything we say can hold water as long as it’s understood. After all, words are nothing more than arbitrary groupings of letters; words are really little more than a symptom of what they’re defining. Since we understand the reflex towards pain, we can understand the exclamation of “ow” or whatever sailor vocabulary comes to mind first.

    As for what Sarah says concerning “actions speak louder than words” I would have to disagree. Although I understand your reasoning, I think, more than anything, that in Austin’s eyes, it’s the reverse. This is simply because in some cases, the words are the actions, as seen when the couple say “I do” during the marriage or when the gambler says his number during a game of roulette. The words are almost law in these instances, where no one bothers to question the weight thrown behind the letters. That is not to say, though, that words are always louder than actions. I say this because in Austin’s first lecture, he discusses the rare instances where you can commit an action without uttering a single word and still be considered legitimate (Austin, Lecture 1, p. 8). This can be found, for example, when someone is playing the slot machines; they don’t have to say anything, yet they can still make or break the bank. That, of course, doesn’t take away from the fact that words still have that inherent power in the first place.

    The examples you give, Sarah, are still valid regardless – I think that making New Year’s resolutions and the such have no weight unless you act upon them. However, I think that when Austin speaks of a word’s power, I interpret it as having more social implications than personal or psychological ones. Which raises the question: do words that you say to yourself (in the form of promises and such) mean less than when you say those exact words to others? Do societal expectations towards personal responsibility shape how carefully we choose our words? I think that society does play a major role in assigning words power. After all, for the couple who say “I do” during the wedding and divorce a year later, it takes the power of the state to divorce them officially.

    -James Welsh

  8.   dsykes

    In response to alee909’s comment, I venture to develop a comprehensive conclusion in J.L. Austin’s breakdown of the nature of utterance. It appears as if, throughout the selections we have read, Austin scrutinizes the difference between utterance and statement in order to reveal the nature of action-statement relationships as dependent upon social conventions and established constraints, similar to the rules that we have established within our language system. Through scrutinizing the factors by which we can purport a performative utterance as unhappy (a term I found delight in with my association of a sad-mac icon hovering over a disingenuous declaration of a promise), Austin suggests that the nature of truth within a statement-action relationship is something internal that cannot be positively affirmed or denied.

    Austin’s complicated manner of establishing a system of defining the ways in which we can classify utterances and the “misuse” of utterance reveals that the act of saying something that is not a statement, but an illustration of social conventions, is not readily marked as having validity or truth outside of oneself even though the constraints of a socially agreed system is inherent in our expression as a system we have agreed upon to determine sincerity of our actions. His revelations is that even in our understanding of the system, the way that it works and the manner in which we can reveal falsification or lack of continuity is evidence in itself that there can be no concrete assertion of validity in our utterances.

    On another note, I agree with George that Until Derrida do us part was particularly charming. If wedding ceremonies regularly disenfranchised the audience from the formality and presumptuousness of attesting to a relationship that one should not be able to explain at surface value, I would feel more inclined to attend more weddings.

    -Duane

  9.   nahmed

    I wanted to comment on Sarah’s comment:

    “I particularly liked the constant metaphor of the marriage, and his deconstruction of the entire affair. You can tell someone you love them, or want to marry them, or even say the vows to them, but the criteria all has to be there and fit in the correct order in order for the words to mean anything or actually do what they are meant to do. Like the Judge says in “Till Derrida do us part,” “…it’s not enough to just say [the words]. (If it were, Allison and Cary could just recite these lines to each other on the subway, say, or while making risotto, and – voila – they’d be married.)” If that were the case, we would have people getting married every minute to people they barely know and think they love, or cute strangers on the subway.”

    I agree, the marriage vows mean nothing until you actually do what they are meant to do…. in that aspect, it makes sense that these vows are the very thing that scares people to death. On the flip side, some people take these vows and never adhere to them, why? There are actually people that see these very vows as being nothing but words and people actually DO end up taking these same vows with people they barely know.

    On another note, in response to Jame’s question ” do societal expectations towards personal responsibility shape how carefully we choose our words?” It poses a serious question… does society play a major role? If it did, that couple that James referred to… wouldn’t be getting that divorce a year later! The vows would actually MEAN something. Personally, I choose my words MORE carefully when speaking to others than I do when saying or promising things to myself. For me, there is that sense of social responsibility to others. Once the speech becomes spoken, it holds a heavier weight, it makes me accountable.

  10.   Joshua Lindenbaum

    It seems the line between action and talking have become blurred. According Austin a “peformative utterance” goes beyond a statement (a matter of true and false or merely to describe something), into the realm of action. For example, saying “I do” is considered an action, not just words.

    I never thought of words as actions, but when one thinks of these words in Austin’s context, his re-categorizing of language makes sense. A performative utterance is talking the talk and walking the walk at the same time. To say something in this respect is an action.

    To think that one can speak something into existence is quite interesting, even though it happens all the time most of us haven’t come across Austin’s line of thinking. Before I read this, I would’ve never thought of talking as an action . . . well—speaking is an action I suppose_ you’re doing something . . . right? This is all very confusing. Saying “I do” is making a commitment to someone, the two words is the agreed upon convention of many societies. By saying, or doing these words one changes what once was. To re-conceptualize one’s known reality is difficult. Austin seems concerned with misclassified words, and wants to clarify, re-categorize, and make people aware of the obvious. But we as humans become oblivious to the obvious because it is obvious. One doesn’t look for their glasses when they’re on his or her face.

    But there are same faults in Austin’s logic. Can’t any statement be an action by his definition? If you say to someone “I hate you,” is that not an action? Talking about something is clearly different from doing something, but here speaking in doing. I guess the distinction would be talking about marriage (statements), and saying “I do” would be performative utterance (action). But aren’t these talks that lead to a marriage still an action? Do they not lead to the action? For if you never make these statements prior will the so-called performative utterance ever come to be?

    Labeling, categorizing, defining, and separating, are humanitys’ attempts to try to comprehend, explain, and explicate reality. But ironically enough, it has the opposite effect. Everything is one. Everything flows like the ocean; together. But we separate tings so we can discuss them, for it would be too difficult to discuss everything at once, but you can always be entranced by an ocean. One is entranced because everything is an ocean; together.

  11.   coreyfrost

    Hi everyone. I see that at least some of you had a hard time with these readings, which doesn’t totally surprise me, although I expected the Austin would be less of a challenge than the Derrida. I suspect that some of you may be confused less by what Austin is saying, which I think he takes pains to explain step by step, as much as you are confused by a more fundamental issue: why is he saying these things? Why am I reading them? What does this have to do with anything? This is not a horrible position to be in: you have encountered a text that doesn’t meet your expectations. That’s exciting, no? Najila said, “I couldn’t find a way to apply it to anything I’ve ever read in any class or during leisure reading.” Well, on the surface that may seem like a bad thing—the text is useless, by this reckoning—but what you’re saying is that this is a new subject / style / approach for you. A new experience. So, go with it. Don’t worry if it doesn’t make complete sense to you at first, that’s okay. It’s possible even to enjoy a text you don’t understand (you do understand parts of it, after all), if you don’t let your anxiety (fear of confusion, fear of looking unintelligent) get the better of you.

    There are a couple of ways to proceed with a text you don’t immediately “get.” I will advocate the more difficult method, of course, which requires patience. First, it’s important that you try to interpret the text on its own terms. Are you really absorbing his argument? If not, slow down, go back, try again. This first step takes a lot of careful close reading, re-reading, note-taking. The second step is to try to determine the context: where does this text come from, why was it produced? This step often involves some external research, although a lot of clues can be found right in the text. Third, you should think about how to apply the text to the problems at hand. In other words, why do you think I asked you to read this in a course on literature and performance? It’s essential that you at least take a stab at these three steps before moving on to the next stage, which is your questions for and critique of the argument. If you jump too quickly to the critique stage, you may end up missing an opportunity to learn something from the text.

    In class tomorrow we’re going to look at some specific parts of the texts, the Derrida in particular, and read them closely together, and you’ll see that it’s not as impenetrable as it seems at first. But let me say first: don’t get too hung up about the point of Austin’s theory or what Andrei calls the “So what?” The bottom line is, Austin is a philosopher of language, and philosophy of language is what he’s doing. Even if it’s not what you’d choose to spend your mental energy on, as textual scholars you should be willing to try on anything for a short spell. Furthermore, don’t ascribe more complexity to Austin’s work than is there. Even though he uses a bewildering array of labels, he’s really trying to simplify things, to produce clear reliable categories for things. And Derrida later suggests that he is in fact over-simplifying. So if you feel, while reading Austin, that there’s something a bit silly in his ambitions, you may be on to something, something which Derrida, for one, apparently also felt…

  12.   srogers101

    “What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.” Like gays for example.

    Austin deals with language as coincidental with action and they’re combination helps support infelicitous conventions that some people may like to join. Derrida’s assertion that Austin conveniently dismisses entropic disruptions of convention to allow the idea of the speech act to exist is true but doesn’t preclude Austin from also making an accurate assertion. Convention survives on negligence of variable because it is as tenuously self-contained as the statements that arbitrarily support it. The chasm between utterance and source is necessary in order to realize that the thing left for interpretation is potentially bullshit. With every deconstruction of an asserted possibility there will arise some brand new possibility which will inevitably be just as arbitrary as the initial possibility that was decided to be quite silly on second thought but that’s the bitch with language. Wiggenstein (that’s the dude that wrote the quote up there(or was it me? Well I literally typed it and then the computer actually made it pop up there or something like that) wanted to create a more precise logical notation as it is the job of philosophy to elucidate and the messiness of language makes this a pain in the ass (as noted in the posts that now includes this one(how about a short, Raymond Carver sentence with a subject and predicate)). So anyway Wiggenstein thinks language is like this mesh to throw onto reality so as to divide and analyze. Whatever can’t get in the mesh is nonsense and not worth talking about. Again like gays, fags, homos etc. So back to Derrida. He kinda goes, “hey wait a minute (but Frenchier)- source plus sound = source gone, sound plus alphabet or whatever = source super gone, alphabet + a bunch of people who know said alphabet = conventions and context.” Derrida’s a priori reduction of context undermines the power of the speech act or at least it’s ability to be singularly and properly possessed (remember the youtube videos of GW the first) and this is a structural problem of language and ultimately a structural problem of convention and context. Austin’s wish to close them off is not simply the intellectual version of a child jamming a puzzle piece in a place it won’t ever fit but rather a realistic representation of what convention does, and that is to try to endure by closing out things that make it fallacious. Instead of fallacious Austin offers the compromise of infelicitous. Derrida’s idea that these constructs are malleable is true. Austin’s idea of marriage being an inevitably infelicitous convention simply awaiting an adjustment of limit so as to allow homosexuals to complete their own speech acts is also true. Which brings me to the point: Why would gay people even want to get married?

  13.   pseraphin

    I had a hard time this week going through the reading. I amjust being honest; even “Till Derrida do Us Apart” almost made no sense. I am not attracted to theorist writing. I don’t know if it is the content or the syntax that just make it difficuolt for me to grab the essence of what they are trying to say.

    From the first article I got the impression that Silverman is saying that the vows have no meaning if they are not meant and that it takes years for these vows to be acted upon.

    I read the first chapter of “Signature Event Context” but at the end I realize that I got nothing out of it. I still don’t understand the point the author is trying to make about the meaning of communication. I feel the same about “How to do things with words”.The readings were short and I thought I was going to have fun but Iam left confused by everything I read this week.

  14.   Elizabeth

    Can I just start by saying, can you imagine if you were at that wedding? I would be annoyed, personally.

    I actually enjoyed the Derrida, although I wouldn’t presume to say that I understood all of it. I don’t think this is necessarily central to the entire text, I found it interesting that many of the main concepts had to be glossed in French. Although I don’t speak French, in some cases it actually cleared up some of the phrases that I was not familiar with (ie all of them). In a self-referential way, Derrida’s editor and translator attempted to expand the audience. Maybe.

    The concept of spoken language as parasitic is valid in its own way, although it gives spoken language a very negative context. The idea that spoken language feeds off of its audience or its surroundings seems reasonable, although again, I think the connotation of parasitic is unnecessary. If a performance meets all of Austen’s criteria “conventional procedure,” “correctness,” and “completeness,” why would it be considered parasitic? It seems counterintuitive. Obviously a man delivering a Shakespearean soliloquy on the train to an unwilling audience is different than choosing to go see Hamlet.

  15.   Jason G.

    Austin’s theory of “performative utterance” is an intriguing one. While I agree with many of the posts that all talking such as saying “I hate you” or “I love you” is an action in itself what I feel Austin is trying to get at is that statements like that may allude to action but aren’t clearly action.
    This emphasis on assertive statements shed’s light on what “performative utterance” is. A statement that is also an action, I’ll re-use the example of saying “I do” this statement is a clear action whereas saying “I’ll marry you” or “I guess I do” may allude to action but is unclear because there was no “follow through” in the statement.
    Perhaps making a fresh example would back up this point more articulately. Telling someone “they’re invading your space” is an assertive statement but is still unclear and the “invader” although unwelcome may continue to stay. When that statement is switched to “get out of my space”, there is a clear action indicated and that “invader” has a clear cut indication that you want him or her gone.
    Definitions especially definitions that define speech are always a bit blurred but I feel Austin was on to something with this. Personally I like what he stands for we should always speak “direct” after-all why not always say what we mean?

    -Jason G.

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