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illocutionary force

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illocutionary force

Tracy Morgan as Tracy Jordan in 30 Rock

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Definition:

In speech-act theory, a speaker's intention in delivering an utterance.

The terms illocutionary act and illocutionary force were introduced by British linguistic philosopher John L. Austin in How to Do Things With Words (1962).

See also:

Examples and Observations:

  • Illocutionary Act and Illocutionary Force
    "[A]n illocutionary act refers to the type of function a speaker intends to accomplish in the course of producing an utterance. It is an act accomplished in speaking and defined within a system of social conventions. Thus, if John says to Mary Pass me the glasses, please, he performs the illocutionary act of requesting or ordering Mary to hand the glasses over to him. The functions or actions just mentioned are also referred to as the illocutionary force or illocutionary point of the speech act. The illocutionary force of a speech act is the effect a speech act is intended to have by a speaker. Indeed, the term 'speech act' in its narrow sense is often taken to refer specifically to illocutionary act."
    (Yan Huang, The Oxford Dictionary of Pragmatics. Oxford University Press, 2012)


  • "I Was Just Saying That"
    Kenneth Parcell: I'm sorry, Mr. Jordan. I'm just overworked. With my page duties and being Mr. Donaghy's assistant, there's not enough hours in the day.
    Tracy Jordan: I'm sorry about that. But just let me know if there's any way I can help.
    Kenneth: Actually, there is one thing. . . .
    Tracy: No! I was just saying that! Why can't you read human facial cues?
    (Matthew Hubbard, "Cutbacks." 30 Rock, April 9, 2009)


  • Pragmatic Competence
    "Achieving pragmatic competence involves the ability to understand the illocutionary force of an utterance, that is, what a speaker intends by making it. This is particularly important in cross-cultural encounters since the same form (e.g. 'When are you leaving?') can vary in its illocutionary force depending on the context in which it is made (e.g. 'May I have a ride with you?' or 'Don't you think it is time for you to go?')."
    (Sandra Lee McKay, Teaching English as an International Language. Oxford Univ. Press, 2002)


  • What I Really Mean . . .
    "When I say 'how are you' to a co-worker, I really mean hello. Although I know what I mean by 'how are you,' it is possible that the receiver does not know that I mean hello and actually proceeds to give me a fifteen minute discourse on his various maladies."
    (George Ritzer, Sociology: A Multiple Paradigm Science. Allyn & Bacon, 1980)
Also Known As: illocutionary function
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