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Facultad de Educación 1

Licenciatura en Lengua Inglesa


Theoretical Linguistics 2
Activity Unit 3: Speech Acts

Study Guide and Exercises

Directions: After you have read all the material assigned you should be able to tackle the following questions
to test your understanding of the main ideas raised in the unit.

1. You should understand these terms and concepts from this unit:

speech acts performative utterance

act of referring constative utterance

act of assertion performative verb

descriptive fallacy

2. Explain what it means to say that actions and words are not entirely distinct. Give an example.
3. What does it mean to say that actions can be performed with words (i.e. with an utterance)? What are
such acts called?
4. For each of the following utterances state one or two purposes that the speaker may have had in mind
when uttering them. Explain how such utterances exemplify the descriptive fallacy.
a. ‘The car is dirty.’
b. ‘Is it right to allow skateboarding on our sidewalks?’
c. ‘Look at the mess you just made!’
d. ‘Some of the pages have been torn out.’
5. Try to identify the kind(s) of acts mentioned in your answer to question 4 above (such as warning,
requesting, ordering, complaining, apologizing, etc.).
6. Identify whether the following utterances are performative or constative. If an utterance is
performative, describe the act being performed, as well as the act being described.
a. ‘I order you to pay the bill.’
b. ‘I pronounce you man and wife.’
c. ‘I promise to drop by tomorrow.’
d. ‘The minister pronounced them man and wife.’
e. ‘I promised to drop by tomorrow.’
f. ‘I sweep the floor every Tuesday.’
g. ‘I believe you were wrong.’
Facultad de Educación 2
Licenciatura en Lengua Inglesa
Theoretical Linguistics 2
Activity Unit 3: Speech Acts

7. Identify which of the following is a performative verb and use it in a sentence as a performative. Use the
hereby test to help you make your decision. Think of three additional performative verbs not listed here,
and also use them performatively in a sentence.
a. declare e write
b. warn f approve (‘to OK something’)
c. think g remind
d. promise h consider
8. Performative verbs follow certain conventions. What are they? Are there exceptions? Give an example
or two of each.
9. Identify which of the following utterances are performative. Also identify the utterances which are
exceptions to the conventions you mentioned in the answer to the previous question. Explain why they
are exceptions.
a. ‘Students are asked to keep noise to a minimum.’
b. ‘You are hereby allowed to enter the vault.’
c. ‘You must enter quietly.’
d. ‘We apologize for our mistake.’
e. ‘I admit that I made a mistake.’
f. ‘The text was written by two authors.’
g. ‘Wearing hats inside is forbidden.’
10. Why do we talk about utterances being performative (rather than sentences or propositions)?