When we talk about illocutionary acts, first we need to explain that it is a concept framed by John Austin’s theory of the Speech Act. Putting it very briefly, Austin considers there are three dimensions in any utterance: the locutionary, the perlocutionary, and the illocutionary acts.A locutionary act is one through which the speaker says something by using sounds and words; the perlocutionary act is the effect produced by that utterance upon the feelings, thoughts and actions of the hearer(s) (over which the speaker has no control whatsoever), and the illocutionary act is the intention underlying the utterance.
At the end:We need to highlight the fact that the‘illocutionary force’ of an utterance is not always explicit. In some cases the speaker does express his/her intentions clearly; however, most of the time, the intentions of the speaker have to be guessed through the context: the personal relation between participants and the communicative situation.
By uttering “Would you believe the plot has now thickened?”, René is, of course, asking a question, but in fact he is not expecting an answer. The speaker is using this device to start recapitulating the previous episode, thus refreshing the viewers’/hearers’ memories, and also setting the course of what is to follow.
Here is another example of an expositive illocutionary act.
This utterance is expositive because the speaker, Michelle, is drawing the hearers’ attention to the fact that she is about to expose information
A verdictiveillocutionaryactisa “verdict”; it is based on the delivery of a finding upon evidence or reasons as to value or fact. Verdictives are acts of estimating, assessing, grading, valuing,diagnosing, etc. In this clip, Captain Gruber is complaining that Captain Bertorelli keeps him up all night because he snores terribly.
Exercitive or directive illocutionary acts have to do with exercising powers, rights or influence. They express a decision in favour or against a certain course of action, due to which others are ‘compelled’, or ‘allowed’, or ‘forbidden’ to so something. They are acts of appointing, ordering, directing, warning, etc.
RenéisorderingMimi to alwayshave a dustpanandbrushreadyin a verystraightforwardway.
Commissive illocutionary acts which commit the speaker to a certain course of action. They have to do with promising, opposing, planning, agreeing to something.
Behabitive illocutionary acts express the speaker’s feelings towards other people’s past or imminent behaviour.They are actions of thanking, resenting, criticising, complaining, etc.
At first sight, this utterance could hardly be interpreted as a complaint. It is in the context of the conversation that we can derive that René is implicitly criticising Michelle for wasting money at a time of deprivation, but also criticising her plan and the fact that he is obliged to take part in it.
John Austin’s Speech Act Theory is based on the premise that words are not always uttered to say things, but rather, they are used to perform actions, to do things. An illocutionary act may be performed by different locutionary acts – directly or indirectly. For instance, when René answers Michelle’s question, ‘Would you like my job?’, René could have simply answered, ‘No’.Likewise, a locutionary act may have different illocutionary acts, depending on the context in which it is uttered. When René says ‘How insensitive,’ he is referring to Captain Bertorelly, but should the context be different he could be referring to Herr Flick or Helga, for example.
Linguistic „Doings‟in “Desperate Doings in the Dungeons”
Corpus of analysis:‘Desperate Doings in the Dungeon’‘Allo ‘Allo – Episode One from Season Five
ILLOCUTIONARY ACTThe act viewed in terms of the utterance’ssignificance within a conventional system of social interaction THE ILLOCUTIONARY ACT REFLECTS THE INTENTION OF THE SPEAKER
Illocutionary Acts• Are intended by the speaker• Are under the full control of the speaker• Exist within a conventional system of social interaction• Depend on context
Classes of Illocutionary Acts1. Expositives2. Verdictives3. Exercitives or Directives4. Commissives5. Behabitives.
René: Would you believe the plot has now thickened? Recapitulating
Michelle: Listen very carefully; I shall say this only once.The speakeris drawing the hearers’ attention to the fact that she is about to expose information
Gruber: The man is a peasant, René. The moment his head touches the pillow he is asleep.René: How insensitive.The speaker is expressing an opinion; he is issuing a judgement (although he is also, at the same time criticising Bertorelli, which is a behabitive illocutionary act, as we will see later)
René: Mimi, when Madame Edith sings, always have ready a dustpan and brush. The speaker is directing the hearer’s actions by suggesting she should try and silence Madame Edith.
Michelle: We will show this photograph to Monsieur Leclerc… …we will take him into the chateau… …we will photograph the plans The speaker, Michelle, is committing herself (and the Resistance) to a certain course of action
René: I could not afford the taxi. The speaker iscriticisingthehearer’splan/conduct
Final CommentsLanguage is used not just to say something, butrather, to do something.An illocutionary act may be performed bydifferent locutionary acts – directly or indirectly.Conversely, a locutionary act may have differentillocutionary acts, depending on its context.
BibliographyHurford, James R., B. Heasley& M. B. Smith (2007), Semantics: A Coursebook, Cambridge: CUP, pp 260-269Croft, David & Jeremy Lloud (1988), ‘Allo ‘Allo – Season 5, Episode 1 ‘DesperateDoings in theDungeon’