Illocutionary Logic and Self-Defeating Speech Acts

  • Daniel Vanderveken
Part of the Texts and Studies in Linguistics and Philosophy book series (SLAP, volume 10)


Illocutionary logic is the branch of philosophical logic that is concerned with the study of the illocutionary acts (assertions, questions, requests, promises, orders, declarations…) that are performed by the utterance of sentences of natural or formal languages. The analytic philosophers (especially J. L. Austin and J. R. Searle) have shown the philosophical importance of a logical analysis of the forms of such speech acts. Illocutionary force is indeed one essential and irreducible component of the sense of a sentence of a natural language. One cannot understand the sense of a sentence without understanding that its literal utterance in a given context of use constitutes the performance of illocutionary acts of such and such forms. Thus for example, in order to understand the sense of the English sentence (1) “Are you going to the theater tonight?” one must not only understand that in a context of use where this sentence is uttered literally, the speaker expresses a proposition that is true in the world of utterance iff the hearer in that world goes to a theater the evening of the day of the utterance. One must also understand that this utterance in that context of use constitutes the asking of a question.


Psychological State Successful Performance Propositional Content Sincerity Condition Preparatory Condition 
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  1. Austin, J.-L.: 1962, How to do Things with Words, Oxford, The Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  2. Searle, John: 1969, Speech Acts, Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Searle, John and Daniel Vanderveken: forthcoming, Foundations of Illocutionary Logic.Google Scholar
  4. Searle, John: 1975, ‘A Classification of Illocutionary Acts’, in Minnesota Studies in Philosophy of Science, vol. 6, Minneapolis, Un. of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar

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© D. Reidel Publishing Company 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel Vanderveken

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