Publication Details

Simpson, D. I. (1992). Communicative skills in the constitution of illocutionary acts. Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 70 (1), 82-92.


Austin's distinction between locutionary and illocutionary acts has offered a fruitful way of focussing the relation between language and communication. In particular, by adopting the distinction we attend to linguistic and communicative subjects as actors, not just processors or conduits of information. Yet in many attempts to explicate the constitution of illocutionary acts the subject as actor is subsumed within the role of linguistic rules or conventions. In this paper I propose an account of illocutionary acts in which rules or conventions are secondary to what I will call communicative skills. These skills are taken as the primary component of communicative competence. They are derived from the principle that linguistic communication is not ultimately a linguistic matter, but relates instead to the way a communicator uses language. This principle is found in the work of Donald Davidson, but Davidson has tended to concentrate on semantics, and leaves the details of linguistic communication for pragmatics. The aim of this paper is to defend the general principle and supply some pragmatic details.



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