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  • Have you ever seen

  • a big, red "No Running" sign at a public pool?

  • For the most part,

  • the pace on the deck reflects this statement.

  • But while the sign accurately describes

  • the patrons' movements,

  • isn't it true that people are walking

  • because the sign tells them no running?

  • So, is this sign portraying the pool's environment,

  • or is it doing something else,

  • something more powerful?

  • The difference between a statement that describes

  • and one that commands

  • is an idea developed by British linguist J. L. Austin.

  • He defines this distinction

  • as two separate parts of speech:

  • constatives

  • and performatives.

  • Constatives are sentences

  • that describe something as true or false,

  • and performatives are sentences

  • that denote an action.

  • In other words, a constative is,

  • and a performative does.

  • To help us distinguish these two parts of speech,

  • let's start by examining constatives

  • around the park outside the pool.

  • The first sign we encounter says,

  • "The park closes at 6 p.m."

  • After checking with a friendly park official

  • that the park does, indeed, close at 6,

  • we can confirm that this statement

  • is a true constative.

  • Nearby, there's a man on a bench

  • with a newspaper, and the headline reads,

  • "Heatwave!"

  • However, the sky is cloudy and it feels quite chilly.

  • Today's headline is a false constative

  • as it has proven to be incorrect.

  • Before the rain starts to fall,

  • let's throw away our can of soda

  • at the blue trash bin that says, "Recycle."

  • It's a performative.

  • Performatives are sentences

  • that are meant to inspire actions.

  • Rather than conveying a message,

  • it acts upon the world,

  • it does something.

  • In this case, the performative of "Recycle"

  • is requesting people to put their trash

  • into the proper receptacle.

  • Words not only bring about actions,

  • sometimes words themselves are actions.

  • This is what is known as speech acts.

  • These actions include, but are not limited to,

  • ordering,

  • promising,

  • apologizing,

  • warning,

  • sentencing,

  • christening,

  • and even marrying.

  • Take a look at the wedding near the gazebo.

  • The couple says the words, "I do."

  • The speech act here are the words, "I do."

  • These words cause them to marry one another.

  • "I do" has acted upon them

  • and profoundly changed their world.

  • However, performatives depend

  • on context and reception.

  • These are known as felicity conditions.

  • Imagine if the mayor showed up to the wedding

  • and said, "By the power vested in me

  • as mayor of the city,

  • I name this gazebo 'The Mayor's Pizza Palace.'"

  • His words would be a speech act

  • by which he named the gazebo.

  • And because he's the mayor,

  • the gazebo would be known by its new name.

  • But if someone who isn't the mayor,

  • just a normal passerby,

  • decides to name the gazebo after her favorite cat,

  • the chances are the name would not change.

  • Felicity conditions are the rules

  • under which the performative can be enacted.

  • These are fairly logical.

  • The performative should have proper authority,

  • it should be understood,

  • it should be clear,

  • and it should be able to be executed.

  • If the performative doesn't meet these conditions,

  • then it doesn't have the power

  • to denote action.

  • But just because a performative meets its conditions

  • and is clearly stated,

  • doesn't mean that it's implicitly followed.

  • Back at the pool,

  • a rowdy group of teenagers races to the high dive.

  • "No running" does not seem

  • to have power over them,

  • and they'll have to face the consequences

  • of breaking this performative.

  • They may even have to force out

  • some performatives of their own,

  • such as apologizing to the life guard

  • and promising to never run again.

  • Maybe the life guard will respond

  • with another performative,

  • sentencing them to be banished from the pool

  • for the rest of the day.

  • After all, these teenagers must learn

  • to respect the power of words.

Have you ever seen

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B1 TED-Ed mayor speech pool sign park

【TED-Ed】Speech acts: Constative and performative - Colleen Glenney Boggs

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    稲葉白兎 posted on 2015/02/01
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