Speech Acts According to Austin

We are doing something when we say something. Some examples of speech acts include complimenting, refusing, giving excuses, asking for forgiveness, promising, and declaring truths or opinions. Austin states that there are three types of speech acts in an utterance. These are the locutionary act, the illocutionary act, and the perlocutionary act.

  1. A locutionary act refers to the act of saying something or the actual utterance itself. For instance, when your mother says to you, “Your room is dirty,” the meaning you get from the linguistic aspects of the statement is that your mother finds your room dirty.
  2. An illocutionary act refers to the intention of the speaker or the social function of the statement. The intended meaning of your mother’s utterance may be understood as a request to clean your room.
  3. A perlocutionary act refers to the actual effect or consequence of the utterance. For instance, you might perceive your mother’s utterance as a warning, which results in your cleaning your room. By saying the utterance, your mother has made you do something. While the utterance only literally describes the state of your room, it has an intended meaning and a specific purpose.