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Specializations => Morphosyntax => Topic started by: Old Nick on September 18, 2018, 03:58:53 AM

Title: A question about Performativity
Post by: Old Nick on September 18, 2018, 03:58:53 AM
Hi all

I am wondering whether there is in some languages a grammatical mode for Performativity.
The very first example was God’s “Let there be light!”
In French it was translated into “Que la lumière soit !” The structure “Que” + subjonctive is considered to be a form of third person imperative. You would say to someone to transmit the injunction: “Qu’elle vienne me voir !”
In the different pieces I read about the topic I was surprised that religions and magics are usually not mentioned as examples whereas they do a massive use of performative utterances: prayers, rituals, sacrifices, etc., all aim at getting a gain, at having something done, at changing the course of events, etc.

Performative mode is extremely common in everyday talk yet is there a corresponding grammatical mode?

Regards

Nick
Title: Re: A question about Performativity
Post by: Daniel on September 18, 2018, 07:54:25 AM
This is a good and reasonable question. However, my best guess is that it just isn't a frequent enough speech act to typically lead to grammaticalization of a special form of verbs (for example). Indeed, you could argue that English "let" or French "que+subjunctive" or various other expressions are a sort of grammatical mode, with grammaticalized expression, but they're sort of piggy-backing on existing structures.
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Performative mode is extremely common in everyday talk yet is there a corresponding grammatical mode?
Widespread, but I wouldn't say especially common. You could do a study of this to see how often it is used compared to other functions. There are a lot of things in language that don't grammaticalize (or especially don't become new verb forms, etc.), and I just don't think this one is common enough (or difficult enough to express using existing means?) to need something entirely new to develop.

But again, depending on what you mean by "grammatical mode" you could probably already say that's the case.
Title: Re: A question about Performativity
Post by: Old Nick on September 19, 2018, 12:58:44 AM
Thanks for your quick response Daniel, :)

This is a good and reasonable question.
Thanks for the compliment! ;)

However, my best guess is that it just isn't a frequent enough speech act to typically lead to grammaticalization of a special form of verbs (for example). Indeed, you could argue that English "let" or French "que+subjunctive" or various other expressions are a sort of grammatical mode, with grammaticalized expression, but they're sort of piggy-backing on existing structures.
Then it’s the same economy of means1 as in evolution. The context is supposed to tell the mode, right?

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Performative mode is extremely common in everyday talk yet is there a corresponding grammatical mode?
Widespread, but I wouldn't say especially common.
I think it’s much more common than we usually realize. Infants start using performative mode very early: they try to do things and make things happen by speech act. It’s very common in politics and activism too. I was a student at the Sorbonne University in the 60’s. De Gaulle was reigning by his speech. In 68 we beat him by the same weapon.

Nick

1) I am not sure of the expression in English.
Title: Re: A question about Performativity
Post by: Daniel on September 19, 2018, 01:24:01 AM
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Then it’s the same economy of means1 as in evolution. The context is supposed to tell the mode, right?
Yes, it's making use of an existing structure while adapting it to a new purpose. This is how almost everything works in language change, and therefore the source for most constructions. You could look to imperatives for some relatively parallel developments, such as some languages using infinitives or infinitive-like forms, others using subjunctives, and so forth. (Notice how for example, Romance languages vary in whether negative imperatives look like imperatives, or some other inflected form like subjunctives, or also often infinitives.)

I suppose the term you're looking for might be 'multi-functionality', although specifically the phrasing 'economy of means' makes sense too.

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I think it’s much more common than we usually realize. Infants start using performative mode very early: they try to do things and make things happen by speech act. It’s very common in politics and activism too. I was a student at the Sorbonne University in the 60’s. De Gaulle was reigning by his speech. In 68 we beat him by the same weapon.
It is probably more common than we would typically assume. But that doesn't make it more frequent than other functions. That is, imperatives also aren't as common as declaratives (or probably interrogatives either), but they're common enough to have grammaticalized with specialized forms in many languages. As a simple comparison, you could look to see whether performatives are as frequent as imperatives in typical speech. My assumption is that they are not. They're certainly widespread, and in some sense "frequent", but they don't seem to have crossed whatever threshold there is for the grammaticalization of specialized verb forms. You might look at languages where religion or other performative-related acts are more culturally central. For example, the 'jussive' in Arabic could arguably be something along these lines, and Islam is an important factor in the development of Arabic. Similarly, you could look at some languages with highly developed ritual systems/registers to see if they had any special means of expressing these things. That's outside my expertise but an interesting possibility.

--

By the way, actually doing a corpus based study of speech acts might be an interesting project. I'm not sure to what extent that has already been explored (if so, and in detail, you might be able to just refer to those numbers, and if not, it might be worth pursuing and even publishing in itself).
Title: Re: A question about Performativity
Post by: Old Nick on September 19, 2018, 02:06:30 AM
I am on the leave for a couple of days. I'll be back to you by the week-end.
Nick
Title: Re: A question about Performativity
Post by: vox on September 19, 2018, 07:24:52 AM
Quote from: Old Nick
In the different pieces I read about the topic I was surprised that religions and magics are usually not mentioned as examples whereas they do a massive use of performative utterances: prayers, rituals, sacrifices, etc., all aim at getting a gain, at having something done, at changing the course of events, etc.
An important philosophical debate took place in the Middle-Age in Europe from 1280 to 1348 about the power of incantations. The question was : can we act on the matter remotely, just by the power of words ? The participants were debating about something that had clearly something to do with performativity but their approaches were too metaphysics-oriented to say they had found out performativity before the philosophers of the 20th century. Anyway, it’s a fascinating debate, very interesting to read if you want to : Beatrice Delaurenti, La puissance des mots « virtus verborum ». Débats doctrinaux sur le pouvoir des incantations au Moyen-Age, Cerf (it’s written by a historian).
You can also read this article : Tzvetan Todorov, Le discours de la magie, L’Homme (13/4). He analyses the structure of incantations declaimed to trigger a healing (but Todorov is not a linguist either).
Title: Re: A question about Performativity
Post by: Old Nick on September 22, 2018, 01:54:50 PM
Yesterday I was attending a funeral ceremony and I kept listening to the modes of expression used by the priest. The Lord's Prayer for example includes mainly two modes: injunctions to God (imperative mode) and performatives (“Que” + subjunctive in French). It was basically the same for all the speeches during the function.
During sport events the fans’ cheers are also mainly performative.
Protesters and demonstrators use also non-verbal sentences like: “Down with bureaucracy!” that aim at a result.
Politicians, believing they can make things happen and/or just making promises, use massively the performative mode: “With my leadership and confidence-building charisma the economy will grow” Well… it could also be called wishful thinking. ;)

Yes, it's making use of an existing structure while adapting it to a new purpose. This is how almost everything works in language change, and therefore the source for most constructions. You could look to imperatives for some relatively parallel developments, such as some languages using infinitives or infinitive-like forms, others using subjunctives, and so forth. (Notice how for example, Romance languages vary in whether negative imperatives look like imperatives, or some other inflected form like subjunctives, or also often infinitives.)
Right, injunctions are often expressed in a variety of modes besides imperative: “Come here!”, “You come here!”, “Will you come here?”, “You will come here!”, “Here!”, and so on.

I suppose the term you're looking for might be 'multi-functionality', although specifically the phrasing 'economy of means' makes sense too.
I was comparing it with the evolution of species.
Evolution allows the development of functions in a benefit/cost ratio method. Useless organs or traits, or of non indispensable use, like animal pelage, are selected if they come at no or little cost. Yet male ducks, because they have the task of seducing females, display wonderful colors, whereas females are just brown. The latter don’t need to be conspicuous and attractive.
OTOH organs that become useless usually atrophy. In the course of cetaceans’ evolution over tens of millions of years, from close relatives of hippopotamuses, fossils show the regression of their back legs and pelvis until complete disappearing.
Conversely, the increase of the human brain size, an extremely costly organ in terms of development during gestation and during growth and in terms of nutrition on a daily basis means there were immediate benefits in the course of evolution.
Could we say the same about languages?

It is probably more common than we would typically assume. But that doesn't make it more frequent than other functions. That is, imperatives also aren't as common as declaratives (or probably interrogatives either), but they're common enough to have grammaticalized with specialized forms in many languages. As a simple comparison, you could look to see whether performatives are as frequent as imperatives in typical speech. My assumption is that they are not. They're certainly widespread, and in some sense "frequent", but they don't seem to have crossed whatever threshold there is for the grammaticalization of specialized verb forms. You might look at languages where religion or other performative-related acts are more culturally central. For example, the 'jussive' in Arabic could arguably be something along these lines, and Islam is an important factor in the development of Arabic. Similarly, you could look at some languages with highly developed ritual systems/registers to see if they had any special means of expressing these things. That's outside my expertise but an interesting possibility.
I read pieces about experiments in teaching chimps to learn and use a symbolic language, either with ASL or with tokens, and it seems they spontaneously use practically no interrogation in terms of aiming at getting an information (on a cognitive level), seldom use declarative and pretty much use exclamation and imperative: “Fridge! Open! Quick!” In the hypothesis we have a common great ape ancestor it seems to me that these modes must among the primary ones in the course of evolution.

By the way, actually doing a corpus based study of speech acts might be an interesting project. I'm not sure to what extent that has already been explored (if so, and in detail, you might be able to just refer to those numbers, and if not, it might be worth pursuing and even publishing in itself).
It sure would be interesting but I am not a linguist. Yet at the origin or my questions is the fact that, after discussions about the topic, I had fun starting an essay on the origin of language in an evolutionary perspective. Yes, I know, I shouldn’t, it’s a taboo. But, hey!, I am not a linguist! ;)

Quote from: Old Nick
In the different pieces I read about the topic I was surprised that religions and magics are usually not mentioned as examples whereas they do a massive use of performative utterances: prayers, rituals, sacrifices, etc., all aim at getting a gain, at having something done, at changing the course of events, etc.
An important philosophical debate took place in the Middle-Age in Europe from 1280 to 1348 about the power of incantations. The question was : can we act on the matter remotely, just by the power of words ? The participants were debating about something that had clearly something to do with performativity but their approaches were too metaphysics-oriented to say they had found out performativity before the philosophers of the 20th century. Anyway, it’s a fascinating debate, very interesting to read if you want to : Beatrice Delaurenti, La puissance des mots « virtus verborum ». Débats doctrinaux sur le pouvoir des incantations au Moyen-Age, Cerf (it’s written by a historian).
You can also read this article : Tzvetan Todorov, Le discours de la magie, L’Homme (13/4). He analyses the structure of incantations declaimed to trigger a healing (but Todorov is not a linguist either).
I’ll check them at the library.
It’s interesting they wondered whether performative mode was actually performing. ;)

Nick
Title: Re: A question about Performativity
Post by: Daniel on September 22, 2018, 06:41:13 PM
Your examples are certainly convincing that in some circumstances these performatives can be very important and, in those circumstances, frequent. But that still doesn't make them an especially frequent part of the language compared to other forms like imperatives. Again, try doing a corpus study to see. Is it half as common as imperatives? One-tenth? I don't have a good sense of this, but my strong intuition is that they're less common.

To use an annoying phrase, those examples are sort of exceptions that prove the rule: you must come up with exceptional circumstances to show frequent use of these forms. Again, I'm not saying they're unimportant or extremely rare. I'm just saying that other forms typically dominate.

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Could we say the same about languages?
Direct comparisons between biological evolution and linguistic change fall flat once you move beyond surface-level metaphors. Certainly there are some similarities, but be careful applying the analogy too strongly. There are some major differences, such as no sexual reproduction with languages, no clear "survival of the fittest" (more just change based on frequent usage), and so forth.
So, yes, some of what you're saying does seem to translate, but not necessarily based on the same underlying mechanisms.

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In the hypothesis we have a common great ape ancestor it seems to me that these modes must among the primary ones in the course of evolution.
Yes, that makes sense to me too. But one of the fundamental differences with human language today is that it generally goes beyond things like 'alarm calls' and so forth. It's arguably the fact that most of what we say isn't performatives (and similar things) that really distinct identity to human language versus other kinds of animal communication.

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Yet at the origin or my questions is the fact that, after discussions about the topic, I had fun starting an essay on the origin of language in an evolutionary perspective. Yes, I know, I shouldn’t, it’s a taboo.
It's not really taboo. It's that there are many different theories, and most of them are wrong, and we may never know which is right. Speculation is not the same as evidence-based research. That doesn't stop people (even professional linguists, even Noam Chomsky) from speculating and publishing on the topic. So go ahead. And some ideas might have other significance. But it's not really the kind of problem that can be 'solved' or even rigorously debated based on established facts.

As for not being a linguist, don't let that stop you from doing a corpus study of discourse functions. Up to you, of course, but the field is inherently interdisciplinary, and although there are many tips you could get from linguists who have done corpus research, simply coding utterances for their discourse functions (with some margin for error/uncertainty, of course) would not be especially difficult or technical. It would take a significant amount of time, and so the researcher would need to be dedicated to doing it well (and probably across several genres). But you could just take any spoken corpus and get some general results and see where to go from there. For example, these corpora are good and free: https://corpus.byu.edu/
However, for this I suppose you'd need to find a full-text corpus that you could just read through. In that case, search Google to find one that fits your needs. It doesn't need to be an especially large one. In fact, larger would be more difficult for you to code sentence-by-sentence. So find a high quality spoken corpus that is open as a full-text source, and try this out. Questions of frequency are easy to answer methodologically, although aside from word forms and other things easy to search, they can be time consuming with manual annotation. Still, without that, you can't say that performatives are frequent which is an objective, quantitative statement. You can say they are important, but that's qualitative and subjective.
Title: Re: A question about Performativity
Post by: vox on September 23, 2018, 07:16:45 AM
Old Nick,
Asking why doesn’t a performative mood exist it's asking why speech acts haven’t been grammaticalized (because being a mood it’s being a grammatical category). I think the main reason is because it wouldn’t be economical.

Many sorts of moods have been identified in different languages throughout the world that one can call “performative”: precative (prayers, requests), commissive (promises, threats), jussive (commands), hortative (encouragements), benefactive (blessings), imprecative (curses, wishing misfortune), optative/volitive (wishes, hopes), prohibitive (prohibitions)…. :
https://glossary.sil.org/term/commissive-modality (https://glossary.sil.org/term/commissive-modality)
https://glossary.sil.org/term/volitive-modality (https://glossary.sil.org/term/volitive-modality)
https://glossary.sil.org/term/directive-modality (https://glossary.sil.org/term/directive-modality)
So there should be several performative moods, not one. But a language can’t give itself dozens of different morphemes to express each of these speech acts. Most of the time either a few of them are grammaticalized to become a “mood” or one mood is used for different speech acts, e.g. imperative in French as an hortative (Allons manger !), jussive (Sors d’ici !), prohibitive (N’entrez pas !),  precative (Sauvez-moi !).

Your examples are directive speech acts. I have two things to say about that :
1) If ever a “performative mood” existed, technically it couldn’t be limited to the deontic/directive field. The epistemic/assertive field should also be part of it, which means other moods to be taken into account: assumptive, dubitative, deductive, hypothetical … 
2) The illocutionary force of directive speech acts seems to be grammaticalized to become the future tense. Bybee & Dahl states that the future tense comes from a lexical source which is often a movement verb or a word meaning something like “desire”, “intention”, “obligation”. Source : Joan Bybee & Osten Dahl, The creation of tense and aspect systems in the languages of the world, p. 57-58, p. 90-94, pdf available on the internet.
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The major lexical sources for future grams, which have been well documented across numerous examples, are the following three (see Ultan 1978; and Bybee and Pagliuca 1987):
i. An auxiliary verb with the original meaning of 'want' or 'desire', or less commonly a derivational desiderative morpheme, which in turn has as its source a main verb meaning 'want' or 'desire'. Examples may be found in English, Serbo-Croatian, Swahili and Mandarin, to name but a few.
ii. A construction meaning 'movement towards a goal' (such as English be going to), which contains a movement verb in a progressive or imperfective aspect, and an allative component either explicit or incorporated in the verb. Less commonly, a derivational andative construction (whose source is also a verb meaning 'movement towards a goal') may develop into a future gram. Examples may be found in Hausa, Logbara, Haitian Creole, Isthmus Zapotec and many
more.
iii. A verb meaning 'to owe' or 'to be obliged', or more commonly a construction with a copula or possession verb, and a non- finite main verb, such as English to have to or to be to. Examples may be found in the Western Romance languages, the Eastern Kru languages, Korean and
Ecuadorian Quechua. (Bybee & Dahl, p. 90)
Title: Re: A question about Performativity
Post by: Old Nick on September 26, 2018, 03:38:58 PM
Thank you both for your interesting input.

Your examples are certainly convincing that in some circumstances these performatives can be very important and, in those circumstances, frequent. But that still doesn't make them an especially frequent part of the language compared to other forms like imperatives.
Performative is extensively used by government officials too:
IMHO, it’s a pretty common speech mood in certain contexts.
My dictionary says:
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mood |mud|
1 Grammar: a category or form that indicates whether a verb expresses fact (indicative mood), command (imperative mood), question (interrogative mood), wish (optative mood), or conditionality (subjunctive mood).
Performative is missing. ;-)

Yet initially my question was not why a grammatical performative mood doesn’t exist in the languages I know, French (besides “Que” + subjunctive) and English (besides “Let” + infinitive), but whether some languages might have one. Greek for example is very rich in conjugation moods. OTOH, I heard that Japanese language doesn’t have a future which is supposed to be expressed by context.
Similarly performative is expressed by a variety of grammatical moods and the context tells what’s actually meant. As a matter of fact I suppose that many people wouldn’t consciously admit they are trying to perform something just by speech.

Again, try doing a corpus study to see. Is it half as common as imperatives? One-tenth? I don't have a good sense of this, but my strong intuition is that they're less common.
A corpus study consists in studying actual speech acts, right?
Actually I would say that performative is used in specific circumstances where the utterer either has an actual power (government officials, Yahweh, Jupiter), believes he has (in religion, magics, etc.) or wishes he has (sports fans, cheer leaders, etc.). I guess it must be mainly oral.

Direct comparisons between biological evolution and linguistic change fall flat once you move beyond surface-level metaphors. Certainly there are some similarities, but be careful applying the analogy too strongly.
I was not thinking about the evolution of idioms (langues in French) but of language in general (langage in French). The former has been thoroughly studied whereas the latter is my topic of interest (and my essay). My hypothesis is that it evolved along with the evolution of the human species over millions of years, in correlation with the tremendous encephalization that occurred. Yet since roughly 100,000 years there has been no significant evolution in the human species. Because there was a population bottleneck about 70,000 years ago in Africa (to the order of 10,000 individuals) before the human kind grew again and spread all over the world it seems likely to me that there was one language (langage in French) and very few idioms if not one only.

There are some major differences, such as no sexual reproduction with languages, no clear "survival of the fittest" (more just change based on frequent usage), and so forth.
I made this hypothesis: today a good speaker has a edge in seduction, so during the evolution a better capacity at speaking may have played a role in sexual selection and hence the development of langage. Leadership conveyed by language must have played a role too.

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In the hypothesis we have a common great ape ancestor it seems to me that these modes must among the primary ones in the course of evolution.
Yes, that makes sense to me too. But one of the fundamental differences with human language today is that it generally goes beyond things like 'alarm calls' and so forth. It's arguably the fact that most of what we say isn't performatives (and similar things) that really distinct identity to human language versus other kinds of animal communication.
Right. Human language certainly emerged from and on top of animal language and, as is common with emergences in evolution, the radically new form can’t be deducted from the old one. There is no trace of animal language remaining today in ours. Yet this emergence certainly took a long time during which our ancestors were still using the original animal language and gradually developing the first bricks of human language.

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Yet at the origin or my questions is the fact that, after discussions about the topic, I had fun starting an essay on the origin of language in an evolutionary perspective. Yes, I know, I shouldn’t, it’s a taboo.
It's not really taboo. It's that there are many different theories, and most of them are wrong, and we may never know which is right. Speculation is not the same as evidence-based research. That doesn't stop people (even professional linguists, even Noam Chomsky) from speculating and publishing on the topic. So go ahead. And some ideas might have other significance. But it's not really the kind of problem that can be 'solved' or even rigorously debated based on established facts.
« La Société [Linguistique de Paris] n’admet aucune communication concernant soit l’origine du langage soit la création d’une langue universelle. », article 2 of the statutes founding in 1866 the Société Linguistique de Paris. In English: “The Société Linguistique de Paris will admit no communication about either the origin of language or the creation of a universal language.”
Since I am not a member I don’t care. ;-)
I had some fun writing my essay.

Nick
Title: Re: A question about Performativity
Post by: Old Nick on September 26, 2018, 03:52:58 PM
Hi Vox

Asking why doesn’t a performative mood exist it's asking why speech acts haven’t been grammaticalized (because being a mood it’s being a grammatical category). I think the main reason is because it wouldn’t be economical.
As I told Daniel my question was whether that mood existed in a language.

Many sorts of moods have been identified in different languages throughout the world that one can call “performative”: precative (prayers, requests), commissive (promises, threats), jussive (commands), hortative (encouragements), benefactive (blessings), imprecative (curses, wishing misfortune), optative/volitive (wishes, hopes), prohibitive (prohibitions)…. :
Right or wrong I wouldn’t include in the performative mood stuff that induce other people to perform an action. Isn’t the speech supposed to perform the action by itself?

Nick
Title: Re: A question about Performativity
Post by: Daniel on September 26, 2018, 06:15:43 PM
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Performative is extensively used by government officials too...
You continue to list examples rather than actually provide statistics, but you speak of "frequency". That isn't a good argument. Just imagine if my response here was to list all of the times people use imperatives: "Bosses at work also use imperatives!" and so forth. No one is denying that this usage exists or that it is associated with certain contexts.
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IMHO, it’s a pretty common speech mood in certain contexts.
Yes. But "pretty common... in certain contexts" doesn't (necessarily) make it relatively frequent overall in comparison to other aspects of language. And the only way we can really discuss that is with some general measure of frequency, not anecdotes/examples.

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    A judge says “You are convicted to a 10 years sentence.”
    A member of the administration signs orders that have practical effects.
The problem with these examples is that even in the way they are expressed in English, they are ambiguous. Yes, there is some effect of performance in addition to what is stated, but these are often just declaratives ("you are convicted") with legal (or other) force. This is another reason that there might not be enough pressure to grammaticalize: they can be expressed in another way.

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Performative is missing. ;-)
Definitions typically give only the most salient examples, and they end up a bit circular, based on what is considered central in previous definitions or is researched the most. You've made a case that performatives could receive more attention, and I don't think anyone disagrees. But in order for that to happen, someone, a researcher, will have to take it on as a project, and I've suggested some ways you could do that. And Vox made some points about how these things actually have been studied but under different names, so that's another starting point, to look at that previous research.

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Yet initially my question was not why a grammatical performative mood doesn’t exist in the languages I know, French (besides “Que” + subjunctive) and English (besides “Let” + infinitive), but whether some languages might have one.
1) What is "a mood"? English "let" is a specific construction that might fit your definition. But are you only looking for verb suffixes or something like that?
2) I offered the potential example of Arabic. Vox had some other suggestions.

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Similarly performative is expressed by a variety of grammatical moods and the context tells what’s actually meant.
As above, I would be cautious to distinguish between whether a form expresses performatives, or whether certain forms are used performatively. Declaratives, as I said, can be used that way, but that doesn't make them necessarily special morphosyntactically.

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As a matter of fact I suppose that many people wouldn’t consciously admit they are trying to perform something just by speech.
Perform what? Someone leading an official ceremony or legal proceeding, etc., would certainly be aware of this. And any time when the speaker is not aware is arguably less clearly an example of a performative. I'm not really sure what you're trying to argue here. Additionally, all language is performative in a sense-- if I ask a question, I'm sort of giving a command for you to answer the question, and if I give a command, I'm sort of proclaiming that you must do what I say, and so forth. Or even with simple declaratives, I am asserting that you should believe my description of the world. Many non-linguists would not be aware of that explicitly, but it is trivially true and not hard to convince someone once you explain it.

So as with other aspects of this discussion, it will be very helpful if you provide specific definitions (especially operationalizable definitions, e.g., that you can apply as diagnostic criteria), and also some quantitative data on frequency or other relevant points.

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A corpus study consists in studying actual speech acts, right?
A corpus is a body of text. Corpus studies look at that text and report on the distribution of linguistic forms. The majority of that research involves some sort of frequencies. So you identify things, then you count them, then you compare them. There are very complex (e.g., mathematically or computationally) methods, but they almost always boil down to that basic idea: what are the relative frequencies of X and Y?
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Actually I would say that performative is used in specific circumstances where the utterer either has an actual power (government officials, Yahweh, Jupiter), believes he has (in religion, magics, etc.) or wishes he has (sports fans, cheer leaders, etc.). I guess it must be mainly oral.
The entire point of corpus research is to get away from speculation and intuitions. What I've suggested is that you take a corpus and annotate each utterance for speech act. Many will be declaratives, some will be interrogatives, etc., and then you will also find some performatives. Then you can report a simple distribution, where 50% are declaratives (or whatever), and finally something like 5% are performatives. Then we can actually talk about this in an objective way.

The very fact that performatives seem to be strongly associated with specific discourse contexts is a strong indication of why the language may not have a generally grammaticalized form for them. (And on the other hand, why specific contexts do have specific traditions, such as "I now pronounce you man and wife...")

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I was not thinking about the evolution of idioms (langues in French) but of language in general (langage in French).
Well, we can't observe that. Almost everyone would agree that language is no longer evolving in that sense, and hasn't for thousands of years. Most linguists (not all, but most) today would not claim that for example the earliest written language is any evidence about an early 'less evolved' form of language. The fact is that all humans share the same genetic capacity for language (and that's tens of thousands of years or more). That is one reason research about the topic is controversial: we have no direct evidence.

But you can read a lot about it in current research. So rather than reinventing the wheel, you should start with at least some of that.

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There is no trace of animal language remaining today in ours.
Actually some recent research argues there is. Some approaches talk about "syntactic fossils" or basic constructions that might hint at an earlier proto-language. Controversial. But it's out there. Again, do a literature review if you want to know more about this.

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La Société [Linguistique de Paris]...
Yes, because there was at the time too much speculation about the topic and it wasn't going anywhere. But that was just one group, and there are many books written in the past 5 or 10 years on the topic for example. It wasn't really taboo then either, just overdiscussed with no clear advancement from continued discussion.
Title: Re: A question about Performativity
Post by: vox on September 27, 2018, 02:15:54 PM
Quote from: Old Nick
As I told Daniel my question was whether that mood existed in a language.
The examples I gave (precative, hortative...) can reasonably be considered as existing performative moods.

Quote from: Old Nick
Right or wrong I wouldn’t include in the performative mood stuff that induce other people to perform an action.
Yet the examples you gave earlier induce other people to perform an action : injunctions to God, fans’ cheers, prayers, protestators claiming « Down with bureaucracy » are performed to get someone to do something. They all are a subtype of performative production called directive speech acts :
Quote
Directives. The illocutionary point of these consists in the fact that they are attempts (of varying degrees, and hence, more precisely, they are determinates of the determinable which includes attempting) by the speaker to get the hearer to do something. They may be very modest ‘attempts' as when I invite you to do it or suggest that you do it, or they may be very fierce attempts as when I insist that you do it. (Searle, A classification of illocutionary acts, p. 11)
https://sites.duke.edu/conversions/files/2014/09/Searle_Illocutionary-Acts.pdf (https://sites.duke.edu/conversions/files/2014/09/Searle_Illocutionary-Acts.pdf).

Quote from: Old Nick
Isn’t the speech supposed to perform the action by itself?
It seems that you say ‘a speech that performs the action by itself’ to mean ‘a speech whose semantic content becomes true as soon as it’s pronounced’. For instance Let there be light, I declare open the London Olympic games, The Court sentences you to death have all a content (the existence of the light, the games being open, the fact that you will die) and that content becomes true as soon as those sentences are pronounced. Those speech acts belong to another subtype of performatives called declarative speech acts or declarations (I’m referring to Searle’s taxonymy). As with all speech acts their success depends on many contextual factors, among which speaker’s status.

What Searle calls ‘declarations’ were the first sentences identified as performatives by Austin when he brought to light the constative/performative distinction (even if that distinction fails according to Searle). But even Austin makes a taxonomy of different subtypes of performatives. He provides a wide (and not clear-cut) classification of performative verbs: veridictives (to acquit, to estimate, to assess, to hold...), exercitives (to dismiss, to declare open, to veto, to order, to beg, to warn, to advise...), behabitives (to thank, to congratulate, to bless, to challenge, to apologize...) and other categories. Searle reviewed that classification and later other linguists reviewed Searle’s classification. So a performative is not only a sentence whose content becomes a reality as soon as it’s pronounced. A performative is actually any speech act, any act that is performed by means of language : promising, asking, commanding, requesting, asserting, baptizing, encouraging, refusing, taking an oath, saying ‘hello’, saying ‘good bye’... You can disagree with that conception but you can’t say that only sentences whose content becomes a reality as soon as they’re pronounced are performatives. It’s not exact.
Title: Re: A question about Performativity
Post by: Daniel on September 28, 2018, 12:06:18 AM
What vox says is very important, and this is why defining terms (plus ideally providing concrete data regarding something like frequency) is so important.
Title: Re: A question about Performativity
Post by: Old Nick on October 02, 2018, 01:20:17 PM
Thanks Daniel and Vox for your input. It’s very interesting for me as a non linguist who is not on the path to become one. ;-) I will think about it more thoroughly.

Nick