Laura A. Diaz ____ Teach Write

TEACHER, AUTHOR, EDUblogger "I want to (read and) write books that unblock the traffic jam in everyone's mind." ~J. Updike

Speech acts: Constative and performative – Colleen Glenney Boggs LESSON CREATED BY LAURA DIAZ


Let’s Begin…

When are words just words, and when do words force action? Linguist J.L. Austin divided words into two categories: constatives (words that describe a situation) and performatives (words that incite action).

For instance, is a “No running” sign describing your gait, or are you not running because the sign prohibits it? Colleen Glenney Boggs describes how these categorizations give power to words and, ultimately, to your actions.


Which is not one of the parts of speech defined by Austin?

A. Constatives
B. Formatives
C. Performatives
D. None of the above

If the headline reads, “Heatwave!,” but the sky is cloudy and it feels cold outside, what best describes the headline?

AIt . is a performative
B. The printers accidentally printed yesterday’s headline
C. It is a false constative
D. It is a grammar error

What is a speech act?

A. When people talk about what they are doing
B. When words are actions
C. A presentation that incites action
D. The constitutional amendment that allows for freedom of speech

Which felicity conditions best describe a successful performative?

A. Authoratative
B. Understood
C. Clear
D. Able to be executed
E. All of the above

Just because a performative meets the felicity conditions and is clearly stated, it doesn’t mean it’s implicitly followed.

A. True
B. False

Describe a time when you disregarded a performative that resulted in another performative (for example, you ignored the no running sign and were banished from the pool for the rest of the day).

So, how did you do?  Do you remember learning this stuff in Middle school? If not, you are not alone.  However, with new technologies (such as TED Ed) being used to “flip” the classroom, our 21st century students may have a better shot at remembering what they are supposed to learn in Middle school.

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