Time as Tense and Aspect or How Language Changes

I’m not going to start with the eternal question: what is time? Such a question takes the existence of time for granted. I’m rather going to ask myself: is there really an entity we can call time? And I’m going to conduct a little experiment.

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The Obligation to Keep a Promise

Austin’s answer abolishes the painful self-questioning whether there was a primary generalagreement (to keep our a greements) or not and makes unnecessary Prichard’s conclusionthat we have generally promised somehow, without words and not knowing it.He needed precisely that kind of performative theory, a theory based on (solid) extra-linguistic conventions, because he had to explain how certain linguistic phenomena canproduce extra-linguistic effects, something that moral philosophy, as we have seen, couldn’tcope with.But inasmuch as he is answering the question(s) formulated by moral philosophy he stays within it’s framework, so in a way we could say that the speech acts theory, his firstperformative theory gave rise to, was a by-product of moral philosophy.

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Performativity as Tense and Aspect

Almost all verbs in Slovenian have two aspectually different forms, a perfective (PF) andan imperfective (IF) one. But in institutional settings or settings strongly marked withsocial hierarchy only the first one, i.e. the imperfective form is used by Slovenian speakers in performative sense. Why is that? And what, in fact, have we said if we used the imperfective verb in“performative circumstances”? No doubt that we may be in the process of accomplishingsuch an act. But at the same time, we have also indicated that this act hasn’t beenaccomplished (yet): as long as we are only promising (IF), we haven’t promised anything,and if we aren’t but promising (IF), we can’t take anything as having been promised.The question therefore arises: how to accomplish an act of promise (or any other performative act) in Slovenian? That dilemma may seem more than artificial at first sight,but it was very much alive among Slovenian linguists at the end of the XIX. century. And itwas that very dilemma – how to use aspects in Slovenian – that gave rise to the foundations of performativity in Slovenian, half a century before Austin! In the present paper the author tries to shed some light on this controversy that opposeddifferent Slovenian scholars for about thirty years, and proposes delocutive hypothesis as asolution for the performative dilemma this controversy unveiled.

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