chapter  11
Situated Actions and Vocabularies of Motive
Pages 12

The major reorientation of recent theory and observation in sociology of lan­ guage emerged with the overthrow of the Wundtian notion that language has as its function the "expression" of prior elements within the individual. The postulate underlying modern study of language is the simple one that we must approach linguistic behavior, not by referring it to private states in individuals, but by observing its social function of coordinating diverse action. Rather than expressing something which is prior and in the person, language is taken by other persons as an indicator of future actions. 1

Within this perspective there are suggestions concerning problems of motiva­ tion. It is the purpose of this chapter to outline an analytic model for the explanation of motives which is based on a sociological theory of language and a sociological psychology. 2

As over against the inferential conception of motives as subjective "spr ings" of action, motives may be considered as typical vocabularies having ascertain­ able functions in delimited societal situations. Human actors do vocalize and impute motives to themselves and to others. To explain behavior by referring it to an inferred and abstract "mo t ive" is one thing. To analyze the observable lingual mechanisms of motive imputation and avowal as they function in conduct is quite another. Rather than fixed elements " i n " an individual, motives are the terms with which interpretation of conduct by social actors proceeds. This imputation and avowal of motives by actors are social phenomena to be ex-

plained. The differing reasons men give for their actions are not themselves without reasons.