chapter  3
15 Pages

Saying, Doing, and Writing

Putting speech and speakers together first leads to isolating the performative and then ends its isolation. The locution/illocution distinction survives because it contrasts language in society to language in the abstract; the constative/performative distinction dies because both its terms encompass language and society at once. Identifying the constative as a performative proclaims language's social identity perhaps even more spectacularly than discovering the performative in the first place. Speech-act theory offers a challenging, powerful alternative to formalist linguistics, and one important response to the challenge has been an attempt to redefine the performative as simultaneously out of touch with the constative and out of reach of society. The two most powerful contemporary schools of formal linguistics, Saussurean structuralism and Chomskyan transformational grammar. The constative/performative and literary/illocution distinctions are equally irreconcilable with recognition that what language says is as much a speech act as what it does. Like saying and doing, writing performs.