views updated

PERFORMATIVE VERB. A term used in philosophy and linguistics for a type of VERB (apologize, forbid, inform, promise, request, thank) that can explicitly convey the kind of speech act being performed. In saying I apologize for my behaviour, someone is making an apology, which could also be done in part at least without such a verb: My behaviour was utterly deplorable. Generally, the performative verb in such sentences is in the simple present active and the subject is I, but the verb may be in the simple present passive and the subject need not be I: Smoking is forbidden; The committee thanks you for your services. A test for whether a verb is being used performatively is the possible insertion of hereby: I hereby apologize; The committee hereby thanks you. In hedged performatives, the verb is present but the speech act is performed indirectly: in saying I must apologize for my behaviour, the speaker is expressing an obligation to make an apology, but implies that the acknowledgement of that obligation is the same as an apology. In contrast, I apologized is a report, and Must I apologize? is a request for advice.