Performativity as Tense and Aspect

in International Review of Pragmatics
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Almost all verbs in Slovene have two aspectually different forms, the perfective (PF) and the imperfective (IPF). But in institutional settings or settings strongly marked with social hierarchy only the first, the imperfective form, is used by Slovene speakers in a performative sense.

Why is that? And what, in fact, has a Slovene speaker said if (s)he used the imperfective verb in "performative circumstances"? No doubt that (s)he may be in the process of accomplishing such an act. But at the same time, having the possibility of choosing between the PF and the IPF form, (s)he may have also indicated that this act hasn't been accomplished (yet): as long as we are only promising (IPF), we have not really promised anything yet, and if we are only promising (IPF), we cannot take anything as having been really promised. That was how Stanislav Škrabec, the 19th century Slovene linguist and the central figure of this paper, saw the role of verbal aspect within language use.

Being caught in such a dilemma, a question inevitably arises: how to accomplish an act of promise (or any other performative act) in Slovene? at dilemma may seem more than artificial at first, but it was very much alive among Slovene linguists at the end of the 19 th century. And it was that very dilemma – how to use aspects in Slovene – that quite unexpectedly gave rise to the foundations of performativity in Slovene, half a century before Austin!

In the present paper, the author tries to shed some light on this controversy that involved different Slovene scholars for about thirty years, and proposes a delocutive hypothesis as a solution for the performative dilemma this controversy unveiled.

Performativity as Tense and Aspect

in International Review of Pragmatics


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