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The things we do with words: Ilongot speech acts and speech act theory in philosophy*

  • Michelle Z. Rosaldo (a1)

Abstract

I begin by introducing the Ilongots and some of their attitudes toward speech. Whereas most modem theorists think of language as a tool designed primarily to “express” or to “refer,” Ilongots think of language first in terms of action. They see commands as the exemplary act of speech, displaying less concern for the subjective meanings that an utterance conveys than for the social contexts in which utterances are heard. An ethnographic sketch thus outlines how Ilongots think of words and how their thought relates to aspects of their practice – providing an external foil for theorists found closer to home. Speech Act Theory is discussed and questioned first on internal grounds, as an approach that recognizes but slights important situational and cultural constraints on forms of language use. A consideration of the application of Searle's taxonomy of acts of speech to Ilongot categories of language use then leads to a clarification of the individualistic and relatively asocial biases of his essentially intra-cultural account. Last, I return to Ilongot directives. A partial analysis of Ilongot acts of speech provides the basis for a statement of the ways in which indigenous categodes are related to the forms that actions take, as both of these, in turn, reflect the sociocultural ordering of local worlds. (Speech acts, philosophy and ethnography, ethnography of speaking, Ilongot [Philippines].)

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The things we do with words: Ilongot speech acts and speech act theory in philosophy*

  • Michelle Z. Rosaldo (a1)

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