ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Speech as Action

Even those speeches that don’t intend to cause harm can lead to violence with the usage of “thick terms.”

The acts of rioting and violence in Delhi earlier this year are pieces of a collapsing domino: the effects of one disastrous action are leading to another and more—just like one piece of a domino leads to the fall of another—only, we are not sure how far and for how long! Naturally, it is presumed that there was an exterior element (such as a blow or a pat) that has started this line of disintegration. We argue that the acts of hatred and violence in Delhi are the pieces of a domino, set in motion by the exterior element that is voices of hatred.

At times, the line between speech and action gets so blurred that it becomes difficult to differentiate the two. Thus, to say something is to do something—a theory proposed by John Langshaw Austin in his speech act theory. Arguing that speech was performative in its essence, Austin differentiates between the three acts that speech performs: locutionary, illocutionary and perlocutionary. Of these, the perlocutionary act is of our interest. Perlocutionary speech acts try to persuade, convince, or elicit a reaction. Speech does not only involve the participation of the speaker, but also affects the acting agency of the listener: the voices of hatred lead to the acts of violence.

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Updated On : 14th Dec, 2020
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