«The desire for convenience» as an explanatory principle of synchronic phenomena at the sentential level (the phenomenon of verb performativity)


The explanatory principle of “the desire for convenience”, which was put forward by Baudouin de Courtenay and is also known as the principle of economy of effort, is used here to explain why certain speech act verbs have performative usage, while others do not. We show, that in order to be performative, the verb must have a lexical meaning that satisfies three conditions: 1) not to contain components, that contradict the definition of performativity; 2) not to contain components, that make performative usage absurd; 3) on the contrary, to contain semantic components, justifying the efforts, connected with introducing performative “prefix” into one’s utterance (a modus frame of the type I state /vow/ask/etc. that…). The principle of economy of effort explains non-performativity of the verbs with a meaning consisting solely of components, which would either be redundant in the performative usage, or would have more economical forms of expression as compared to a performative verb.

Key words: 

Baudouin de Courtenay, principle of economy of effort, performativity, speech act verbs, lexical meaning.

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