GSE Publications

Document Type

Journal Article

Date of this Version

September 1997


Modern analyses of language use have come to focus as much on what we do with language as on what we say with it (e.g., Austin 1975 [1956]; Goffman 1974; Gumperz and Hymes 1972; Searle 1969; Wittgenstein 1953). With this shift to studying language's interactional functions has come an apparently simple question: how does a stretch of talk come to count as a particular type of interactional event? Answers to this question relied at first on the denotational functions of language. In the prototypical cases presented by Austin (1975 [1956]), an utterance signals an interactional event through the denotational value of certain predicating formulae. Uttered in appropriate circumstances, I promise both denotes and accomplishes a speech act.


Reprinted from Semiotica, Volume 114, Issues 3/4, 1997, pages 295-317. Publisher URL:

NOTE: At the time of publication, author Stanton Wortham was affiliated with Bates College. Currently June 2007, he is a faculty member in the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania.

We have contacted the publisher regarding the deposit of this paper in ScholarlyCommons@Penn. No response has been received.



Date Posted: 01 June 2007

This document has been peer reviewed.