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Performative is a term introduced in Austin (1962) in the context of his theory of speech acts for those utterances which are used to perform an act instead of describing it.


by uttering (i) the speaker actually makes an apology, he does not describe himself apologizing for his behaviour.

(i)  I apologize for my behaviour

This distinguishes performatives from constatives which are used to make a true or false statement. Performatives do not have truth conditions but felicity conditions. The type of verbs used to make performative utterances are called performatives or performative verbs: apologize, promise, declare.


Utrecht Lexicon of Linguistics


  • Austin, J.L. 1962. How to Do Things with Words, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  • Chierchia and McConnell-Ginet 1990. Meaning and grammar, MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.