The effect of an utterance
that actually does something non-linguistic
by virtue of being uttered, and in
For example, when I say "I forbid you to touch that", I'm not merely stating something, as I would be if I said "yesterday I forbade...": I am actually doing the forbidding. My act of speaking is also an act of forbidding.
For another example, "I named a ship yesterday", or "Sorry, I can't talk, I'm naming a ship, call you back in five" merely state facts. But if you're standing there beside the ship with the bottle of champagne, and you fling it while saying "I name this ship the Golden Hind", you have thereby named it, by speaking those words. (Assuming also that you are the Queen Mother or some such official, and not a streaker or interloper who has grabbed the champagne first.)
In the sign "the public are hereby notified...", the presence of the word 'hereby' is a classic indicator that the verb has illocutionary force.
When the bride or groom says "I will", they are therein performing the act of getting married.
This is in contrast to perlocutionary force. The terms are due to the linguistic philosopher J.L. Austin.
I didn't want to complicate this by discussing "I will", but it's already been questioned, so I'd better. Personally I know nothing of the traditional forms of marriage
, so am basing this on the footnote in Austin. He in his original discussion used the expression "I do
" as the response
of the people being married.
It was then pointed out to him that in the traditional order of service, the priest says "Wilt thou, N, take..." (or "will you...)", and the bride or groom says "I will". The priest also asks who giveth this woman to this man, and the bride's father responds "I do".
Austin left the text as it was and his editor footnoted it. Clearly there is another form of the marriage service, in which the priest asks the bride and groom "Do you take...", and they say "I do". These days this is by far the more familiar form. (I wonder what the father of the bride says in this case.)