Doing Things with Words: A Speech Act Analysis of a Christian Wedding

  • AU Embugushiki


Language, as it has come to be seen, is not only used to communicate ideas and feelings: it is also used to do things. This is what is regarded as its performative credentials. The performative potential of language is what is encapsulated in Austin’s (1962) and Searle’s (1969) Speech Acts Theory on which this paper is premised. This paper examines the speech acts performed in Christian wedding solemnizations. Appropriate data for the study has been elicited through the audio-visual recording of a Christian wedding. The data obtained has been transcribed and analysed. It has been discovered that the locutionary acts of Christian wedding vows possess a peculiar linguistic structure consisting of declarative and interrogative sentences which are characteristically full of those verbs that can be said to be performatives in the sense that they are ‘verbs of actions’. The verbs are preceded by the first person singular subject ‘I’. The use of these verbs in this manner adds to the illocutionary force of the vows. The study also reveals that Christian wedding vows are not mere descriptive statements but illocutionary acts (commissives and declarations), the explication of which should be necessarily related to acts of social performance, deducible from the context of situation. The perlocutionary act is deducible from the signing and presentation of marriage certificate.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2070-0083
print ISSN: 1994-9057