Monday, November 19, 2007

Speech Acts in the News

For those non-linguists out there, speech acts (or more specifically, illocutionary acts) are when the mere act of a pronouncement causes something to happen. The classic example is when a minister says "I pronounce you husband and wife" and this causes it to be so. The deal with these things is that there are rules. The right person has to say the right thing in the right way at the right time in order for the "act" to be done. I can't say "I now pronounce you husband and wife" to two friends at the mall and have it mean anything because I'm not a qualified person, it wouldn't be an appropriate time and place and my two friends may not want to ever be such a thing as husband and wife.

The problems with understanding these niceties of illocutionary acts became glaringly obvious in an article today in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Jane Ann Morrison wrote in a commentary column that Nevada Supreme Court Justice (I think) Nancy Saitta said "because her students called her 'professor,' she believed she was an associate professor at UNLV, a job that is a tenured position and usually takes six or seven years to obtain." Sweet! If your students call you "professor," or "doctor," or "el presidente," you can just skip all that nonsense of extra schooling, the tedious application process.

I think this will be good news for many of my friends who are TAs and/or instructors themselves! Heck, even Peter's high school students have called him "Dr." on occasion. Thank goodness we now won't have to pay for 4 years of higher education for him!

No comments: