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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Soka University Japan - Transcend Art and Peace
Created: October 6, 2002
Latest Update: October 6, 2002

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Site Teaching Modules The Meaning of Illocutionary

Site Copyright: Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata and Individual Authors, September 2002.
"Fair use" encouraged.

On Saturday, October 5, 2002, Carla Calderon wrote:

Subject: illocutionary

Hi Jeanne,
My name is Carla Calderon, and I am enrolled in your Soc. of law class. I finally met you on Thursday when I went to your office before class. The reason I am writing you is because I finally understand the illocutionary point of view. Father Nelson from Ghana came to our classroom to have a discussion. Everything seemed to be going welluntil the topic of female circumcision was brought up. It seemed as though everyone in the classroom felt a little uncomfortable with the subject, because we, as Americans, feel that the female circumcision practice is morally and ethically wrong. I think at that point in the discussion, many people shut themselves out and stopped listening to what the Father had to say because they felt so offended with the topic. I feel however, that your comment really helped the class and specially me to look beyond the topic and to truly understand, or at least try to understand, where these people were coming from. You pointed out the fact that in order for us to have a discussion we need to be able to see the other person's point of view. We need to be able to understand why they do the things that they do in order for the discussion to be productive. The comment really did it for me. I finally understood what the illocutionary point of view was all about. I was able to see beyond my own beliefs and values and try to see someone else's. I tried to put my own prejudices aside in order to not only be more objective and less biased, but also to come to a productive conclusion.

jeanne's comment This explanation is beautifully put, Carla. Your story of that discussion will help many others "get it." One thing I would like to remind you of is that a "productive conclusion" (your concluding words) may be a conclusion that brings us closer to the use of language as communicative action, not instrumental action. That is, especially when paired with Maria Pia Lara's aesthetic and moral components, for the purpose of coming to understand and to see each other as fellow humans. Like the Little Prince who told the Fox to sit over there for a while, and come just a little bit closer each day, until we can learn to trust each other. Then we can think about being "friends." (St. Exupery, The Little Prince.)