George Thompson thompson at JLC.NET
Sun Dec 14 12:21:25 UTC 1997

Thank you to Jacob and Mikael for carrying on this discussion. It helps me
to sort out the issues involved. I've been thinking the discussion over in
my mind, before rashly [I hope] hitting the 'send' button.

With regard to the distinction that you are trying to clarify:

>Mikael Aktor wrote:
>My point, however, is that there is no functional difference between "to call
>someone 'honey'" and "to honey someone". There may be good reasons to
>have a linguistic technical term such as "delocutive" for the latter kind
>of verb, but this does not make it a speech act of its own.
>Are you talking about the difference between "dire 'salut'" and "saluer",
>"say 'hail' to someone" and "hail someone" (="greet someone"), "say 'ok'
>to a proposal" and "ok a proposal" (="approve a proposal")?
I am also unsure that I fully understand the point that Mikael is trying to
make [although I agree that there is no functional difference betw. the
members of each pair]. It seems to me, however, that all of these
utterances are speech acts. The question is: of what kind? i.e., what is
their illocutionary force? [admittedly, these are not performatives; but
that is a different matter: they are still speech acts, aren't they?].

Also, I'd like to retain the term 'delocutive', which seems to me to be of
great value. The point that seems important, to me, is that in the pairs of
utterances cited by Jacob above the second could not exist without the
first, i.e., the second is derived from the first [therefore 'delocutive'
rather than 'denominative' or 'deverbative', etc.]. Delocutives seem to
play a prominent role in conventional, ritualized discourse [e.g., in the
choice in French between 'tu' and 'vous', in German between 'du' and 'sie',

In the article in which he coins the term 'delocutive', Benveniste confines
himself to delocutive verbs. And thus also the examples cited by others
have all been verbs. But the Skt. forms that I am interested in have not
been verb forms exclusively. My examples have been noun forms that seem to
me nevertheless to be derived from conventional locutions as well.

Take the noun form 'ahaMkAra', which I take it we all agree means 'the
aham-cry', analogous to other familiar Skt, forms like oMkAra, vaSaTkAra,
svAhAkAra. The underlying verb-form for these would be *aham-kR-, etc.,
which I would be tempted to translate 'to aham', etc. We have already in
the RV va'SaT...'kRNomi', as well as ' 'hi'G...akRNot' [besides other forms
of kR-, like kRNva't, kR'ti]. So the analytic forms of these expressions
are well attested. Also, as van Buitenen observes, the form 'ahaMkAra', and
'aham' alone, are found often with quotative 'iti'. The practice of using
such forms in Skt. appears to be significantly metalinguistic in intent
[just as the interest that the list has shown in such forms has been!].

So in Vedic Sanskrit, it would appear, besides saying 'don't "honey" me'
[e.g., with a quotative 'iti'] one could say 'don't *do* [or rather 'say':
kR-] honey to me'.

See RV 7.99.7:  va'SaT te viSNav Asa' A' kRNomi
                O ViSNu, I do the vaSaT to you from out of my own mouth.

This material is interesting because it shows us the verb kR- being used as
a speech-act verb [verbum dicendi]. The context in which this material
developed was a highly ritualized one, with well-defined ritual utterances
[vyAhRtis] that were to be performed [kR-] at fixed occasions. Perhaps it
casts interesting light on the term 'karman' as ritual performance.

In fact, the cry 'aham' is a highly marked ritualized utterance in Vedic,
as van Buitenen showed for the upaniSads, and as I have tried to show for
the RV [Heesterman has pointed to interesting examples as well].

By the way, for those who are interested in bibliographic refs. to the term
'delocutive', see Renou, EVP 16, p.27, commenting on RV 1.181.3: discussing
the form 'ahampUrva', Renou characterizes it as an "expression de'locutive"
[= one who is first to say 'I'], and cites Wackernagel II.1, p.327. For
other refs. see EVP 16, pp. 44 et 66 as well].

So in Skt. at least delocutive expressions need not be restricted to verb
forms [in English we have my example: 'yes-man', which I still think is

One last point, Martin Gansten's nice example of tvam + kR- [with
disrespectful connotation] is attested also at Manu 11.205, and I believe
that it can be identified in the RV within the agonistic verbal contests
that were a central feature of the tradition. Interesting things could be
said [though not now] based on a comparison of aham-sequences and
tvam-sequences in the RV.

The Vedic material seems to suggest a rather sophisticated awareness of
certain types of language as action [perhaps we can say, in response to an
interesting paper by Lars Goehler* [which is focussed on mImAMsA], that
there was evidence, even in the RV, of a proto-speech-act theory].

* "Gab es im alten Indien eine Sprechakttheorie?", in _Beitraege zur
Geschichte der Sprachwissenschaft_ 5 [1995].

Can anyone tell me: are such phenomena at all common in later Indo-Aryan
languages, or in Dravidian languages?

With best wishes and apologies for the length of this post,

George Thompson

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