Perlocutionary act

A perlocutionary act (or perlocutionary effect) is a speech act, as viewed at the level of its consequences, such as persuading, convincing, scaring, enlightening, inspiring, or otherwise affecting the listener.[clarification needed] This is contrasted with locutionary and illocutionary acts (which are levels of description, rather than classifications of speech acts).[1]

Unlike the notion of illocutionary act, which describes the linguistic function of an utterance,[clarification needed] a perlocutionary effect is in some sense external to the performance. It may be thought of, in a sense, as the effect of the illocutionary act via the locutionary act. Therefore, when examining perlocutionary acts, the effect on the hearer or reader is emphasized.

As an example, consider the following utterance: "By the way, I have a CD of Debussy; would you like to borrow it?" Its illocutionary function is an offer, while its intended perlocutionary effect might be to impress the listener, or to show a friendly attitude, or to encourage an interest in a particular type of music.


  1. ^ Austin, John L. (1962), How to Do Things with Words, Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 101: "Saying something will often, or even normally, produce certain consequential effects upon the feelings, thoughts, or actions of the audience, or of the speaker, or of other persons: and it may be done with the design, intention, or purpose of producing them."