Searle on Non-Sentences

I happen to be reading Searle’s 1969 book Speech Acts. It’s actually pretty terrific. However, he writes something which, as a student of Austin and Strawson, and someone who is otherwise quite observant of the facts of ordinary talk, I found surprising:

“Propositional acts [i.e., Austin’s locutionary acts] cannot occur alone; that is, one cannot just refer and predicate without making an assertion or asking a question or performing some other illocutionary act. The linguistic correlate of this point is that sentences, not words, are used to say things. This is also what Frege meant when he said that only in the context of a sentence do words have reference… The same thing in my terminology: One only refers as part of the performance of an illocutionary act, and the grammatical clothing of an illocutionary act is the complete sentence. An utterance of a referring expression only counts as referring if one says something” (p. 25).


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