SMASH LANG LIT: Learn the skills to excel at IB Lang Lit!
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OK, so this is going to get a little technical: but as an IB student, you need to always look at non-fiction texts (or any text for that matter) through a technical “lens”. And by the end of this post, you will not forget your L.I.P.

A little confused? Read on.

First, a brief bit of history. British language philosopher J.L. Austin explored in his many works, including “How To Do Things With Words” and “Sense and Sensibilia”, how the English language works. He looked at the ways different words can mean different things and be used in different ways in different contexts.

The area of J.L. Austin’s study that we are going to be looking at is the way in which he analysed speech acts. Now speech acts can be any form of communication, not just limited to actual speech. So a speech act can be a TV advert, or a conversation between two people, or an interview printed in a magazine. J.L Austin concluded that with every speech act, there are three important components.

The first component is The Locutionary Act – this terms refers to the speech act itself. Let’s take, for example, a woman telling a man “I can’t go out tonight, I’m busy”. This speech act would be the woman speaking to the man. 

Another locutionary act might be writing an article in a newspaper, or creating an advertisement. So the locutionary act is, simply enough, the actual act of communicating (the word “locutionary” from the Latin locutio, meaning “the act of speech”).

The second component of a speech act is the Illocutionary Force. And here we get a little more technical. The illocutionary force is the intended outcome of the speech act. Basically, what the creator of the speech act wants to achieve. So, the woman who says to the man “I can’t go out tonight, I’m busy” is deploying illocutionary force with the intention of communicating to the man that she does not want to go out with him.

Finally, the Perlocutionary Effect. This is the actual outcome of the speech act – basically how the listener or reader responds to the speech act.  And this is where you can explore multiple interpretations. 

If we look at the perlocutionary effect of the woman saying to the man “I can’t go out tonight, I’m busy”, we can see that there are a few interpretations:

Perlocutionary Effect #1: The man understands that she does not want to go out with him at all.

Perlocutionary Effect #2: The man understands that she does not want to go out with him tonight, but perhaps another night.

Perlocutionary Effect #3: The man is being a typical man and thinks that she does in fact want to go out with him tonight, she’s just messing around.

As you can see, exploring the perlocutionary effect of a speech act can open up multiple interpretations, which is great because as IB students you should always explore more than one idea. Also, you should always try to support your ideas with analysis of the lexical (word) choices made by the author, as well as syntax (how the words build the sentence) and punctuation.

Print out the guide to L.I.P. attached to this post, and as always let me know if you have any comments or ideas!

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