The perlocutionary is political: Listening as self-determination in a Papua New Guinean polity
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J. L. Austin’s influential dissection of speech acts into locutionary, illocutionary, and perlocutionary acts has given rise to much scholarly attention to illocutionary acts and forces. While the perlocutionary facet of speech acts has gone largely undiscussed by philosophers and linguists, folk theories of language often attend closely to the relation between speech and its consequences. In this article, I discuss one conception of perlocutions prominent in Yopno speaking communities in Papua New Guinea that emphasizes the agentive role of listeners in mediating between speech and its outcome. This cultural conception of perlocutions, I argue, is tied to a political sensibility that stresses the self-determination and equality of adult men. The article shows how cultural conceptions of perlocutions provide insight into political values and practices, and how political concerns inform folk models of perlocutions.