Following Austin’s initial discussion, speech acts have been the subject of a sizable body of literature; the status of pronouncing in “I now pronounce you man and wife” as signalling an action is uncontroversial, although exactly how this status is to be modeled and incorporated in linguistic theory is not. Because pragmatics has historically been driven by considerations of ordinary language usage, discussions of speech acts have largely devoted themselves to language that
There is, however, a set of rather intriguing expressions that now occur rather often in administrative discourse that have not, as far as this author is aware, received the attention they arguably deserve. Consider the following:
<InstitutionName> actively fosters a climate of excellence.
The Dept. of <FieldName> develops leadership in degree candidates.
Statements such as these appear fairly straightforward; the reader/
A brief lexicographic aside may be useful here for purposes of clarification.1 Historically, and continuing into the present in many domains of discourse, the lexeme (or depending on one’s model of polysemy, lexemes) leadership has two closely-
In the case of excellence, its heretofore most basic use involved indicating the status of someone’s abilities or work as well above average, perhaps exceedingly above average; it wasn’t particularly common, perhaps directly because of the mathematical characteristics of the upper reaches of a distribution curve.
The modern business/
We could, at this point, adopt a common notational convention among linguists and refer to the older uses of leadership as leadership1 and leadership2, with the UMS sense as leadership3, but the author would like to suggest that a simple spelling shift will do the same work without reminding some readers that they are in need of bifocals, and at the same time suggest a closer approximation to the meanings to be discussed; he will, therefore, adopt leedurship for the UMS sense, and likewise use egslunce for the UMS sense of “excellence.”2
We are now in a position to address the crux of the issue: The quality of leedurship appears to be conferred and defined by the act of using the word. Saying “X displays leedurship” is tantamount to saying “X has displayed the quality one acquires by having it asserted about X that X possesses leedurship.” Note that this is not an entailment or a presupposition; the second statement is exactly equivalent to the first. Similarly, egslunce is that quality possessed by things that are said to possess egslunce, by virtue of the claim or implication that the thing possesses the quality. While it is perhaps tempting to suspect that these senses were artificially constructed (they seem suspiciously like the type of material one would dream of including in a textbook section on Wittgenstein), it cannot be denied that they have “naturalized” within the administrative linguistic ecology, much as zebra mussels have naturalized in the Great Lakes.
Importantly, the act of claiming the quality need not be realized via a main-
Candidates for admission to <redacted> will display educational leadership by submitting three letters of recommendation along with their application.3
Submitting letters of recommendation is, of course, a standard, if not universal, part of a graduate application process; there is no possible way in which one can be said to display leadership in either of the traditional senses by causing oneself to do what everyone else does. Being able to direct one’s own actions is not the same kind of status that normally places one in the kind of position that is regarded as “leading.” And although the program in question is one in Educational Leadership, and thus one could make the argument that achieving the minimum common standard for normal graduate entrants does place the applicant well ahead of the rest of this particular applicant pool, the point seems strained. This type of usage would appear to involve a speech act recursively encoded and nominalised.
The author would like to argue that this warrants further attention from the pragmatics community. If we assume that administrators place value on having leedurship and egslunce, we are left, arguably, with a fertile field of study of what might be termed second-
If nothing else, we can state confidently, truthfully, and vacuously that anyone performing either such analysis would demonstrate both of the qualities discussed.
[The name of the author of this important piece of skolarsheep has been withheld to protect him or her from being forced to take time from their busy research schedule to relentlessly foster a climate of egslunce in leedurship at their home instatooshun. —Eds.]
2 The sense here may become clearer if the reader pronounces the <u> as a high back unrounded vowel.
3 The author is not making this up.
|Close and Extended Relative Clauses
|It’s Notso Clear Now, Is It?
|SpecGram Vol CLXIV, No 4 Contents|