Publication details [#54054]

Cooren, François and Frédérik Matte. 2010. For a constitutive pragmatics. Obama, Médecins Sans Frontières and the measuring stick. Pragmatics and Society 1 (1) : 9–31.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Place, Publisher
John Benjamins
Journal DOI


This paper proposes to explore the mechanisms by which speaking, writing and, more generally, interacting pragmatically contribute to the mode of being and acting of social forms, whether these forms be identities, relations or collectives. Such an approach to pragmatics, which this paper proposes to call constitutive, amounts to showing, both theoretically and empirically, that human interactants are not the only ones who should be deemed as “doing things with words” (Austin 1975), but that other figures — which can take the form of policies, statuses, tools, groups, collectives, etc. — can also be identified as being active in a given situation, especially through the way they are mobilized and staged in interaction. According to this approach, interactions can therefore be considered dislocated loci where specific con-figurations are (re-)produced and embodied. Such a constitutive view also allows to deal with issues of power, authority and responsibility, three questions that tend to be relatively marginalized in pragmatic studies, especially when a performative and interactive viewpoint is adopted.