Publication details [#54197]

Publication type
Article in book
Publication language
Place, Publisher
John Benjamins


French enunciation theory is not a unified theory, but represents several different diversified approaches to pragmatic questions. It developed out of French structuralism, from the heritage of Saussure and grammatical traditions, whereas pragmatics in the Anglo-American tradition grew out of analytical philosophy and logic (Fuchs 1981). It bears resemblances to other pragmatically oriented theories (see, for instance, Banks 2004), but presents an original view on language use. First of all, énonciation is not a modern discovery, but rather a rediscovery of old problematics of language concentrating mainly on issues that concern language-internal systems, such as deictics and modality (Fuchs 1981:35). Basically, enunciation deals with utterance-level meaning from the perspective of different linguistic elements. In other words, the activity of the speaker is the focus: on the one hand there are traces or indices left by the speaker in the utterance; on the other hand there is the relationship the speaker maintains with her/his interlocutor (Dubois 1969). Enunciation is understood as an act of producing an utterance as an individual instance of language use in a specific situation (Benveniste 1974:80). In this article, the terms enunciation theory and enunciation linguistics are occasionally used. They reflect the French tradition and are literal equivalencies of French terms. But since the used perspective is a pragmatic one, it is considered appropriate to also use the terms enunciative pragmatics and French pragmatics. The term énonciation itself derives from Latin enuntio, which means disclosing, verbal expression or more concretely a phrase. In logic it refers to assertion and in grammar to pronunciation. There are three basic concepts: enunciation, the act of producing an utterance, or for short, the act of uttering; énoncé, the product of an act of uttering, i.e. an utterance; and enunciator, speaker, locutor or utterer depending on the theoretical approach to enunciation. In other words: an act, its product and its producer. In this theory, the basic view of language is that it is communicative: its object of study is language in use from the point of view of the speaker – how the speaker, or rather, the speaking subject expresses her/his subjectivity in spatio-temporal situations and how the speaking activity leaves traces in the utterance. Enunciation theory is also a theory about subjectivity, the speaking subject being in the centre of interrogation, not as a unified subject, but a heterogeneous one. This speaking subject is not autonomous, but depends on the situation of communication. In enunciation theory, different trends in the study of language use and its explanation depend on whether description is based on actual language use as documented in corpora, or whether theoretically oriented linguistics is the starting point. Moreover, depending on the theoretical premises, approaches or schools in French pragmatics can vary considerable: from cognitively oriented to sociolinguistic ones. In this article, we first trace the context in which French enunciation theory has developed, and we survey its traditions and the formulation of its main concepts from a historical point of view up to the present day. This is done in order to examine the basic theoretical claims and assumptions the theory makes more generally, and to see how it is situated vis-à-vis neighbouring disciplines. Secondly, we present its main concepts from the point of view of their basic features and as they are used in research today