A promise comes into existence merely by saying it. What is the term for a thing, or property of a thing, that is instantiated by saying or naming it?


2 Answers 2


It sounds like you are in the neighborhood of "speech acts". "Illocutionary act" refers to "what was done by speaking", such as requesting. A subtype is performatives (or declarations) such as "I pronounce you man and wife", "I sentence you to 30 years", "I divorce thee" (uttered according to the triple talaq formula), "I name you Velma", "I curse you".

  • Perhaps that is what I'm thinking of. More specifically, what if a property is conferred by a possibly nonverbal declaration. For example, in a domain where objective standards are vague or nonexistent, an object is deemed good by the judgement of a recognized expert member. That judgement might be verbal, or might even be conferred nonverbally by successfully selling the object.
    – davidg
    Jun 30, 2023 at 1:36
  • 3
    Read H. P. Grice Logic and Conversation. In it he posits the concept of a performative, which is a speech act that relies on specific formulas. Promises, assertions, questions, blessings, curses, baptisms, marriages, ... etc.
    – jlawler
    Jun 30, 2023 at 2:35
  • "How to Do Things with Words", by J. L. Austin is another good text.
    – JonathanZ
    Jul 1, 2023 at 20:38

Perhaps “invocation”

E.g. “I invoke the 5th amendments protection agains self-incrimination.”

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