Posts Tagged ‘universitas muhammadiyah jember’


(Kutipan referensi/citation: Jurnal Linguistik terapan Vol 3/1, Mei 2013)




Universitas Muhammadiyah Jember



Politician plays a very important role on the condition of our country especially related to communicating government’s programs or other phenomena happen in society. Politicians need not only knowledge and skills in their fields, but also strategies of communication. Demonstrations happen recently are, in part, caused by the failure of politicians in communicating some issues. It is the communication strategies, which determine whether or not a politician would positively or negatively impress the society. It is apparent that a language places an important role in determining his credibility. Using language adequately or appropriately is a prerequisite for them to look credible in the community. This article aims at investigating the felicity condition on the Indonesian politician’s performative utterances as written in newspaper and relating it to their credibility in society.

 Keywords: credibility, performative, constative, politician, felicity condition


A success politician needs not only knowledge and skills in his field, but also strategies of communication. Politicians, like other public figures such as artists, religious leaders, need followers. It is communication strategies which whether or not their followers would impress them. Language places a relatively important role in politician’s daily life. The worse language they use, the more negative impression they gain from the public and vice versa. Using language adequately and appropriately is a prerequisite for politicians to look credible in their public.

Politicians, as a public figure, often have to do something according to situation and condition. The performative utterances they make should have felicity condition in which the followers or public believe on what they say. Austin (1962) states that a performative may be “unhappy” if a person does not follow the correct procedure. Related to politics, Orwell (1945) states that politics is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia. When the general situation is bad, language must suffer. The obvious characteristic of suffering language is the fact that language is often manipulated for the sake of their needs and government’s in interest. The manipulation of language by politician indicates that they are aware that using language is one of determining factors in their success and failure related to their career.

The politician credibility is influencing factor in the success or failure of their career. The term credibility of believability refers to whether or not someone is believable, sincere, and consistent. The more credible the politician, the more followers he gain from public. The characteristics can be gained from their believable action in society. The characteristics can be measure by detecting the meaningfulness of someone’s speech. Thus, to be accepted as credible public figure, the politician should produce meaningful utterances in his speech. When the utterances serve to state, describe, or report facts, they are called constative utterances (Austin, 1962). In this case the term “meaningfulness” refers to whether they have truth-value or not. If the utterances serve to perform or to do an act, they are called performative. In this case, the term “meaningfulness” refers to whether those utterances have felicity condition or not.

Truth-values exist when the utterances are constatives. It is easy for us to find meaningfulness of utterances since we can judge whether the utterances are true or false. However, when the utterances are performatives, we cannot find out whether they are true or false because the performatives are truth free. In this case, investigating felicity condition (the condition of happiness of unhappiness of the utterances) is the way to determine the meaningfulness of those utterances.

The speech of politician usually gets more attention than the common people’s. The speech, both constative or performative, as written in the newspaper, has hidden power. Usually, the speech of politicians, whether they are from government, parties, or parliament, is always written in newspaper since it has impact to the public. The impact can be positive or negative depending on the meaningfulness of the speech. That is why it is assumed that the speech determines the politicians’ credibility.

This article investigates the felicity condition of the Indonesian Politicians’ performative utterances as written in the newspaper and to relate it to their credibility. The data are taken randomly from the “Jawa Pos” newspaper published on November 20, December 18, and December 25, 2005 and “Surya” newspaper published on December 4, 2005. To focus the discussion, the article tries to answer the following question.

  1. How do the Indonesian Politicians produce the felicity condition behind their performative utterances?
  2. How is the credibility of Indonesian Politicians based on their speech (performative utterances)?




Traditionally, sentences are divided into three kinds namely: indicative, imperative, and interrogative (Cooper, 1973). But J.L. Austin classified sentences into two namely constative and performative. Constative sentence, according to Austin (1962) is an utterance that roughly serves to states a fact, report that something is the case, or describes what something is (1962:4). For example, “the house is red”. This type of sentence is truth sensitive. It means that the sentence is true if only the house is red (Kempson, 1977). Consequently, if the house is not red, the sentence is false.

The second type is performative sentence. According to Austin (1962), performative sentences are utterances that have the characteristics, like this: 1) they do not describe or report or constate anything at all, are not true or false, and 2) the uttering of the sentences is, or is part of, the doing of an action, which again would not normally be described as saying something (1962:4-5). Unlike constatives, this type of sentence is truth free. For example the sentence, “I promise to come tomorrow” does not state the information that I promise to come tomorrow, but it is “doing promise” itself. It is obvious that this sentence cannot go to be true or false until the promise has already been done. That is why felicity condition is very important in guaranteeing whether performative utterances are meaningful or not.

To make clearer and to differentiate the two kinds of utterances, let’s pay attention on several examples below:

  • I name this ship “Dewa Ruci”
  • I say “welcome” to you.
  • I suggest that you study hard
  • I promise to meet you at 4.00 o’clock
  • I promise to send some money (Joko Wicoyo, 1997: 34)

Those sentences are the examples of performative utterances. The utterances are the implications of action and not reports about an action. In this case, it is difficult to state whether these utterances are right or wrong. The sentence “I promise to send some money”, for example, does not describe a fact. By saying those words, “I” has done something. There is something happens because of the sentence.

Furthermore, Austin (1971) proposed six conditions. If any one of them we cannot meet, our performative utterances will be unhappy (in one way or another). The six conditions are:

  1. There must exist an accepted conventional procedure having a certain conventional effect, which procedure includes the uttering of certain words by certain persons in certain circumstances.
  2. The particular persons and circumstances in a given case must be appropriate for the invocation for the particular procedure invoked.
  3. The procedure must be executed by all participants correctly.
  4. The procedure must be executed by all participants completely.
  5. Where the procedure is designed for use by persons having certain thoughts and feelings, or for inauguration of certain consequential conduct on the part of any participant, then a person participating in and so invoking the procedure must in fact have those thoughts or feelings, and
  6. The participants must intend so to conduct themselves subsequently. (Austin, 1971: 13-22).


Moreover, Austin classified the performative utterances into five classes. First, what we called verdictives, the ones that are typified by the giving of verdict, i.e. by a jury, arbitrator, or umpire. The example of this class is the words like: decide, reckon, etc. Second, exercitives are the exercising powers, rights, or influence. The example of this class is such words as: appoint, order, vote, etc. The third is commissives are typified by promising or otherwise undertaking; they commit you to doing something, to include also declarations or announcement of intention, which are not promises, and also rather vague things, which we may call espousal, as for example, siding with. The forth, behabitivesare a very miscellaneous group, and have to do with attitudes and social behaviors. Example of this class is the words like: apologize, congratulate, commend, etc. The fifth, expositives make plain how our utterances fit to the course of our argument, or conversation, how we are using words or in general, are expository. Example of this class is the words like: “I reply”, “I argue”, “I concede”, etc.


Felicity Condition behind the Performative Utterances Produced by the Indonesian Politician

For the purpose of measuring Indonesian politician credibility through their speech, in this article the writer tries to analyze the performative felicity condition in the Indonesian politician’s performative utterances written in newspaper and relate it to their credibility. During four-day publication of the “Jawa Pos” and “Surya”, the writer finds 10 utterances which are analyzed. In the process of analysis, felicity condition instrument is formulated on the basis of the six condition proposed by Austin. This instrument is used to analyze the data.


Table 1. Instrument of Felicity Condition


Furthermore, in line with the six conditions proposed by Austin, Bertens (1983) in Wicoyo (1997:35), states that there are specific rules for performative utterances, are not valid for other kinds of utterances. There are three ways that break the rules of performative utterances:

  1. Performative utterance can be said unhappy (inappropriate) when incompetent persons produce them. For example, “I give my collection of painting to the museum”. This utterance is unhappy if a person who has no painting at all produces it.
  2. Performative utterance can be said unhappy if the persons speaking show insincere attitude (no honest). For example, a person makes a promise but he does not intend to fulfill it.
  3. Performative utterance can be said unhappy if the persons speaking are doing bias actions against what they speak. For example, a person says, “I point you to be treasurer of this club”. But in fact he still governs everything related to the club’s money himself He is inconsistent on his words.


Based on the qualitative analysis, some of the performative utterances in the selected data meet the felicity condition, while some other do not in variations of the three point of views. See the following table of the data taken from the “Jawa Pos” newspaper published on November 20 (utterances no 1 and 3), December 18 (utterances no 5, 6, 7, 8), and December 25 (utterances no 4, 9, 10), 2005 and “Surya” newspaper published on December 4, 2005 (utterances no 2).


Table 2. Table of utterances from the data























From the speaker point of view, of the 10 utterances, 9 of them (90%) are considered happy condition, and another 1 (10%) are considered unhappy condition. From the audience point of view, 2 utterances (20%) are considered happy and 8 utterances (80%) are considered unhappy. From substance view point, there are 2 utterances (20%) considered happy and 8 utterances (80%) under the unhappy condition. The clear description of the result can be seen in the following table.


Table 3. Percentage of the Result of Felicity Condition Analysis






It is clear that utterances in all viewpoints have different numbers. It is found that on the basis of the numbers of viewpoints being under happy and unhappy conditions there are four patterns. First, utterances that have all viewpoints under the happy conditions (3 viewpoints happy and 0 viewpoints unhappy) are included to happy performative utterances. Second, utterances that have 2 points under the happy condition and 1 point under the unhappy conditions are still included into the happy performative utterances. Third, utterances that have only one viewpoint under happy conditions and 2 viewpoints under unhappy conditions belong to unhappy performative utterances. Fourth, utterances that have no viewpoints under the happy condition belong to the unhappy performative utterances. We can see all the patterns as follow:

  1. Pattern 1: 3 viewpoints happy + 0 viewpoint unhappy
  2. Pattern 2: 2 viewpoints happy + 1 viewpoint unhappy
  3. Pattern 3: 1 viewpoints happy + 2 viewpoint unhappy
  4. Pattern 4: 0 viewpoints happy + 3 viewpoint unhappy

Based on the criteria it is found that of the 10 utterances 7 utterances (70%) are considered to be unhappy performative utterances, and 3 utterances (30%) are considered to be happy performative one. The clear description is on the table 4.


Table 4. Table of total utterances from all view point





The following is the discussion of performative utterances as written in the selected source data.

In utterance 1, the utterance is uttered by a competent person, since Jusuf Kalla is the leader of Golkar. From the audience viewpoint, it seems difficult for the audience to support his idea because the condition of social and politic in Indonesia does not seem to support it. The experience of PNS doing political action in Soeharto’s era does not support this idea either (unhappy substance viewpoint).

In utterance 2, the utterance is uttered by incompetent person since KH A Mudjib is considered to have no access about terror. He is just one of teachers in “Pondok Pesantren” which has possibly a little experience and information related to terror. From the audience viewpoint, it seems difficult for the audience to believe that KH Mudjib can guarantee that there is no terror in all “Ponpes” since he is just familiar with one “Ponpes” he leads. In substance view point, it is also difficult to believe that KH Mudjib can detect all “Ponpes” since he does not have access to all of the institutions in Indonesia.

In utterance 3, the utterance is uttered by competent person (happy). DPRD Leader has power and access related to the case. But in the audience’s viewpoint, the audience seem do not support the action since it is not for the sake of the success of PDAM, but because the member of DPRD will lost “their part” if PDAM is changed into PT. In substance view point, the utterance is unhappy utterance since the fact states that the profit of PDAM will be higher when the institution becomes PT than that of current condition.

In utterance 4, the utterance is uttered by competent person (happy), since he is the leader of Partai Demokrat. From the audience’s viewpoint and substance view point it seems that it is unhappy utterance since public know that the situation is governed by police and the contribution of Demokrat-PDIP is just in political issues.

In utterance 5, the utterance is uttered by competent person (happy). But in the audience viewpoint, it is something difficult to believe since it is very rare that the suspects are brought to the court. From the substance viewpoint, it seems to be an unhappy utterance since the facts show that the suspects are released not because of the court but because the police or other power.

In utterance 6, the utterance is uttered by competent person (happy) since Gus Dur is one of the Leader of Islam. From the audience viewpoint, it seems that is it difficult for audience to believe Gus Our because of the reputation and the fact that the movement is just a “show off” movement to show that PKB of his version survive. From the substance viewpoint, it also seems to be an unhappy utterance since the declaration is really more a political action than Islam for peace.

In utterance 7, the utterance is uttered by competent person (happy). Bambang Kuncoro is one of the leaders in “Mabes POLRI”. But the fact that Nurdin Halid case is reinvestigated is something difficult to believe for the audience. The statement that the Police are no wrong in this case, seems to be unhappy performative utterance. The police do the process, consequently, they know anything and responsible on everything happens.

In utterance 8, the utterance is uttered by competent person (happy). SBY as a President has access and power to give instruction to investigate some case in tax, and immigration. The audiences believe on the utterance since the credibility of SBY for the time being is still good. From the substance viewpoint, it seems that the utterance is happy utterance since some facts support the utterance.

In utterance 9, the utterance is uttered by competent person (happy). Muhaimin is the leader of PKB. From the audience viewpoint, it seems that the audience support the utterance, but in the substance view point, it seems to be unhappy utterance since the facts, temporary, state that they go to Egypt with the permission of DPR leader and have something to do in Egypt.

In utterance 10, the utterance is uttered by competent person (happy). Agung laksono is DPR Leader which knows a lot about what happened in DPR. But from the audience viewpoint, the statement seems to be something unusual. It is very strange that a leader of an institution admits that his institution is regarded to be a corrupt institution without official proofs. The audience will suspect that he has another “thing” behind his statement. From substance viewpoint, the utterance can be regarded to be happy since there are some events or information support the utterances although they are not officially proved by law.




Based on the data analysis above, the writer proposes conclusions and suggestions. First, Indonesian Politicians are less careful in uttering performative speech as it is seen in the felicity condition. Consequently the speeches are not so meaningful. However, small number of them produces meaningful utterances since their utterances meet the felicity condition.

Second, by producing meaningless speech, Indonesian Politicians are considered to be less credible. From the result of the data analysis, the writer can say that most of Indonesian Politicians are not credible.

Seeing these phenomena, the writer suggests that the Indonesian Politicians should, at least, look at linguistically the speeches that produce before they appear in front of public. If necessary, they should take a short linguistic course because using language appropriately and adequately needs specific knowledge on linguistics.




Austin, J.L. 1962: How to Do Things with Words. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Austin, J.L. 1971: Performative-constative. In Searle, J.R. Philosophy of Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 13-22.

Cooper, David. E. 1973. Philosophy and the Nature of Language. London: Longman Group Limited London.

Jawa Pos, Published on November 20, 2005

Jawa Pos, Published on December 18 and 25, 2005

Kempson, Ruth M. 1977. Semantic Theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Surya newspaper, Published on December 4, 2005

Wicoyo, A. Joko. 1977. Filsafat Bahasa Biasa dan Tokohnya. Yogjakarta: Liberty Offset Yogjakarta.