Abstract and Keywords
According to conventional contract law, the formation of a valid agreement ordinarily involves an offer, an acceptance, and consideration. The former two elements typically take place through spoken or written language: an offeror proposes to do something in exchange for something of value to be given by an offeree. The latter may then accept the offer, reject it, or make a counteroffer. What is it that makes this particular verbal exchange so special, and how does it differ from other acts of speech which may also entail legal consequences, such as issuing a threat, offering a bribe, defaming someone, or perjuring oneself? This article addresses this question using speech-act theory, a linguistic approach to meaning advocated by two language philosophers, John Austin (1962) and John Searle (1969). It presents Searle's requirements (called felicity conditions) that commissive illocutions must satisfy in order to be well-formed speech acts. The article also discusses contract formation by focusing on promise versus offer and commitment versus obligation.
Access to the complete content on Oxford Handbooks Online requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription.
If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.