Volume 107
Issue 1
Oct. '18

Contracts as Speech Acts: Bringing Jakobson to the Conversation

Written By: Elizabeth A. Janicki


Contracts are formed via language, yet scholars and practitioners alike often ignore the fundamentally linguistic nature of offer and acceptance. Moreover, even those who have written about the intersection of linguistics and contracts have not used the most useful model for under-standing speech. Thus, this Note seeks to introduce linguist Roman Jakobson’s speech act model as a method of analyzing contract formation. Whereas previous scholarship has applied J.L. Austin’s and John R. Searle’s work on speech act theory, this Note demonstrates why Jakobson’s model better accounts for the dynamic linguistic actions of offer and acceptance. It provides those who must decide whether a con-tract has been formed—namely, judges—a tool for applying the reasonable person standard in a particular linguistic context.

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