§21. Imagine a language-game in which A asks and B reports the number of slabs or blocks in a pile, or the colours and shapes of the building-stones that are stacked in such-and-such a place.—Such a report might run: "Five slabs". Now what is the difference between the report or statement "Five slabs" and the order "Five slabs!"?—Well, it is the part which uttering these words plays in the language-game. No doubt the tone of voice and the look with which they are uttered, and much else besides, will also be different. But we could also imagine the tone's being the same—for an order and a report can be spoken in a variety of tones of voice and with various expressions of face—the difference being only in the application. (Of course, we might use the words "statement" and "command" to stand for grammatical forms of sentence and intonations; we do in fact call "Isn't the weather glorious to-day?" a question, although it is used as a statement.) We could imagine a language in which all statements had the form and tone of rhetorical questions; or every command the form of the question "Would you like to...?". Perhaps it will then be said: "What he says has the form of a question but is really a command",—that is, [W. is not objecting to the sentiment here, but just to the way that it has been expressed] has the function of a command in the technique of using the language. (Similarly one says "You will do this" not as a prophecy but as a command. What makes it the one or the other?)


  1. How is the 'function' identified (differentiated)? By the use - or rather, the use is the function. If, in some language-game, we call "Five slabs" a 'report', it is because of the events that follow its utterance; to say "It is a report" is to say "These events follow its utterance". These events are characteristically different from those that follow "Five slabs!".