Definition of constative in English:



  • Denoting a speech act or sentence that is a statement declaring something to be the case.

    Often contrasted with performative
    • ‘In these terms, his intention may be constative, but it has performative effect, not to mention performative desire.’
    • ‘The photographs are evidence; their constative force, according to him, authenticates the existence of places witnessed firsthand from specific points of view and times of day.’
    • ‘In a fundamental conflict between constative force and performative possibility, the assuring parataxis itself begins to serve as a resistant marker of performatives that potentially contradict its simple narrative.’
    • ‘The argument that the act of stating or describing is in fact performative must take the form of constative statements.’
    • ‘Performative criticism begins in the gap between constative sense and dramatic consequences.’


  • A constative speech act or sentence.

    • ‘The tension between the performative and constative emerges clearly also in literature, where the difficulty she encounters of separating performative and constative can be seen as a crucial feature of the functioning of language.’
    • ‘His speech act, ‘I confess to stealing the ribbon,’ is at once a constative (it describes something) and a performative (it does something, it produces the scene of guilt).’
    • ‘While explicitly posing the question of whether the performance of this ethical language can ever be free of the constative (the language of ontology), his own performance of the ethics of reading is impressive indeed.’


Early 20th century: from Latin constat- ‘established’ (from the verb constare) + -ive.