Translated by John Oliver Beal
SGML (Standarised Generalised Markup Language) is a formalizing metalanguage for structured documents that defines the forms according to which inscription is made in material space. It is interesting to apply to the concept of SGML that of “putting utterances into material form,” a concept elaborated upon by Jacques Virbel in order to highlight a true performativity within the materiality of writing. Virbel’s work shows that the typodispositional semiotic proper to utterances engenders a meaning
that is not present in the oral utterance.
Performativity is a concept invented by the English philosopher J. L. Austin. A performative utterance demonstrates that “to say is to do.” For example, by saying, “court is now in session,” the judge has, in fact, opened the session. Hence the title of Austin’s book: How to do Things with Words.
Emerging from Virbel’s concept is an inverse performativity: faire c’est dire (“to make/do is to say”), a figure of material inscription produces a meaning…