Towards a Language-Action Paradigm - Experiences of a Trade Contractor

Kristen Parrish1

1Assistant Professor, Del E. Webb School of Construction, Arizona State University, [email protected]; +1-480-727-6363


Construction projects have long been regarded as inefficient, waste ridden work that have been approached by contractors from a command-and-control tradition handed down from the dawn of modern manufacturing systems. The framework for which we have traditionally approached construction projects orients us to the work in a mechanistic, authoritative philosophy, which neglects how human beings really work. The language-action paradigm, alternatively, takes the human phenomenon into account, by orienting to action as something human beings both do and understand in language. Central to this paradigm are speech acts such as a requesting and promising that can be considered fundamental coordination of action, which when done reliably, produce more effective execution of construction projects. In a language-action paradigm, a construction project can therefore be considered as an array of assertions, assessments, requests, promises and declarations and the satisfactory completion of that project is then the fulfillment of promises corresponding to the project's array of requests. This paper explores the feasibility of implementing a language-action paradigm within a residential subcontracting company in the United States. The author begins with a discussion of the language-action paradigm, exploring its successful applications. The paper then discusses the motivation for implementing a language-action paradigm at the trade contractor level and highlights the successes and challenges associated with this implementation. Finally, the paper discusses lessons learned from this trade contractor’s experience and makes suggestions for future language-action paradigm implementations across parties in the architecture- engineering-construction industry.


Language-action, reliable promise, commitment, lean construction



Parrish, K. 2014, 'Towards a Language-Action Paradigm - Experiences of a Trade Contractor' In:, Kalsaas, B. T., Koskela, L. & Saurin, T. A., 22nd Annual Conference of the International Group for Lean Construction. Oslo, Norway, 25-27 Jun 2014. pp 1169-1179

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