This is Derrida's critique of speech-act theory. The importance of Speech-act theory for linguistics is that it seems to advance beyond referential theories of language by focusing on what language actually does in specific pragmatic contexts. LIMITED INC serves as one of the most concise and clear versions of Derrida's notoriously difficult philosophy or method. Derrida's basic thesis is about language, so this book goes to the heart of his deconstructive project. In essence, he argues that we can never actually say what we mean. Not only that, we can never even mean what we mean. If this is his thesis, then a straightforward exposition of this claim would be obviously self-contradictory; hence Derrida's obscure and elliptical method. In this particular book, he focuses on "iterability"; words can be repeated, and when they are, they never have exactly the same meaning. Furthermore, meaning depends upon context, yet the definition of the context is always arbitrary. Derrida's thesis depends upon the gap between material word and immaterial meaning; the "materiality of the signifier" is the residue or "supplement" which conventional theories of language typically ignore.
The first section, "Signature, Event, Context," is a reprint of an journal article by Derrida which critiques Austin's speech-act theory. In response, John Searle wrote a defense of Austin which attempts to refute Derrida. Since Searle refuses to allow his essay to be reprinted, the editor gives us a three-page summary/paraphrase. The next section is Derrida's long response to Searle, "Limited Inc a b c . . ." The final section is Derrida's answers to some questions posed by Gerald Graff. Possibly the funniest part is "Limited Inc," in which Derrida responds to Searle. While Searle is the model analytic philosopher, always attempting to clarify the issue, Derrida delights in digressions, puns, deliberately provocative claims, and obfuscations. For example, he insists on referring to Searle as "Sarl" for reasons which I shall not attempt to summarize here. It seems rather childish on Derrida's part to refuse to call Searle by his proper name.
The questions raised by Graff in the final section go to the heart of the problems with Derrida's method, and Derrida's answers are for the most part obviously inadequate. Derrida does have a point about the problems with conventional theories of language, but he totally ignores how language actually functions in this world. Speech-act theory does not resolve those problems either. In order to understand language, we need to analyze it in anthropological terms, recognizing that language distinguishes humans from all other animals.