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Carston, Robyn, , . Linguistic communication and the semantics/pragmatics distinction
2008, Synthese 165 (3):321-345.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Thomas Hodgson

Abstract: Most people working on linguistic meaning or communication assume that semantics and pragmatics are distinct domains, yet there is still little consensus on how the distinction is to be drawn. The position defended in this paper is that the semantics/pragmatics distinction holds between encoded linguistic meaning and speaker meaning. Two other ‘minimalist’ positions on semantics are explored and found wanting: Kent Bach’s view that there is a narrow semantic notion of context which is responsible for providing semantic values for a small number of indexicals, and Herman Cappelen and Ernie Lepore’s view that semantics includes the provision of values for all indexicals, even though these depend on the speaker’s communicative intentions. Finally, some implications are considered for the favoured semantics/pragmatics distinction of the fact that there are linguistic elements which do not contribute to truth-conditional content but rather provide guidance on pragmatic inference

Comment: [This is a stub entry. Please add your comments to help us expand it]

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Saul, Jennifer M., , . What is said and psychological reality; Grice’s project and relevance theorists’ criticisms
2002, Linguistics and Philosophy 25 (3):347-372.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Thomas Hodgson

Abstract: One of the most important aspects of Grice’s theory of conversation is the drawing of a borderline between what is said and what is implicated. Grice’s views concerning this borderline have been strongly and influentially criticised by relevance theorists. In particular, it has become increasingly widely accepted that Grice’s notion of what is said is too limited, and that pragmatics has a far larger role to play in determining what is said than Grice would have allowed. (See for example Bezuidenhuit 1996; Blakemore 1987; Carston 1991; Recanati 1991, 1993, 2001; Sperber and Wilson 1986; Wilson and Sperber 1981.) In this paper, I argue that the rejection of Grice has moved too swiftly, as a key line of objection which has led to this rejection is flawed. The flaw, we will see, is that relevance theorists rely on a misunderstanding of Grice’s project in his theory of conversation. I am not arguing that Grice’s versions of saying and implicating are right in all details, but simply that certain widespread reasons for rejecting his theory are based on misconceptions.1Relevance theorists, I will suggest, systematically misunderstand Grice by taking him to be engaged in the same project that they are: making sense of the psychological processes by which we interpret utterances. Notions involved with this project will need to be ones that are relevant to the psychology of utterance interpretation. Thus, it is only reasonable that relevance theorists will require that what is said and what is implicated should be psychologically real to the audience. (We will see that this requirement plays a crucial role in their arguments against Grice.) Grice, I will argue, was not pursuing this project. Rather, I will suggest that he was trying to make sense of quite a different notion of what is said: one on which both speaker and audience may be wrong about what is said. On this sort of notion, psychological reality is not a requirement. So objections to Grice based on a requirement of psychological reality will fail. Once Grice’s project and that of relevance theorists are seen as distinct, it will be clear that they can happily coexist.2They are simply discussing different subject matters. One may start to wonder, however, about who is really discussing what is said, a topic that both camps claim. I will not attempt a conclusive answer to this question. But I will suggest that Grice’s view, despite certain shortcomings, has advantages which seem all too often to have gone unnoticed.

Comment: It would make sense to read Grice before engaging with modern reception of his work
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Wilson, Deirdre, , Dan Sperber. Meaning and Relevance
2012, Cambridge University Press.
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Added by: Jamie Collin, Contributed by:

Abstract: When people speak, their words never fully encode what they mean, and the context is always compatible with a variety of interpretations. How can comprehension ever be achieved? Wilson and Sperber argue that comprehension is a process of inference guided by precise expectations of relevance. What are the relations between the linguistically encoded meanings studied in semantics and the thoughts that humans are capable of entertaining and conveying? How should we analyse literal meaning, approximations, metaphors and ironies? Is the ability to understand speakers’ meanings rooted in a more general human ability to understand other minds? How do these abilities interact in evolution and in cognitive development? Meaning and Relevance sets out to answer these and other questions, enriching and updating relevance theory and exploring its implications for linguistics, philosophy, cognitive science and literary studies.

Comment: Many of the essays contained in this book would be useful in a course on philosophy of language. Each chapter is self-contained and could be used individually. Many topics are covered, but chapters on pragmatics, implicature, explicature etc., the nature of metaphor, and the evolution of language may be most relevant to philosophy of language courses. The book has the benefit of being both cutting-edge and quite accessible for students. Suitable for undergraduates and graduates.

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