The Meaning-Sharing Network

Hortues Semioticus 6:17-30 (2010)
We advocate an analysis of meaning that departs from the pragmatic slogan that “meaning is use”. However, in order to avoid common missteps, this claim is in dire need of qualification. We argue that linguistic meaning does not originate from language use as such; therefore we cannot base a theory of meaning only on use. It is important not to neglect the fact that language is ultimately reliant on non-linguistic factors. This might seem to oppose the aforementioned slogan, but it will be made clear how this opposition is chimerical. We propose that meaning traces back to the relation between subjectivity and intersubjectivity, which is at the heart of the matter by inducing strong interdependency between intention and interpretation. But to base a full-fledged analysis of meaning in communicative dyads alone is also insufficient. What needs to be further acknowledged is that meaning sharing becomes regulated by the interactions of a community. This we call consensus and it is at play in framing all communicative acts. Hence arises a triadic structure – we call this the meaningsharing network. The main motivation behind this model is to capture that meaning is not “in the head”, nor is it autonomous of the individual members that constitute it.
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Kent Bach (2003). Meaning. In L. Nadel (ed.), Encyclopedia of Cognitive Science. Nature Publishing Group
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