The Idea of Code in Contextualism and Minimalism

Organon F 19 (suppl. 1):116-136 (2012)
Abstract
In this paper I discuss the idea of a semantic code in the contemporary debate between contextualism and minimalism. First, I identify historical sources of these positions in Grice’s pragmatics and in Davidson’s theory of meaning in order to sketch the role of a semantic code there. Then I argue that contextualism is committed to the idea of an ad hoc code, while minimalism involves a persistent code. However, the latter approach to a code requires disambiguation which must be carried out in the early stages of speech act processing. I raise a concern that primary pragmatic processes may be active here, especially in the case of disambiguating polysemous expressions, which could be problematic or even devastating for the minimalist program. At the end I evaluate a possible minimalist way out by examining the minimalist account of metaphor, which lies at the root of polysemy. If a code robust enough to deal with polysemy could be created, minimalist conceptions would present a new impetus to understand language as a code. Without such a code, very little would be left of the notion of a persistent code and hence of minimalism itself.
Keywords code  contextualism  minimalism  metaphor
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