The Assertion-Candidate and the Meaning of Mood

Synthese 159 (1):61 - 82 (2007)
The meaning of a declarative sentence and that of an interrogative sentence differ in their aspect of mood. A semantics of mood has to account for the differences in meaning between these sentences, and it also has to explain that sentences in different moods may have a common core. The meaning of the declarative mood is to be explained not in terms of actual force (contra Dummett), but in terms of potential force. The meaning of the declarative sentence (including its mood) is called the assertion-candidate, which is explained by what one must know in order to be entitled to utter the declarative with assertive force. Both a cognitive notion (knowledge) and a pragmatic notion (assertive force) are thus part of the explanation of the assertion-candidate. Davidson's criticism that such a theory is in need of an account of the distinction between standard and non-standard uses of the declarative is answered: without counter-indications an utterance of a declarative sentence is understood as having assertive force. The meaning of an interrogative sentence, the question-candidate, and that of the other sentence types can ultimately be explained in terms of their specific relations to the assertion-candidate. Martin-Löf's constructive type theory is used to show the philosophical relevance of a semantics of mood. The constructivist notion of proposition needs to be embedded in a theory of the assertion-candidate, which fulfills the offices of being the meaning of the declarative sentence, the content of judgement and assertion and the bearer of epistemic truth.
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    Nuel Belnap (1990). Declaratives Are Not Enough. Philosophical Studies 59 (1):1 - 30.
    Michael A. E. Dummett (1975). What is a Theory of Meaning? In Samuel Guttenplan (ed.), Mind and Language. Oxford University Press.

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    Deirdre Wilson & Dan Sperber (1988). Mood and the Analysis of Non-Declarative Sentences. In J. Dancy, J. M. E. Moravcsik & C. C. W. Taylor (eds.), Human Agency: Language, Duty, and Value. Stanford University Press. 77--101.
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