Speech affordances: A structural take on how much we can do with our words

European Journal of Philosophy 24 (4):879-891 (2016)
Abstract
Individuals can do a broad variety of things with their words and enjoy different degrees of this capacity. What moderates this capacity? And in cases in which this capacity is unjustly disrupted, what is a good explanation for it? These are the questions I address here. I propose that speech capacity, understood as the capacity to do things with your words, is a structural property importantly dependent on individuals' position in a social structure. My account facilitates a non-individualistic explanation of cases in which speech capacity is undermined due to speaker's perceived social identity, e.g. episodes of silencing. Instead of appealing to interlocutors' implicit bias against speaker's identity, a structural approach refers to the positions interlocutors occupy in the social structure and the discursive conventions operating upon those positions. I articulate my proposal drawing on the notion of affordances. Each position within a social structure is associated with its own range of speech affordances. Thus, speech capacity is a function of the probability distribution of speech affordances across positions in the structure.
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DOI 10.1111/ejop.12186
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References found in this work BETA
What is a Structural Explanation?Sally Haslanger - 2015 - Philosophical Studies 173 (1):113-130.
An Outline of a Theory of Affordances.Anthony Chemero - 2003 - Ecological Psychology 15 (2):181-195.

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