Figurative speech: pointing a poisoned arrow at the heart of semantics

Philosophical Studies 174 (1):123-140 (2017)

Stephen Barker
Nottingham University
I argue that figurative speech, and irony in particular, presents a deep challenge to the orthodox view about sentence content. The standard view is that sentence contents are, at their core, propositional contents: truth-conditional contents. Moreover, the only component of a sentence’s content that embeds in compound sentences, like belief reports or conditionals, is the propositional content. I argue that a careful analysis of irony shows this view cannot be maintained. Irony is a purely pragmatic form of content that embeds in compound sentences. The standard view cannot account for this fact. I sketch out a speech-act theoretic framework that can. But in accepting this alternative framework we are giving up on the whole idea of an autonomous semantics.
Keywords Figurative speech  Semantics  Truth-conditions  Propositions  Irony  Embedding  Speech acts  Pretence  Belief  Belief attributions  Thought
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DOI 10.1007/s11098-016-0624-4
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References found in this work BETA

Asserting.Robert Brandom - 1983 - Noûs 17 (4):637-650.
The Content–Force Distinction.Peter W. Hanks - 2007 - Philosophical Studies 134 (2):141-164.

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Citations of this work BETA

Embedding Irony and the Semantics/Pragmatics Distinction.Mihaela Popa-Wyatt - 2018 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy:1-26.

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