Irony and the dogma of force and sense

Analysis 75 (1):9-16 (2015)
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Frege’s distinction between force and sense is a central pillar of modern thinking about meaning. This is the idea that a self-standing utterance of a sentence S can be divided into two components. One is the proposition P that S’s linguistic meaning and context associates with it. The other is S’s illocutionary force. The force/sense distinction is associated with another thesis, the embedding principle, that implies that the only content that embeds in compound sentences is propositional content. We argue that both the Force/Sense distinction and the principle of embedding are seriously challenged by figurative language, and irony in particular. We conclude that theorists need to go back to the drawing board about the nature of illocutionary acts

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Author Profiles

Mihaela Popa-Wyatt
University of Manchester
Stephen Barker
Nottingham University