Semantic minimalism and the “miracle of communication”

Philosophical Studies 165 (3):957-973 (2013)
Abstract
According to semantic minimalism, context-invariant minimal semantic propositions play an essential role in linguistic communication. This claim is key to minimalists’ argument against semantic contextualism: if there were no such minimal semantic propositions, and semantic content varied widely with shifts in context, then it would be “miraculous” if communication were ever to occur. This paper offers a critical examination of the minimalist account of communication, focusing on a series of examples where communication occurs without a minimal semantic proposition shared between speaker and hearer. The only way for minimalists to respond to these examples is by restricting the scope of their account to intra-lingual communication. It can then be shown that the minimalist’s notion of a language shrinks to a point, such that practically no instances of communication will fall under that account, and that the retreat to intra-lingual communication is in any case self-defeating, since the only way for minimalists to account for the individuation of languages is by resort to precisely the kinds of contextual considerations they abjured in the first place. In short, if, as minimalists allege, contextualism founders because it renders communication contingent on speaker and hearer sharing a context, it can now be seen that minimalism faces a parallel problem because it renders communication contingent on speaker and hearer sharing a language. I end by arguing that the possibility of communication cannot, as minimalists assume, be grounded in shared semantic conventions; rather, successful communication must precede the establishment of any particular set of semantic conventions
Keywords Semantic minimalism  Semantic contextualism  Communication  Language  Semantic conventions
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s11098-012-0004-7
Options
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
Edit this record
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Mark as duplicate
Request removal from index
Revision history
Download options
Our Archive


Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 31,317
Through your library
References found in this work BETA
Themes From Kaplan.Joseph Almog, John Perry & Howard Wettstein (eds.) - 1989 - Oxford University Press, Usa.
Literal Meaning.François Recanati - 2002 - Cambridge University Press.
Relativism and Monadic Truth.Herman Cappelen & John Hawthorne - 2009 - Oxford University Press UK.
Individualism and the Mental.Tyler Burge - 1979 - Midwest Studies in Philosophy 4 (1):73-122.

View all 27 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA
Lexical Norms, Language Comprehension, and the Epistemology of Testimony.Endre Begby - 2014 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 44 (3-4):324-342.
Deranging the Mental Lexicon.Endre Begby - 2016 - Inquiry : An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 59 (1):33-55.
Conventions’ Revenge: Davidson, Derangement, and Dormativity.Elisabeth Camp - 2016 - Inquiry : An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 59 (1):113-138.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles
The Excluded Middle: Semantic Minimalism Without Minimal Propositions. [REVIEW]Kent Bach - 2006 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 73 (2):435–442.
Moderately Sensitive Semantics.Sarah-Jane Leslie - 2007 - In G. Preyer (ed.), Context Sensitivity and Semantic Minimalism. Oxford University Press. pp. 133--168.
Minimalism and Modularity.Philip Robbins - 2008 - In Gerhard Preyer & Georg Peter (eds.), Context-Sensitivity and Semantic Minimalism. Oxford University Press. pp. 303--319.
A Tall Tale.Ernest Lepore - 2004 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 34 (Supplement):3-28.
The Idea of Code in Contextualism and Minimalism.Jakub Mácha - 2012 - Organon F: Medzinárodný Časopis Pre Analytickú Filozofiu 19 (suppl. 1):116-136.
Added to PP index
2012-08-08

Total downloads
111 ( #50,333 of 2,223,812 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
12 ( #35,615 of 2,223,812 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Monthly downloads
My notes
Sign in to use this feature