The dynamics of loose talk

Noûs 55 (1):171-198 (2021)
  Copy   BIBTEX


In non‐literal uses of language, the content an utterance communicates differs from its literal truth conditions. Loose talk is one example of non‐literal language use (amongst many others). For example, what a loose utterance of (1) communicates differs from what it literally expresses: (1) Lena arrived at 9 o'clock. Loose talk is interesting (or so I will argue). It has certain distinctive features which raise important questions about the connection between literal and non‐literal language use. This paper aims to (i.) introduce a range of novel data demonstrating certain overlooked features of loose talk, and (ii.) develop a new theory of the phenomenon which accounts for these data. In particular, this theory is motivated by the need to explain minimal pairs such as (2)-(3): (2) Lena arrived at 9 o'clock, but she did not arrive at 9 o'clock exactly. (3) ?? Lena did not arrive at 9 o'clock exactly, but she arrived at 9 o'clock. (2) and (3) agree in their truth conditions. Yet they differ in felicity. As such, they constitute a problem for any account which hopes to predict the acceptability of the loose use of a sentence from its truth conditions and the context of utterance alone. Instead, it will be argued, to explain loose talk phenomena we must posit an additional layer of meaning outstripping truth conditions. This layer of meaning is shown to exhibit a range of properties, all of which point to its being semantically encoded. Thus, if correct, the theory provides a new example of how semantic meaning must extend beyond literal, truth‐conditional content.



External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Is It Merely Loose Talk?⋆.Alberto Voltolini - 2000 - Dialectica 54 (1):51-72.
IX*—Loose Talk.Dan Sperber - 1986 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 86 (1):153-172.
IX*—Loose Talk.Dan Sperber & Deirdre Wilson - 1986 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 86 (1):153-172.
Relatively about: Loose composites and loose ends. [REVIEW]Joseph S. Ullian - 1984 - Linguistics and Philosophy 7 (1):83 - 100.
Ian Ramsey on Talk about God (Continued).Donald Evans - 1971 - Religious Studies 7 (3):213 - 226.
Intuition-Talk: Virus or Virtue?James Andow - 2017 - Philosophia 45 (2):523-531.
Experiencing Conversations: Bridging the Gap between Discourse and Activity.Annalisa Sannino - 2008 - Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 38 (3):267-291.
Self-talk and Self-awareness: On the Nature of the Relation.Alain Morin - 1993 - Journal of Mind and Behavior 14 (3):223-234.
Talk about talk about talk about art.Allan Shields - 1967 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 26 (2):187-192.


Added to PP

978 (#8,030)

6 months
439 (#1,055)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Sam Carter
Australian Catholic University

Citations of this work

Fancy loose talk about knowledge.Gillian Kay Russell - 2022 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 65 (7):789-820.
Knowledge and loose talk.Alexander Dinges - 2021 - In Christos Kyriacou & Kevin Wallbridge (eds.), Skeptical Invariantism Reconsidered. London: Routledge. pp. 272-297.
Loose Talk, Scale Presuppositions and QUD.Daniel Hoek - 2019 - In Julian J. Schlöder, Dean McHugh & Floris Roelofsen (eds.), Proceedings of the 22nd Amsterdam Colloquium. pp. 171-180.
Inferences from Utterance to Belief.Martín Abreu Zavaleta - 2022 - Philosophical Quarterly 73 (2):301-322.
Excluded entailments and the de se/de re partition.Tom Roeper & Hazel Pearson - 2022 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 65 (7):858-886.

View all 8 citations / Add more citations

References found in this work

Aboutness.Stephen Yablo - 2014 - Oxford: Princeton University Press.
Pragmatic Presuppositions.Robert Stalnaker - 1974 - In Context and Content. Oxford University Press. pp. 47--62.
Material Beings.Peter van Inwagen - 1993 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 53 (3):701-708.

View all 37 references / Add more references