Pretense for the Complete Idiom

Noûs 42 (3):381-409 (2008)

Authors
Andy Egan
Rutgers University - New Brunswick
Abstract
Idioms – expressions like kick the bucket and let the cat out of the bag – are strange. They behave in ways that ordinary multi-word expressions do not. One distinctive and troublesome feature of idioms is their unpredictability: The meanings of sentences in which idiomatic phrases occur are not the ones that we would get by applying the usual compositional rules to the usual meanings of their (apparent) constituents. This sort of behavior requires an explanation. I will argue that the right explanation is that the sentences are being interpreted through a pretense. (What this means, exactly, will be explained in what follows.) This is a surprising claim, for two reasons. On the one hand, it seems that adopting a pretense account is overkill—it’s a far more radical move than is required to account for the phenomena. On the other hand, it seems that a pretense account is hopeless—that there is a fatal overgeneration problem for pretense accounts of idiom that causes them to fail, as Jason Stanley charges, “as badly as it is possible for an account of idiom to fail.” So I will have some work to do.
Keywords Pragmatics  idiom  metaphor  pretense
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DOI 10.1111/j.1468-0068.2008.00686.x
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References found in this work BETA

Mimesis as Make-Believe.Kendall L. Walton - 1990 - Synthese 109 (3):413-434.
Does Ontology Rest on a Mistake?Stephen Yablo - 1998 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 72 (1):229 - 283.
Metaphor and Prop Oriented Make‐Believe.Kendall L. Walton - 1993 - European Journal of Philosophy 1 (1):39-57.

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