Sarah A Fisher
University of Vienna
I use the psychological phenomenon of ‘attribute framing’ as a case study for exploring philosophical conceptions of semantics and the semantics-pragmatics divide. Attribute frames are pairs of sentences that use contradictory expressions to predicate the same property of an individual or object. Despite their equivalence, pairs of attribute frames have been observed to induce systematic variability in hearers’ responses. One explanation of such framing effects appeals to the distinct ‘reference point information’ conveyed by alternative frames. Although this information is taken to be pragmatic, a live debate in the philosophy of language concerns the extent to which pragmatic information can really be held apart from semantics. Therefore, in this article I examine whether – and how – reference point information might be thought to intrude on the semantics of an attribute frame. I describe two ways in which the information might be considered broadly semantic, due to its being directly communicated or conventional. However, I argue that the framing data in fact support a narrower conception of semantics, and a semantics-pragmatics distinction that separates standing sentence meaning from enriched communicated meaning.
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Studies in the Way of Words.H. P. Grice - 1989 - Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Literal Meaning.François Recanati - 2002 - Cambridge University Press.

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