Topoi 40 (1):71-85 (2021)

Cosmo Grant
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The Standard View is that, other things equal, speakers’ judgments about the meanings of sentences of their language are correct. After all, we make the meanings, so how wrong can we be about them? The Standard View underlies the Elicitation Method, a typical method in semantic fieldwork, according to which we should work out the truth-conditions of a sentence by eliciting speakers’ judgments about its truth-value in different situations. I put pressure on the Standard View and therefore on the Elicitation Method: for quite straightforward reasons, speakers can be radically mistaken about meanings. Lewis gave a theory of convention in a game-theoretic framework. He showed how conventions could arise from repeated coordination games, and, as a special case, how meanings could arise from repeated signaling games. I put pressure on the Standard View by building on Lewis’s framework. I construct coordination games in which the players can be wrong about their conventions, and signaling games in which the players can be wrong about their messages’ meanings. The key idea is straightforward: knowing your own strategy and payoff needn’t determine what the others do, so leaves room for false beliefs about the convention and meanings. The examples are simple, explicit, new in kind, and based on an independently plausible meta-semantic story.
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DOI 10.1007/s11245-019-09656-3
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References found in this work BETA

Individualism and the Mental.Tyler Burge - 1979 - Midwest Studies in Philosophy 4 (1):73-122.
The Language Instinct.Steven Pinker - 1994/2007 - Harper Perennial.
Meaning.Paul Horwich - 1998 - Oxford University Press.
Languages and Language.David K. Lewis - 1975 - In Keith Gunderson (ed.), Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science. University of Minnesota Press. pp. 3-35.

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