Familiar Words in Unfamiliar Surroundings: Davidson’s Malapropisms, Cavell’s Projections

Martin Gustafsson
Åbo Akademi University
Abstract In their discussions and criticisms of the idea that language use is essentially a matter of following rules, Davidson and Cavell both invoke as counterexamples instances of intelligible linguistic innovation. Davidson?s favorite examples are malapropisms. Cavell focuses instead on what he calls projections. This paper clarifies some important differences between malapropisms and projections, conceived as paradigmatic forms of linguistic innovation. If malapropisms are treated as exemplary it will be natural to conclude, with Davidson, that a shared practice, be it rule-governed or not, matters only instrumentally ? as something that may enhance but is neither necessary nor sufficient for successful communication. By contrast, if Cavellian projections are seen as exemplary, a shared practice will be conceived not only as essential to the possibility of meaningful linguistic innovation, but as already permeated by the sort of creativity of which projections are only particularly striking examples. It is also argued that malapropisms are not particularly convincing as counterexamples to the sort of view Davidson wants to reject. Cavellian projections, on the other hand, are powerful as counterexamples, and reflecting on the nature of their inventiveness is crucial to understanding and seeing the plausibility of Cavell?s own conception of language
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DOI 10.1080/09672559.2011.602095
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Literal Meaning.François Recanati - 2002 - Cambridge University Press.
Truth, Language and History.Donald Davidson - 2005 - Oxford University Press.

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