Pragmatics and Cognition: Intentions and Pattern Recognition in Context

International Review of Pragmatics 1 (2):321-347 (2009)
The importance of intention reading for communication has already been emphasized many<br>years ago by Paul Grice. More recently, the rich debate on “theory of mind” has convinced many<br>that intention reading may in fact play a key role also in current, cognitively oriented theories of<br>pragmatics: Relevance Th eory is a case in point. On a close analysis, however, it is far from clear<br>that RT may really accommodate the idea that intention reading drives comprehension. Here<br>I examine RT’s diffi culties with that idea, and propose a framework where intention reading is<br>actually assigned a signifi cant role. Th is framework is compatible with RT’s account of a unifi ed,<br>automatic mechanism of interpretation in lexical pragmatics, to the extent that the account<br>shares many features of associative and constraint-based explanations of other linguistic phenomena.<br>In fact, my suggestion is that our sensitivity to others’ intentions depends crucially on the<br>availability of specifi c patterns of intentional behaviour grounded in social regularities. In other<br>words, intention reading would be just a case, though a very special one, of pattern recognition.
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