Scare-quoting and incorporation

In Paul Saka & Michael A. Johnson (eds.), The Semantics and Pragmatics of Quotation. pp. 3-34 (2017)


I explain a mechanism I call “incorporation,” that I think is at work in a wide range of cases often put under the heading of “scare-quoting.” Incorporation is flagging some words in one’s own utterance to indicate that they are to be interpreted as if uttered by some other speaker in some other context, while supplying evidence to one’s interpreter enabling them to identify that other speaker and context. This mechanism gives us a way to use others’ vocabularies and contexts, thereby extending our expressive capacities on the fly. Explaining incorporation involves explaining intra-sentential shifts in lexicon and in context. Shifts of the former sort are familiar to linguists under the heading of “code-switching.” Shifts of the latter sort have been less explored; accordingly I explain how to modify Kaplan’s logic of demonstratives to allow for such shifts. I compare the incorporation account of scare-quoting with accounts offered by Brandom, Recanati, Geurts and Maier, Benbaji, Predelli, and Shan. Finally I note a possible implication concerning the speech act of assertion: that you can properly assert a content you do not believe, let alone know, because part of it is expressed with words you do not understand.

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Mark McCullagh
University of Guelph

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