Prepragmatics: Widening the Semantics-Pragmatics Boundary

In Alexis Burgess & Brett Sherman (eds.), Metasemantics: New Essays on the Foundations of Meaning. Oxford University Press. pp. 311-326 (2013)
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One of the most important and, at the same time, most controversial issues in metasemantics is the question of what semantics is, and what distinguishes semantic elements (features, properties, phenomena, mechanisms, processes, or whatever) from the rest. The issue is tightly linked with the debate over the semantics-pragmatics distinction, which has been vibrant for a decade or two, but seems to be reaching an impasse. I suggest that this impasse may be due to the failure to recognize a distinct realm that should not be subsumed either under semantics or pragmatics, but may be labeled "prepragmatics". My ultimate goal is to put forward and defend a novel picture of our language architecture, according to which: semantic content is strictly poorer than the lexically encoded content (and therefore does not involve any contextually determined material - not even the reference of demonstratives); pragmatic mechanisms require being able to reason about one's beliefs and intentions and do not affect truth-conditions or truth-value; and, finally, there is a distinct prepragmatic level, which takes into account various kinds of contextual information and makes it possible to evaluate a sentence (as used on a particular occasion) for a truth value. I shall take as a case study, one of the "stumbling stones" in the semantics-pragmatics literature: the case of demonstrative reference. The upshot will be to show that if there is indeed room for a family of linguistic phenomena that are neither semantic nor yet fully pragmatic, the resolution of demonstrative reference is a candidate par excellence to belong there.



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Isidora Stojanovic
Institut Jean Nicod

References found in this work

Literal Meaning.François Récanati - 2002 - New York: Cambridge University Press.
Thought without Representation.John Perry & Simon Blackburn - 1986 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 60 (1):137-166.
On the logic of demonstratives.David Kaplan - 1979 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 8 (1):81 - 98.

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