Synthese 191 (14):3329-3350 (2014)

Elmar Unnsteinsson
University College Dublin
It is a common view that radical contextualism about linguistic meaning is incompatible with a compositional explanation of linguistic comprehension. Recently, some philosophers of language have proposed theories of 'pragmatic' compositionality challenging this assumption. This paper takes a close look at a prominent proposal of this kind due to François Recanati. The objective is to give a plausible formulation of the view. The major results are threefold. First, a basic distinction that contextualists make between mandatory and optional pragmatic processes needs to be revised. Second, the pragmatic theory can withstand a Davidsonian objection only by rejecting the importance of a distinction between primitive and non-primitive semantic items. Thirdly, however, the theory is now open to a worry about how it should be understood: either the theory consists in a very broad functionalist generalization about communication, which makes it explanatorily inert, or it boils down to a highly particularist view about linguistic meaning. Finally, I argue that Recanati's notion of 'occasion meaning' is problematic and suggest replacing it with the notion of speaker meaning, which is explanatorily more basic.
Keywords Compositionality  Contextualism  Speaker meaning
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DOI 10.1007/s11229-014-0449-7
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References found in this work BETA

Studies in the Way of Words.H. P. Grice - 1989 - Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

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Citations of this work BETA

The Edenic Theory of Reference.Elmar Unnsteinsson - 2019 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 62 (3):276-308.
A Gricean Theory of Malaprops.Elmar Unnsteinsson - 2017 - Mind and Language 32 (4):446-462.
Confusion is Corruptive Belief in False Identity.Elmar Unnsteinsson - 2016 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 46 (2):204-227.
Wittgenstein as a Gricean Intentionalist.Elmar Geir Unnsteinsson - 2016 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 24 (1):155-172.
Donnellan's Misdescriptions and Loose Talk.Carlo Penco - 2017 - In Kepa Korta Maria De Ponte (ed.), Reference and Representation in Language and Thought. Oxford (UK): Oxford University Press. pp. 104-125.

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