Compositionality and Sandbag Semantics

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
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s11229-014-0449-7
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Literal Meaning.François Recanati - 2002 - Cambridge University Press.
Studies in the Way of Words.H. P. Grice - 1989 - Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

View all 73 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

A Gricean Theory of Malaprops.Elmar Unnsteinsson - 2017 - Mind and Language 32 (4):446-462.
The Edenic Theory of Reference.Elmar Unnsteinsson - 2019 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 62 (3):276-308.
Wittgenstein as a Gricean Intentionalist.Elmar Geir Unnsteinsson - 2016 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 24 (1):155-172.
Confusion is Corruptive Belief in False Identity.Elmar Unnsteinsson - 2016 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 46 (2):204-227.
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.

View all 9 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles


Added to PP index

Total views
415 ( #14,386 of 2,310,351 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
54 ( #13,036 of 2,310,351 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes

Sign in to use this feature