_Thoughts and Utterances_ is the first sustained investigation of two distinctions which are fundamental to all theories of utterance understanding: the semantics/pragmatics distinction and the distinction between what is explicitly communicated and what is implicitly communicated.
Most people working on linguistic meaning or communication assume that semantics and pragmatics are distinct domains, yet there is still little consensus on how the distinction is to be drawn. The position defended in this paper is that the semantics/pragmatics distinction holds between encoded linguistic meaning and speaker meaning. Two other ‘minimalist’ positions on semantics are explored and found wanting: Kent Bach’s view that there is a narrow semantic notion of context which is responsible for providing semantic values for a (...) small number of indexicals, and Herman Cappelen and Ernie Lepore’s view that semantics includes the provision of values for all indexicals, even though these depend on the speaker’s communicative intentions. Finally, some implications are considered for the favoured semantics/pragmatics distinction of the fact that there are linguistic elements which do not contribute to truth-conditional content but rather provide guidance on pragmatic inference. (shrink)
The idea is that, in a wide range of contexts, utterances of the sentences in (a) in each case will communicate the assumption in (b) in each case (or something closely akin to it, there being a certain amount of contextually governed variation in the speaker's propositional attitude and so the scope of the negation). These scalar inferences are taken to be one kind of (generalized) conversational implicature. As is the case with pragmatic inference quite generally, these inferences are defeasible (...) (cancellable), which distinguishes them from entailments, and they are nondetachable, which distinguishes them from conventional implicatures. The core idea is that the choice of a weaker element from a scale of elements ordered in terms of semantic strength (that is, numbers of entailments) tends to implicate that, as far as the speaker knows, none of the stronger elements in the scale holds in this instance. The pattern is quite clear in (1) and (2), where the weak/strong alternatives are some/all and five/six respectively. In the case of (3), the stronger expression must be intelligent and good-hearted which entails intelligent; what Y's utterance implicates is that Mary does not have the two properties: intelligence and good-heartedness, so that, given the proposition expressed (Mary is intelligent) it follows, deductively, that she is not good-hearted, in Y's opinion. The example in (4) involves a scale inversion due to the negation, so that the weak/strong alternatives are not necessarily/not possibly; the negation which the scalar inference generates creates a double negation, which is eliminated giving possibly. (shrink)
The interpretation of metaphorical utterances often results in the attribution of emergent properties, which are neither standardly associated with the individual constituents in isolation nor derivable by standard rules of semantic composition. An adequate pragmatic account of metaphor interpretation must explain how these properties are derived. Using the framework of relevance theory, we propose a wholly inferential account, and argue that the derivation of emergent properties involves no special interpretive mechanisms not required for the interpretation of ordinary, literal utterances.
What I hope to achieve in this paper is some rather deeper understanding of the semantic and pragmatic properties of utterances which are said to involve the phenomenon of metalinguistic negation[FN1]. According to Laurence Horn, who has been primarily responsible for drawing our attention to it, this is a special non-truthfunctional use of the negation operator, which can be glossed as 'I object to U' where U is a linguistic utterance. This is to be distinguished from descriptive truthfunctional negation which (...) operates over a proposition. (shrink)
I propose that an account of metaphor understanding which covers the full range of cases has to allow for two routes or modes of processing. One is a process of rapid, local, on-line concept construction that applies quite generally to the recovery of word meaning in utterance comprehension. The other requires a greater focus on the literal meaning of sentences or texts, which is metarepresented as a whole and subjected to more global, reflective pragmatic inference. The questions whether metaphors convey (...) a propositional content and what role imagistic representation plays receive somewhat different answers depending on the processing route. (shrink)
Within the philosophy of language, pragmatics has tended to be seen as an adjunct to, and a means of solving problems in, semantics. A cognitive-scientific conception of pragmatics as a mental processing system responsible for interpreting ostensive communicative stimuli (specifically, verbal utterances) has effected a transformation in the pragmatic issues pursued and the kinds of explanation offered. Taking this latter perspective, I compare two distinct proposals on the kinds of processes, and the architecture of the system(s), responsible for the recovery (...) of speaker meaning (both explicitly and implicitly communicated meaning). (shrink)
Most people working on linguistic meaning or communication assume that semantics and pragmatics are distinct domains, yet there is still little consensus on how the distinction is to be drawn. The position defended in this paper is that the semantics/pragmatics distinction holds between (context-invariant) encoded linguistic meaning and speaker meaning. Two other ‘minimalist’ positions on semantics are explored and found wanting: Kent Bach’s view that there is a narrow semantic notion of context which is responsible for providing semantic values for (...) a small number of indexicals, and Herman Cappelen and Ernie Lepore’s view that semantics includes the provision of values for all indexicals, even though these depend on the speaker’s communicative intentions. Finally, some implications are considered for the favoured semantics/pragmatics distinction of the fact that there are linguistic elements (lexical and syntactic) which do not contribute to truth-conditional content but rather provide guidance on pragmatic inference. (shrink)
A standard view of the semantics of natural language sentences or utterances is that a sentence has a particular logical structure and is assigned truth-conditional content on the basis of that structure. Such a semantics is assumed to be able to capture the logical properties of sentences, including necessary truth, contradiction and valid inference; our knowledge of these properties is taken to be part of our semantic competence as native speakers of the language. The following examples pose a problem for (...) this view of semantics. (shrink)
Within relevance theory the two local pragmatic processes of enrichment and loosening of linguistically encoded conceptual material have been given quite distinct treatments. Enrichments of various sorts, including those which involve a logical strengthening of a lexical concept, contribute to the proposition expressed by the utterance, hence to its truth-conditions. Loosenings, including metaphorical uses, do not enter into the proposition expressed by the utterance or affect its truth-conditions; they stand in a relation of 'interpretive resemblance' with the linguistically encoded concept (...) used to represent them. This asymmetric treatment is questioned here, arguments are given for an account which reflects the complementarity of these processes and several alternative symmetrical treatments are explored. (shrink)
It has been claimed that pragmatic effects that arise in embedded clauses pose a problem for the Gricean reasoning procedure. I maintain, however, that the real issue these phenomena raise for Grice, as he himself acknowledged, is their violation of his saying/implicating distinction. While these effects can be accounted for by Gricean reasoning, which Mandy Simons clearly demonstrates, there is no way round this latter problem other than a major revision of Grice’s notion of ‘saying’ and hence of the saying/implicating (...) distinction. (shrink)
A cognitive pragmatic approach is taken to some long-standing problem cases of negation, the so-called presupposition denial cases. It is argued that a full account of the processes and levels of representation involved in their interpretation typically requires the sequential pragmatic derivation of two different propositions expressed. The first is one in which the presupposition is preserved and, following the rejection of this, the second involves the echoic (metalinguistic) use of material falling in the scope of the negation. The semantic (...) base for these processes is the standard anti-presuppositionalist wide-scope negation. A different view, developed by Burton-Roberts (1989a, 1989b), takes presupposition to be a semantic relation encoded in natural language and so argues for a negation operator that does not cancel presuppositions. This view is shown to be flawed, in that it makes the false prediction that presupposition denial cases are semantic contradictions and it is based on too narrow a view of the role of pragmatic inferencing. (shrink)
Recent work in relevance-theoretic pragmatics develops the idea that understanding verbal utterances involves processes of ad hoc concept construction. The resulting concepts may be narrower or looser than the lexical concepts which provide the input to the process. Two of the many issues that arise are considered in this paper: (a) the applicability of the idea to the understanding of metaphor, and (b) the extent to which lexical forms are appropriately thought of as encoding concepts.
It is widely accepted that there is a distinction to be made between the explicit content and the implicit import of an utterance. There is much less agreement about the precise nature of this distinction, how it is to be drawn, and whether any such two-way distinction can do justice to the levels and kinds of meaning involved in utterance interpretation. Grice’s distinction between what is said by an utterance and what is implicated is probably the best known instantiation of (...) the explicit/implicit distinction. His distinction, along with many of its post-Gricean heirs, is closely entwined with another distinction: that between semantics and pragmatics. Indeed, on some construals they are seen as essentially one and the same; “what is said” is equated with the truthconditional content of the utterance which in turn is equated with (context-relative) sentence meaning, leaving implicatures (conventional and conversational) as the sole domain of pragmatics. (shrink)
The interpretation of metaphorical utterances often results in the attribution of emergent properties; these are properties which are neither standardly associated with the individual constituents of the utterance in isolation nor derivable by standard rules of semantic composition. For example, an utterance of ‘Robert is a bulldozer’ may be understood as attributing to Robert such properties as single-mindedness, insistence on having things done in his way, and insensitivity to the opinions/feelings of others, although none of these is included in the (...) encyclopaedic information associated with bulldozers . An adequate pragmatic account of metaphor interpretation must provide an explanation of the processes through which emergent properties are derived. In this paper, we attempt to develop an explicit account of the derivation process couched within the framework of relevance theory. The key features of our account are: metaphorical language use is taken to lie on a continuum with other cases of loose use, including hyperbole; metaphor interpretation is a wholly inferential process, which does not require associative mappings from one domain to another ; the derivation of emergent properties involves no special interpretive mechanisms not required for the interpretation of ordinary, literal utterances. (shrink)
As a post-Gricean pragmatic theory, Relevance Theory (RT) takes as its starting point the question of how hearers bridge the gap between sentence meaning and speaker meaning. That there is such a gap has been a given of linguistic philosophy since Grice’s (1967) Logic and Conversation. But the account that relevance theory offers of how this gap is bridged, although originating as a development of Grice’s co-operative principle and conversational maxims, differs from other broadly Gricean accounts in certain fundamental respects, (...) and leads to a stance on the nature of language, meaning and communication which is at odds, not only with the view of Grice himself, but also with the view common to most post-Fregean philosophy of language. (shrink)
“Utterances and thoughts have content: They represent (actual or imaginary) states of affairs.” This is the opening statement of François Recanati’s most sustained work on kinds of representation, Oratio Obliqua, Oratio Recta (2000) and it presents the core phenomenon which it is the task of the philosophy of language to explain. A primary function of language and thought, though not their only function, is to represent how things are or might be. As well as descriptively representing entities, properties, and states (...) of affairs in the world, our thoughts and utterances may metarepresent other linguistic or mental representations and to several levels of representational embedding. For a full understanding of how language represents (and metarepresents) we need to understand how each of the different kinds of expression in the language contributes to the proposition or thought expressed by a particular utterance. Over the last century, the philosophy of language has swung between two poles in addressing the representational properties of natural human language. Broadly speaking, at the one pole are those whose main focus is on the language system itself, rather than its users, and who emphasize the semantic power of the system, while at the other pole are those for whom it is speakers, specifically their mental states, and what they do with words that is fundamental. The two different orientations naturally lead to different ways of conceiving of the roles of semantics and pragmatics in language use. One manifestation of the division is the opposition between the ‘literalist’ view according to which the proposition expressed by an utterance of a sentence is entirely mandated by components of the sentence and the ‘contextualist’ view according to which what is said often goes beyond what is linguistically anchored. From his earliest work on pragmatics, specifically on speech acts and explicit performatives (1979, 1981, 1987), Recanati has taken a non-literalist position, which he has developed over the past 20 odd years, culminating in the publication of his latest book, Literal Meaning (2004a).. (shrink)
In (1), the talking event described in the matrix clause is elaborated on in the following adjunct: the arguing about the data and the theories makes up the content of the talking referred to in the matrix clause. In (2), on the other hand, the events (or sub-events of a single complex event) described are in a causeconsequence relation, a result of the action described in the matrix clause being that the porcelain vase breaks. These two examples illustrate a central (...) issue for the interpretation of -ing adjuncts: the relation holding between the event described in the adjunct and the event described in the matrix clause is not always the same – in fact, as we’ll see, there is quite a range of possibilities. So the question is: how is the particular relation arrived at? (shrink)
The basic thesis of this book is that there is a level of utterance-type meaning, which is distinct from, and intermediate between, sentence-type meaning and utterance-token meaning. That is, it is more than encoded linguistic meaning but generally less than the full interpretation of an utterance. Here are some examples, where (a) is a sentence and (b) is its utterance-type meaning in each case.
The generative grammar approach to language seeks a fully explicit account of the modular systems of knowledge (competence) that underlies the human language capacity. Similarly, the relevance-theoretic approach to pragmatics attempts an explicit characterisation of the sub-personal systems involved in utterance interpretation. As an on-line performance system, however, it is subject to certain additional constraints; this is demonstrated by the way in which matters of computational (processing effort) economy are currently employed in the two types of theory. A sub-module of (...) “discourse competence” is shown to be compatible with and complementary to the wider system of pragmatic processes. (shrink)
In standard Relevance Theory, hyperbole and metaphor are categorized together as loose uses of language, on a continuum with approximations, category extensions and other cases of loosening/broadening of meaning. Specifically, it is claimed that there are no interesting differences between hyperbolic and metaphorical uses. In recent work, we have set out to provide a more fine-grained articulation of the similarities and differences between hyperbolic and metaphorical uses and their relation to literal uses. We have defended the view that hyperbolic use (...) involves a shift of magnitude along a dimension which is intrinsic to the encoded meaning of the hyperbole vehicle, while metaphor involves a multi-dimensional qualitative shift away from the encoded meaning of the metaphor vehicle. In this article, we present three experiments designed to test the predictions of this analysis, using a variety of tasks (paraph. (shrink)
Metalinguistic negation is interesting for at least the following two reasons: it is one instance of the much broader, very widespread and various, phenomenon of metarepresentational use in linguistic communication, whose semantic and pragmatic properties are currently being extensively explored by both linguists and philosophers of language; it plays a central role in recent accounts of presupposition-denial cases, such as "The king of France is not bald; there is no king of France". It is this latter employment that discussion of (...) metalinguistic negation has focused on since Horn 's key article on the subject. While Burton- Roberts saw the MN account of presupposition-denials as providing strong support for his semantic theory of presupposition, I have offered a multi-layered pragmatic account of these cases, which also involves MN, but maintains the view that the phenomenon of presupposition is pragmatic. (shrink)
Neil Smith has worked across the full range of the discipline of linguistics and explored its interfaces with other disciplines. In all this work he has maintained a commitment to a mentalist approach to the study of language and communication. The aim of this Special Issue is to honour his work and commitment with a collection of papers which brings together work by phonologists, syntacticians, psycholinguists, and pragmatists who share this interest in language as a central component of the human (...) mind and who have worked with Neil, whether as colleagues, collaborators, or students. Neil’s career can be viewed in relation to three main developments in modern linguistics. First, it reflects the development of generativism, in both syntax and phonology. For Neil, this has meant working within, and exploring the ramifications of, the groundbreaking theoretical framework for linguistics initiated and developed by Noam Chomsky. Neil has given full expression to this intellectual debt in two book-length studies of Chomsky’s ideas and principles (Smith and Wilson 1979, Smith 1999) and in many papers and commentaries. Notwithstanding his unswerving Chomskyan allegiance, Neil has been open to, and has encouraged, the exploration of alternative approaches to both syntax and phonology, including optimality theory, GPSG, word grammar, and categorial grammar. The second development reflected in Neil’s work is the trend towards placing research in linguistics in the context of research in cognitive psychology and philosophy of mind and language - in other words, the development of linguistics as one of the cognitive sciences, again very much a Chomskyan initiative. This ‘cognitive turn’ can be seen as, at least in part, a consequence of a commitment to generativism and to linguistic theories that aim to go beyond detailed description of data to achieve explanatory adequacy. In the field of phonology, this search for explanatory adequacy led to Neil’s work on the acquisition of.... (shrink)
The interpretation of metaphorical utterances often results in the attribution of emergent properties; these are properties which are neither standardly associated with the individual constituents of the utterance in isolation nor derivable by standard rules of semantic composition. For example, an utterance of ‘Robert is a bulldozer’ may be understood as attributing to Robert such properties as single-mindedness, insistence on having things done in his way, and insensitivity to the opinions/feelings of others, although none of these is included in the (...) encyclopaedic information associated with bulldozers. An adequate pragmatic account of metaphor interpretation must provide an explanation of the processes through which emergent properties are derived. In this paper, we attempt to develop an explicit account of the derivation process couched within the framework of relevance theory. The key features of our account are: metaphorical language use is taken to lie on a continuum with other cases of loose use, including hyperbole; metaphor interpretation is a wholly inferential process, which does not require associative mappings from one domain to another ; the derivation of emergent properties involves no special interpretive mechanisms not required for the interpretation of ordinary, literal utterances. (shrink)