KEITH ALLAN, The semantics and pragmatics of three potential slurring terms
In this essay I propose a lexical semantics with interlaced pragmatic elements for three potential slurring terms: bitch, cunt, and nigger. These controversial lexical items are worthy of attention because each can be used without the utterance being either intended or interpreted as a slur or even felt to be a slur. To specify the differing potentials of such terms I postulate a cocktail of interlaced semantic and pragmatic components. I first hinted that pragmatic components be included in lexicon entries in Allan 1986/2014: 170-4 and subsequently confirmed the idea and developed it substantially in Allan 2000, 2001, 2011, 2012. Something similar, at least in spirit, is proposed in Copestake & Briscoe 1992, Copestake & Lascarides 1997 and more recently in Carston 2002 (Ch.5) and Wilson & Carston 2007. What I am proposing in this new essay is that the triggers for the potentially diverse interpretations of the terms bitch, cunt, and nigger are specified in the lexicon for the various identifiable classes of contexts in which such words are used.
JAY D ATLAS, Horn-Atlas Debate on ‘Few N’, ‘A Few N’, and ‘Only PN’
In a series of papers Larry Horn and I debated the licensing of Negative Polarity Items by downward monotonic quantifiers, while discussing the case of ‘Only Larry’, which Horn claimed was doward monotonic, and Atlas claimed was non-monotonic yet still licensed Negative Polarity Items. Horn conceded that Atlas was correct and began the construction of a new approach to the licensing of Negative Polarity Items, while Atlas continued to wonder whether there were other non-monotonic quantifiers that licensed Negative Polarity Items.
I have proposed that ‘Few N’ is another such non-monotonic quantifier. In this paper I review the theoretical background of the debate, discuss some of the subtle linguistic judgments required, and discuss some of Horn’s most recent criticisms.
MICHAEL DEVITT, Three mistakes about semantic intentions
(A) In virtue of what does a speaker using a name or demonstrative refer to x? A popular answer is: because he intends to refer to x. I have four objections. (1) This answer, unlike another popular one – because he has x in mind – is too intellectualized to be even a good starting point. (2) It is theoretically incomplete: In virtue of what did the speaker intend to refer to x? (3) Once completed it is redundant. (4) It is misleading.
(B) What explains the speaker meaning of a sentential utterance? A central idea of Gricean “intention-based semantics” is that this meaning is constituted by the speaker’s intention to communicate a certain content to an audience. I follow Chomsky, in thinking that “under innumerable quite normal circumstances…people mean what they say or write, but there is no intent to bring the audience…to have certain beliefs or to undertake certain actions.” The basic act of speaker meaning is one of expressing a thought. There is no theoretical motivation for the stronger requirement that the speaker be intending to communicate that thought to an audience.
(C) It is standard among Griceans to believe that there is some constitutive constraint on what a speaker can intend by an utterance, a belief arising from one about a constraint on intentions in general. The latter constraint alleged varies from the astonishingly strong “positive” one that X cannot intend to do A unless X believes that she will do A to the much weaker “negative” one that X cannot intend to do A unless she lacks the belief that she cannot do A. I argue that there are no such constitutive constraints on intentions.
IGOR DOUVEN, Implicatures and Naturalness
Pragmatics postulates a rich typology of implicatures to explain how true assertions can nevertheless be misleading. This typology has been mainly defended on the basis of a priori considerations. We consider the question of whether the typology corresponds to an independent reality, specifically whether the various types of implicatures constitute natural concepts. To answer this question, we rely on the conceptual spaces framework, which represents concepts geometrically, and which provides a formally precise criterion for naturalness. Using data from a previous study, a space for the representation of implicatures is constructed. Examination of the properties of various types of implicatures as represented in that space then gives some reason to believe that most or even all types of implicatures do correspond to natural concepts.
MANUEL GARCÍA-CARPINTERO, Assertions in Fictions
Some philosophers currently writing on fiction endorse a view that ordinary people share, to wit, that fictions contain assertions, and may hence be criticized as false or praised as informative on account of them. Consider this compelling example from Kathleen Stock (2017): “Nonhuman animals have gone to court before. Arguably, the first ALF action in the United States was the release of two dolphins in 1977 from the University of Hawaii. The men responsible were charged with grand theft. Their original defense, that dolphins are persons (humans in dolphin suits, one defendant said), was quickly thrown out by the judge”, in K. J. Fowler, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. This proposition is an essential part of the content the fiction-maker is putting forward for us to imagine. However, given the theme of the novel, the moral seriousness with which Fowler pursues it, and perhaps relevant conventions for the genre to which the novel belongs, it is natural to take it also as a straightforward assertion, capable of transmitting testimonial knowledge. Thus, critics would object to the novel if the proposition were false, and ordinary readers could later use the information as if they had obtained it from a newspaper. As said, this is entirely correct according to several current philosophical accounts: we are entitled to acquire knowledge by testimony from reading this fiction. But what is the mechanism accounting for it? In this paper, I’ll argue (against arguments by Currie and others) that it is just a case of indirection, akin to a Gricean conversational implicature. This will require to discuss views on which it is simply not possible to make assertions indirectly, and also to provide an account of indirection different from the most straightforward one; for in cases like this what is claimed to be indirectly conveyed is precisely the conventional semantic meaning of the relevant utterance.
MICHAEL S. GREEN, The Pragmatics of Internal Legal Statements
Legal positivism is the view that the existence and content of the law ultimately depend solely on psychological facts — in particular, official acceptance of an ultimate standard of legal validity (a rule of recognition). So understood, positivism is a metaphysical thesis. Some legal positivists (such as the American legal realists) also adopt a semantic thesis according to which legal statements describe these psychological facts about official acceptance. But most positivists admit that legal statements, particularly those using normative language, cannot be understood as describing such psychological facts. Discussion of this problem has largely been undertaken in the context of exposition of H.L.A. Hart’s idea of an internal legal statement (ILS).
One solution is to adopt a semantic account of ILSs as expressing the speaker’s commitment to conformity with the standard in the rule of recognition. But expressivism cannot explain why an anarchist law professor can make an ILS without thereby taking himself to have any reason for conformity. Attempts to account for such “detached” ILSs as made hypothetically, from the perspective of a committed participant, have been unsuccessful.
Pragmatic accounts of ILSs are more promising, as well as probably being more in keeping with Hart’s own views. Under one such account, the semantic character of an ILS is fully descriptive. An ILS describes a factual relationship to the standard in the rule of recognition. The expressive character of a legal statement is pragmatic, not semantic. In making a legal statement the committed participant pragmatically expresses his acceptance of the standard in the rule of recognition. Committed and “detached” ILSs have the same semantic content.
Pragmatic accounts of ILSs have been too narrow in their focus, however. Their goal has been explaining the relationship between ILSs and the speaker’s disposition to conform to legal practices. This ignores the fact that Hart and some other positivists take it to be crucial to ILSs that the psychological facts about general official acceptance of the rule of recognition are pragmatically presupposed. To the extent that such psychological facts are described, one is not making an ILS.
There clearly is another role to be played by the pragmatics of ILSs, one tied to problems in the philosophy of the social sciences. The goal is explaining why people in a community — even those not committed to conformity with legal practices — are inclined to treat legal norms as not reducible to psychological facts about official legal practices. Hart seeks to do this through the presuppositions in an ILS, as an alternative to adopting a problematic Durkheimian social ontology. Systematic pragmatic presuppositions can explain how puzzling ontological commitments arise.
NOTE: This paper is part of an essay on legal positivism as a semantic thesis, which will appear in Torben Spaak & Patricia Mindus (eds.), CAMBRIDGE COMPANION TO LEGAL POSITIVISM (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming).
LAURENCE R. HORN, First Things First: The pragmatics of “natural order”
In the Categories (14a26-b23), Aristotle identifies a set of natural ordering principles by which one thing may be prior (πρότερον) to another. In particular, A can be prior to B either “with respect to temporal order” or “with respect to what is better and more valued”. But when and how do these ordering principles apply to linguistic sequences, in particular when they come into conflict with each other? What determines the priority between these principles of priority? And what makes “natural order” natural?
More recently, a variety of pragmatically motivated ordering principles have been advanced by a variety of linguists, including Behagel, Jakobson, Greenberg, Osgood, Levelt, Ross, and others. The explananda range across, inter alia,
• the order of clauses [S1 and S2]
• the order of conjoined nominals [DP1 and/or DP2; N1 and/or N2]
• the order of constituents within a clause (SOV, SVO, VSO, OSV,…)
• the order of internal arguments, e.g. verb DP1 [prep DP2] vs. verb DP2 [prep DP1]
Grice’s “Be orderly” maxim accounts for the temporal asymmetry of eventive clausal conjunctions (I took off my trousers and went to bed vs. I went to bed and took off my trousers) through iconicity: “the most orderly manner for a narration of events is an order that corresponds to the order in which they took place” (Grice 1981: 186). As it happens, Grice’s analysis of such conjunctions was a bimillennial echo of Dionysius of Halicarnassus’s (1st c. BCE) “natural” but crucially context-defeasible principle stipulating that “events earlier in time are mentioned earlier in the order of words than those which occurred later.” For Quintilian (1st c. CE) too, naturalis ordo determines the discourse order of events as for Dionysius, while “better precedes worse” dictates the order of conjoined state predications, although this too is a soft constraint that be overridden in the standard manner of pragmatic or rhetorical rules.
In this presentation, I revisit several core principles of “natural order” and track the reflexes of—and competition between—these principles as manifested in both clausal and nominal conjunction (as in (1) and (2) respectively), in the rhetorical asymmetry of adversative p but q structures (as in (3)), in the antanaclastic twin existential There’s X
and (then) there’s X (as in (4)), and in the ongoing shift in the argument structure assigned to the substitute X for Y construction (as in (5)).
a. They got married and they had a baby.
b. They had a baby and they got married.
a. good or bad; he or she; men and women; Mr. and Mrs.
b. Victoria and Albert; ladies and gentlemen; bride and groom
a. He’s rich but he’s creepy. [> so steer clear of him!]
b. He’s creepy but he’s rich. [> so give him a chance!]
a. There are dinner jackets and dinner jackets; this is the latter. (Casino Royale)
b. There are gaffes and then there are gaffes.
a. Can I substitute salad for soup? [NEW-for-OLD > OLD-for-NEW]
b. We’re often told to substitute saturated animal fats for healthier vegetable oils.
YAN HUANG, I like you may actually implicate I love you: A reconsideration of some scalar implicatures
Scalar implicature is a conversational implicature that is derived from a set of salient contrastive alternates linearly ordered in semantic/informational strength. It is dependent on the non-use of the semantically/informationally stronger alternatives in such a set. A typical example is the use of some implies not many/not most/not all.
But sometimes this is not the case. One typical example is that around half a century ago (that is, up to late 1980s/early 1990s), during courtship, a Chinese girl/boy tended to express her/his love to her/his boy/girlfriend by saying wo xihuan ni (I like you) rather than wo ai ni (I love you). This way of expressing romantic love was especially in vogue during Mao’s tenyear brutal ‘Cultural Revolution’. A second case is, as reported in Keenan (1976), in talking to her son, a Malagasy mother would use a general noun such as olona (person) to refer to her husband/the boy’s father. Finally, in a face-threatening context in English (and other languages), a speaker may employ a semantically/informationally weaker scalar rather than a stronger alternative that he/she should have used (Bonnefon et al. 2009 for English). What all the three different cases show is this: there are at least some circumstances, under which the use of a semantically weaker scalar in a Horn scale may actually implicate its stronger alternative(s).
In this paper, I shall argue that contrary to some scholars, this type of ‘abnormal’ use is actually implicated in a classical way, with maximum theoretical parsimony, from Grice’s cooperative principle and its component maxims of conversation. I shall then consider two neo- Gricean options to tackle it: (i) retain Horn scales, and change the implicature ‘from weak to not stronger’ to ‘from weak to stronger’, and (ii) abandon Horn scales, and treat e.g.as forming an Atlas-Levinson scale and submit it to the I-principle.
K. M. JASZCZOLT, Being Gricean in 2018: Questions for Metapragmatics
Paul Grice’s foundational influence on contemporary pragmatic theory has its roots in the combination of focus on (i) intentions in their role of explanantia for meaning in discourse with (ii) the rigidity of the truth-conditional approach upon which his theory of communication is built. However, forty years on, it has become necessary to ask how much, and on what identifiable dimensions, one can depart from his original program and still remain ‘post-Gricean’. The program has been subjected to critical scrutiny on several dimensions. First, communication has since been envisaged as mostly direct and non-inferential (e.g. Recanati 2004, 2016). Next, the grammatical origin of some implicatures has been proposed (e.g. Chierchia 2004; Chierchia et al. 2012), associated with the proposal to reinstate semantic ambiguities in lieu of meaning-underdetermination (e.g. Lepore & Stone 2015). The focus on cooperative interaction has been weakened through the attention to strategic communication (e.g. Asher & Lascarides 2013). Perhaps most importantly, the Gricean cline of meaning construction (sometimes called ‘the pipeline picture of meaning’) has been questioned, originally in game-theoretic approaches (e.g. Lewis 1979, and recently e.g. in Equilibrium Semantics, Parikh 2010), but also in post-Gricean Default Semantics (Jaszczolt 2005, 2016) where discourse meaning is not constructed following the steps from the output of syntactic processing, through modulation, to implicatures, but rather follows the principles of situated interaction independently of the relation of the meaning to the structure of the uttered sentence. Finally, the modular approach to meaning has been questioned and replaced with general cognitive mechanisms that are allegedly responsible for implicatures (Goodman & Stuhlmüller 2013; Goodman & Lassiter 2015).
This meta-theoretic enquiry begins by introducing the main novel dimensions on which the Gricean program has recently been challenged and proceeds to arguing that none of the challenges constitutes a real threat to it. I develop two strands of argumentation showing how the approaches either (a) can be incorporated as its extensions or (b) are in pursuit of different goals and as such are not in competition with it. Argument (a) applies to automatic meaning assignment, the rejection of the ‘pipeline picture of meaning’, emphasis on conventions, strategic conversation and generalized cognition. Argument (b) applies to the revival of semantic ambiguity and the grammatical foundation of implicatures. It is concluded that the Gricean program can be relaxed on the dimensions covered by (a) and co-exist with the approaches subscribing to (b).
ISTVAN KECSKES, “It’s just the matter of semantics”. But is it really? A close look at the semantics-pragmatics interface in intercultural interactions.
The presentation aims to contribute to the semantics-pragmatics interface debate from the perspective of intercultural pragmatics. Several studies on intercultural interactions (e.g. Cieslicka 2006; House 2003; Howarth 1998; Kecskes 2007, 2015; Metsä-Ketelä 2016; Ortactepe 2012; Philip 2005) concluded that interlocutors prefer semantic transparency to pragmatic inference and rely mainly on literal meaning of expressions in their language production and comprehension. The findings of these studies can be summarized as follows:
- Linguistic code seems to play the role of core common ground.
Literal semantic content and compositionality dominates both expressing intention and recognizing it.
- Contextual support is not significant.
- Pragmatic intrusion is minimal and represents general rather than language specific features.
- What is said is usually equals or close to what is communicated.
This significantly differs from what happens in L1 communication on which current pragmatic theories are based on. The findings suggest that interlocutors may rely more on semantics than pragmatics in conveying and interpreting meaning, and they can do so without decreasing the effectiveness of their communication. The presentation will discuss whether these findings should change in any way our thinking about the semantics-pragmatics division.
JACOB L. MEY, Value in Pragmatics: Goals, Ranking, and Internet Adaptability
Recently, there have been tendencies to expand the accepted view of pragmatics as ‘the science of (the) language use(r)’. Thus, the notions of the ‘pragmatic act’ and the ‘pragmeme’, first introduced more than twenty years ago (Mey 1993; see Mey 2001 for an updated version) have attracted a good deal of attention, and are being put to practice in a number of contexts (see, e.g., the contributions in Capone & Mey 2016; Allan, Capone & Kecskes 2016). In particular, the notion of the situation, which was the original ‘matrix’ of the pragmatic act, needed to be made more specific and ‘grounded’. Mey (2013) represented an effort to further substantiate the ‘ground’ as a set of parameters dealing with space while including the sequential development of pragmatic acts over (see further Mey 2016a; Mey 2016b). In addition, Hodges, in a recent seminal article (2009), argued for introducing the concept of ‘value’ into pragmatic thinking and acting: even though value is inherent in all we do as humans, it has not been thematized consistently in pragmatic thinking. My talk therefore represents an effort to plug also this hole in the theory and practice of pragmatics. Pragmatic value is of relevance both to scientific discourse and to our daily practices, as manifested in the way we assume and attribute responsibility to our own and others’ utterances and texts, both under normal conditions and in special situations such as fieldworking or life-threatening situations. It is particularly important to have the value factor placed correctly in relation not only to the context of controversy vs. agreement as they occur in academia, but also on a larger, societal scale, where so much depends on the value of our findings, when these are used in public debates on life-relevant issues of ecology, nutrition, medicine, law, engineering, and so on. A ‘value neutral’ approach to research and practice involving humans and their needs will never function appropriately in a pragmatically responsible context. One such context is the internet, where values not just figure numerically, as countable ‘hits’ or calculated ‘trending’; more important are the ways we adapt ourselves and our messages to our audience, choosing ‘pragmatic adaptability’ to realize and transmit our values.
STEPHEN NEALE, Means means means
STEPHEN SCHIFFER, Context Sensitivity and Vagueness
Philosophers of language are nearly unanimous in holding that the meaning of an expression is a rule for determining the contents of its tokens, where the content of a sentence token is the proposition it expresses, and the content of a token of a word or other subsentential expression is its contribution to the content of the sentence token in which it occurs. A context-sensitive expression is one the contents of whose tokens may vary from one context of utterance to another. Paradigm examples of contextsensitive expressions include ‘I’, ‘here’, ‘she’, ‘this’’, yesterday’, ‘tall’, ‘Frank is ready’, and ‘It’s raining’. For example, it might be said that John is the content of the the token of ‘I’ he uttered, that Mary is the content of the token of ‘I’ she uttered, and that the meaning of ‘I’ for both John and Mary is the rule that the content of a token of ‘I’ is the speaker who produced the token. For such familiar paradigms there are plausible views about how the variable contents of an expression’s tokens are determined, i.e. plausible views about the meanings of those context-sensitive expressions. I will argue, however, that not all context-sensitivity is so well behaved. More specifically, I will argue that vagueness induces vague expressions to be context sensitive in a way that can’t be explained by any meaning that might be attributed to those expressions. Since virtually every expression is vague to at least some extent, this means that nothing is available to be the meaning of virtually any expression. If that is correct, it will force us to give up entrenched views about compositional semantics and the nature of language understanding, and to rethink in what the having of meaning consists.
DOUGLAS WALTON, Tools for Helping to Assess Relevance in Argumentation
Macagno (2018) advanced a pragmatic approach to relevance that conceives of it as a relationship between pairs of speech acts put forward as moves in a dialogue. The thread of dialogue connecting them provides the context from which evidence can be collected and brought to bear on any claim that one speech act is relevant to another or not. Another part of the evidence is the goal of the dialogue as a whole. This pragmatic approach is centrally directed to dialogues containing argumentation, benefiting from recent work in argumentation studies. Macagno holds that assessment of relevance depends on the argumentation schemes and implicit premises used to make up a chain of argumentation connecting one move in a dialogue with another. This paper gives additional support to this pragmatic approach by refining it with some argumentation tools from artificial intelligence. The tools are applied to a series of problematic examples, some of them well known since Grice, where relevance is an issue.