Pursuing Meaning

Pursuing Meaning

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Emma Borg examines the relation between semantics (roughly, features of the literal meaning of linguistic items) and pragmatics (features emerging from the context within which such items are being used), and assesses recent answers to the fundamental questions of how and where to draw the divide between the two. In particular, she offers a defence of what is commonly known as 'minimal semantics'. Minimal semantics, as the name suggests, wants to offer a minimal
account of the interrelation between semantics and pragmatics. Specifically, it holds that while context can affect literal semantic content in the case of genuine (i.e. lexically or syntactically marked) context-sensitive expressions, this is the limit of pragmatic input to semantic content. On all
other occasions where context of utterance appears to affect content, the minimalist claims that what it affects is not literal, semantic content but what the speaker conveys by the use of this literal content-it affects what a speaker says but not what a sentence means. As Borg makes clear, the minimalist must allow some contextual influence on semantic content, but her claim is that this influence can be limited to 'tame' pragmatics-the kind of rule-governed appeals to context which won't
scare formally minded horses. Pursuing Meaning aims to make good on this claim. The book also contains an overview of all the main positions in the area, clarification of its often complex terminology, and an exploration of key themes such as word meaning, mindreading, and the relationship between
semantics and psychology.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 262 pages
  • 151 x 231 x 15mm | 402g
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Reprint
  • 0198738986
  • 9780198738985
  • 1,986,935

Table of contents

1. Surveying the Terrain ; 2. Minimal Semantics and Psychological Evidence ; 3. Propositionalism and Some Problem Cases ; 4. Intention-Sensitive Expressions ; 5. Ontological Arguments Against Minimal Word Meanings ; 6. The Methodological Argument Against Minimal Word Meanings ; Bibliography ; Index
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Review quote

Pursuing Meaning is a must-read for philosophers of language and a very clear guide to the current state of semantics for those interested in the field. * The Philosophical Quarterly * The book is very clearly written and structured, and it is informed not just by the philosophical debate, but also by developments in linguistics and cognitive science. In addition, Borg's configuration of a very messy theoretical landscape is helpful and insightful, and the arguments she presents for her views and against the different alternatives are at least always worth taking seriously. I wholeheartedly recommend the book to all those interested in this core
philosophical issue. . . anybody interested in these issues should carefully study the arguments and proposals in this excellent work, which I expect to have a great impact in the field. * Manuel Garcia-Carpintero, Mind * Borg presents her readers with a thoroughly scholarly text. She cites just about everybody who plays her kind of game. In these citings, she gives fair and comprehensive representations of what others say about these matters and does so, generally, in a clear writing style. * Nick Fotion, Analysis * Borg brings order and focus to the debate, responding to a deluge of objections from multiple perspectives. . .Borg writes in an exceptionally clear and often witty style. Pursuing Meaning is lively, full of interesting turns of phrase, and detailed in content. . .Borg addresses questions about the usefulness and underlying plausibility of minimalism head-on, offering positive reasons for being a minimalist. . .Pursuing Meaning has a proactive
rather than reactive tone, which helps draw along readers who are initially disinclined to support her position. Given the depth of disagreement over the semantics/pragmatics divide, that, in itself, is a major achievement. * Allyson Mount, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews *
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About Emma Borg

Emma Borg joined the Philosophy Department at the University of Reading in 1998, shortly before she completed her PhD at University College London. She has been with the Department ever since and is currently Head of Department. She has held visiting positions at Rutgers University and the University of Chicago, and was a recipient of a Philip Leverhulme Prize (for 'outstanding young researchers'). She is on the editorial boards for the journals Ratio,
Theoria, and the International Review of Pragmatics, and has published widely on issues within the philosophy of language, including the monograph Minimal Semantics (OUP, 2004).
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