Thoughts and Utterances

Thoughts and Utterances : The Pragmatics of Explicit Communication

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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.
Features the first sustained investigation of both the semantics/pragmatics distinction and the distinction between what is explicitly and implicitly communicated in speech.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 432 pages
  • 178 x 248 x 36mm | 879.96g
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0631214887
  • 9780631214885
  • 686,173

Back cover copy

Thoughts and Utterances is the first sustained investigation of two distinctions that are fundamental to all theories of utterance understanding: the semantics/pragmatics distinction and the distinction between what is explicitly and what is implicitly communicated.

The central claim of this book is that the linguistically encoded meaning of an utterance underdetermines the propositions explicitly communicated by the utterance. The arguments and analyses are developed within the relevance-theoretic framework of Dan Sperber and Deirdre Wilson, so the approach is resolutely cognitive, focussing on the representational levels and mental processes involved in utterance interpretation. However, extensive comparison is made throughout with other pragmatic frameworks, including those of Paul Grice, François Recanati and Kent Bach, which are more philosophically based, and that of Stephen Levinson, which has a more linguistic and computational orientation.

Finally, this volume assesses and attempts to reconcile the different perspectives of theories of human semantic competence and accounts of the pragmatic processes involved in communication and interpretation.
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Table of contents

1. Pragmatics and Linguistic Underdeterminacy:.
Saying and Meaning.
The Underdeterminacy Thesis.
Eternal Sentences and Effability.
Metarepresentation, Relevance and Pragmatic Inference.
Underdeterminacy, Truth Conditions and the Semantics/Pragmatics Distinction.
Radical Underdeterminacy and the Background.
Underdeterminacy of Thought?.
2. The Explicit/Implicit Distinction:.
Semantics/Pragmatics Distinction.
Grice: Saying/Implicating.
Sperber and Wilson: Relevance-theoretic Distinctions.
Travis and Recanati: Enriched What is Said'.
Bach: What is Said/Impliciture/Implicature.
Pragmatic Meaning: Enrichment or Implicature?.
Postscript: Hidden Indexicals or Free Enrichment?.
Conclusion: From Generative Semantics to Pro-active Pragmatics.
3. The Pragmatics of 'And'-Conjunction:.
Preserving the Truth-functionality of 'And'.
A Relevance-based Pragmatics of Conjunction.
The Semantic Alternatives.
Cognitive Fundamentals: Causality and Explanation.
Relevance Relations and Units of Processing.
Processing Effort and Iconicity.
Residual Issues.
Conclusion: From Generalized Conversational Implicature.
4. The Pragmatics of Negation:.
Some Data and Some Distinctions.
Semantic Ambiguity Analyses.
Strong Pragmatic Analyses.
Presupposition'-cancelling Negation and Metalinguistic Negation.
The Pragmatics of Presupposition'-Denial.
Conclusion: From Multiple Semantic Ambiguity to Univocal Semantics and Pragmatic Enrichment.
5. The Pragmatics of On-line Concept Construction:.
Encoded Concepts and Communicated Concepts.
A Symmetrical Account of Narrowing and Broadening.
Metaphor: Loose Use and Ad Hoc Concepts.
Word Meaning and Concepts.
Conclusion: The Long Road from Linguistically Encoded Meaning to the Thought(s) Explicitly Communicated.
Appendix 1: Relevance Theory Glossary.
Appendix 2: Gricean Conversational Principles.
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Review quote

"This book serves to advance the status of pragmatics, as in addition to presenting a theory free from serious errors, it is also a good example of a methodologically sound book. I heavily applaud this volume - which places students on the right path and is also a rare example of scholarly eminence. I believe the author must have had many sleepless nights to finish it - now she can take her rest and enjoy the success and the praise she fully deserves." Linguistics "Challenges current philosophical approaches to pragmatics and makes a substantial contribution to cognitive pragmatic theories such as relevance theory." Moderna Sprak "The book brings together a wealth of empirical observations and new analyses and is impressive in breadth and depth. It is also one of the most detailed and powerful expositions of relevance theory and enriches the framework in considerable ways." Lingua"This long-awaited treatise is the best case ever made for relevance theory, and a most stimulating piece of work on the semantics/pragmatics interface. I enjoyed it enormously." Francois Recanati, Institut Jean-Nicod "You don't have to be a relevance theorist to appreciate Carston's challenge to influential Gricean views on the interaction of pragmatics with semantics. This book, with its breadth of coverage and depth of analysis, raises a good many questions and offers many good answers." Kent Bach, San Francisco State University "Robyn Carston's combination of meticulous scholarship with deep insight has led her to cast new light on the vexed distinction between semantics and pragmatics, to provide new analyses of a range of problems in linguistics and the philosophy of language, and to illuminate the relation between language and thought more generally. This elegantly written and original work is the best book on pragmatics for a generation." Neil Smith, University College London "The author directly tackles the by now central issue of the interface between semantics and pragmatics... and addresses such important theoretical problems, within all of pragmatics, as the distinction betwen explicit and implicit communication." Pragmatics "As is usual with excellent books, Carston's book leads us to think further deeply and raises a good many questions... this book takes a resolutely cognitive viewpoint, sheds a new light on the semantics/pragmatics interaction and succeeds in elucidating the roles of language and inferences in communication. i strongly recommend this book not only to pragmatists, of course, but also to everyone who is interested in human communication." Akiko Yoshimura, Nara Women's University, Studies in English Literature
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About Robyn Carston

Robyn Carston is Reader in Linguistics at University College London. She is co-editor of
Relevance Theory: Applications and Implications (1998).
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