Temperate Semantic Conventionalism

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Abstract

I return to Davidson’s “anti-conventionalism” papers to assess his famous arguments against the sufficiency and necessity of conventions for successful linguistic communication. Davidson goes beyond the common contention that the basic conventional layer of meaning, one that is secured by interlocutors’ shared competence in their common language, must often be supplemented in rich and inventive ways. First, he maintains that linguistic understanding is never exclusively a matter of mere decoding, but always an interpretative task that demands constant additional attention to the indeterminately various cues and clues available. More radically still, Davidson denies that linguistic conventions are even needed. In particular, he argues against the fairly consensual thesis there is some essential element of conventionality in literal meaning. This still represents a very distinctive contribution to the persistent and tumultuous discussion over the relative natures and limits of semantics and pragmatics.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPhilosophical Insights into Pragmatics
EditorsPiotr Stalmaszczyk
Place of PublicationBerlin
PublisherDe Gruyter
Pages225-250
Number of pages25
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-11-062633-9, 978-3-11-062893-7
ISBN (Print)978-3-11-062376-5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Publication series

NamePhilosophical analysis
Volume79
ISSN (Print)2627-227X

Keywords

  • Semantic conventionalism
  • Radical interpretation
  • Donald Davidson
  • Literal meaning
  • Malapropisms

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