Logic, Meaning, and Conversation: Semantical Underdeterminacy, Implicature, and Their Interface

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Horn, Conversational impliciture. The Semantics-Pragmatics Boundary in Philosophy, Bird, G. Explicature, impliciture, and implicature. In Pragmatik Blakemore, D. Journal of Pragmatics, 60, Blakemore, Diane. Linguistic form and pragmatic interpretation: the explicit and the implicit. Philosophy Compass 8: Borg, E. In, Ezcurdia, M. The Semantics-Pragmatics Boundary in Philosophy. Broadview Press. Braseth, J. Unpublished MA thesis. Universitetet I Oslo. Burton-Roberts, N. Newcastle Working Papers in Linguistics 12 Journal of Linguistics Capone, A.

Journal of Pragmatics Intercultural Pragmatics 6: Perspectives in Pragmatics, Philosophy and Psychology. Carston, R. Handbook of pragmatics. Oxford: Blackwell. Pragmatics and the Explicit and Implicit Distinction. University College London Ph. International Review of Pragmatics 1 1 : Relevance theory. Routledge companion to the philosophy of language Chaves, J. Explicature, what is said, and Gricean factorisation criteria. Explicit communication, eds. Dew, I. The porous boundaries between explicit and implicit memory: behavioral and neural evidence.

Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1 , Gibbs, R. Journal of Pragmatics — Giora, R. Hall, A. Relevance theory, semantic content and pragmatic enrichment. In Perspectives on Linguistic Pragmatics pp. Springer International Publishing. Hammouri, Y. International Journal of Linguistics, 5 2 , Horn, L. Turner eds. Amsterdam: Elsevier. The border wars: A neo-Gricean perspective.

Where semantics meets pragmatics, Logic, meaning, and conversation : semantical underdeterminacy, implicature, and their interface. Includes bibliographical references and index. Semantics Philosophy I. A75 '. Levinson, Frans Zwarts, Laurence R. Horn, Jerrold Sadock, linguists, to Sean D. The seat was comfortable enough, even for my six-foot one-inch frame, the cuisine was German bourgeois respectable, and I managed to sleep.

The charm of the trip was awakening to a large, healthy, hot breakfast, but only after the stretching exercises were completed. With attention to detail, hygiene, and the physical culture of northern Germany, some Mephisto at the airline had mandated a wake-up video that taught passengers a way to stretch their chair-encased muscles while they remained in their seats. So, at the command of the celluloid instructor, I rolled, waggled, extended, raised, and kneaded my body back to life, as did most of my fellow passengers, except for some unruly nonconforming Americans who decided to remain cramped and caged in their seatformed postures.

By the end of the video, I felt awake and physically alive. Some six hundred graduate students had assembled for two weeks, 30 July—10 August , at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven for this intellectual feast of a summer school, and I was on the menu. I had even bought my first laptop computer in May, a Sharp laptop with two K disk drives, in order to compose the lectures, realizing that without electronic help in editing I would never write, type, revise, and retype the body of lectures in time.

I barely found a seat and a place to put my small backpack containing my precious lectures and my bulgy, denier nylon, soft luggage. Fatigue made me more and more sodden as we crept away from Brussels on little steel wheels. Then, intruding into this linguistical musing, came the slightly accented, youthful voice of a university student speaking English to me. I looked up into the cheerful, handsome Flemish face of a student, who sat across the aisle from me, next to his comely girlfriend. I will show you the way.

I registered at the hotel, examined my first room, asked to be moved to the back of the hotel where there would be no street noise, and enjoyed a hot shower—those splendid German showerheads again—and a short nap before lunch. My usual luck: playing the other bookend to someone like Hans Kamp. The Dutch semanticists, I discovered, had read my published work, particularly my article on negative existence statements, which showed that the Russellian problem of the relationship between meaning and ontology had been fundamentally misconceived.

Everybody else had ignored it as far as I knew, until I met the Dutch semanticists. But at the end of the Stuttgart conference, Zwarts had asked whether I would like to give a course in Leuven the following year at the European summer school. Bach ; Kempson a; Horn ; Iten 63, 67; and Levinson , It turned out that more than one hundred graduate students from universities throughout the European Union and a dozen or so members of the summer school faculty—even once George Bealer—showed up for my lectures.

More copies of my course book of readings were sold to the graduate students for my course than for any other course in the summer school. These people are obviously nuts, I thought. Out of my Leuven lectures, and my lecture in Stuttgart in , the invitation for which I am much indebted to Jaap Hoepelman, grew three doctoral dissertations; those of Ana von Klopp Edinburgh, on negation, Peter Blok Groningen, on focus, and Michiel Leezenberg Amsterdam, on metaphor.

I was foolish enough not to listen, and this is the result. Angela wanted my lectures right then, August After all, sitting at lunch in Oxford, she had the notebook containing the typed lectures in her hand. Well, I said, perhaps a little polishing would be appropriate, as usual barely controlling my desire to rush into print, contribute papers to the annual meetings of the APA, shower the journals with paper, and generally festschrift it up.

Eleven years later I have finished this little, chatty, nontechnical book, written with the easy accessibility that I have made my trademark, supplemented with much new material but inspired by my Leuven lectures on the semantics-pragmatics interface: the relationship between literal meaning, logical form, and interpretative inference.

These views are adulterated by post-positivist epistemology and have caused much philosophical misunderstanding of language—for example, see C. Peacocke I rejected neo-Kantianism and various forms of verificationism in the theories of meaning of Neurath, Reichenbach, Carnap, the middle Wittgenstein, and even those of my teacher Sir Michael Dummett, who provided so much of the philosophical stimulus to my thinking about negation and presupposition. Their views have resulted in confusions about meaning that are almost impossible to remedy in our current intellectual climate.

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But there are now signs of a reconsideration taking place: see Chomsky b, b,c and J. The linguistic data are explicable if we hypothesize that the literal meanings of sentence-types are quite different from either truth conditions or assertibility conditions of sentencetokens and that idealized interpreters conform to, and perhaps employ, certain pragmatic principles of inference. But my hypotheses are not considered by me to be necessary principles of any possible use of language or constitutive of the rationality of language use or any other bits of the neo-Kantian, verificationist, or later Wittgensteinian framing of questions about language as a practical ability that even Paul Grice was tempted by.

Two applications of my theory of the semantics-pragmatics interface are given in chapter 5, in my account of the semantics and pragmatics of comparative adjectives and adverbial approximatives, and in chapter 6, in my account of numerical adjectives. Morton White and my colleague Robert Sleigh were wonderfully supportive and tolerant of this logical inquiry and of my youthful obsessions.

The institute is my idea of heaven. Living in a Marcel Breuer—designed apartment, abutted by the woods of a wildlife sanctuary with trails for solitary or companionable ramblings, an office to work in that had once been occupied by Sir Isaiah Berlin, PREFACE xi surrounded by the most intelligent conversation in the world, and when one had thought enough about logic, language, and philosophy, conversing about quantum gravity or string theory with Andrew Strominger and seeing off-off-Broadway plays with John Walter—that is intellectual heaven. In the spring of at the University of Texas, Austin, Conference on Performatives, Presupposition, and Implicature, Lakoff had introduced me to Stephen Levinson, then a graduate student.

That was the beginning of my intellectual collaboration with Levinson on the pragmatics of language, a collaboration that has now spanned thirty years; it has been a splendid intellectual adventure enriched by a warm personal friendship with him, his wife Penny Brown, and their son Nicholas. How do they put up with you? My first book was dedicated to him, and he was able to hold a copy in his hands four years before he died.

The penultimate version of the penultimate version of this book was written at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen, The Netherlands, in the fall term , after I had spent time in Groningen thinking about the De Morgan properties of adverbial verb phrases Atlas brought to my attention by H. Klein , , Frans Zwarts, and Sjaak de Mey. The latter inquiry is a logical investigation that William of Shyreswood, Walter Burleigh, and Peter of Spain, those worthies of the fourteenth century, would understand the point of. Stephen, like Larry Horn in his Natural History of Negation , provided essential stimulus and matter for reflection as I reconsidered neo-Gricean views that in concert with, and in reaction to, them I had been developing since the mids.

My admiration for their work is surpassed only by their cosmic patience with my criticizing, not to say needling, them. White and to the faculty of the School of Historical Studies. Portions of this book have been delivered as invited lectures or have in earlier versions appeared in print.

I am grateful to the following for permission to reprint revised material from previously published work: the editors of Linguistics and Philosophy; the editor of Journal of Semantics; D. Blackwell, Ltd. For visiting professorships I am grateful to the faculty in the department of philosophy, University of California, Los Angeles, where I gave graduate seminars in the philosophy of language in the fall terms of , , and I owe a special debt to the late Rogers Albritton with whom for over twenty-five years, week in and week out, month in and month out, I discussed metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, and Wittgenstein.

These conversations, and similar ones with Edmund Gettier many years ago, constitute an entire philosophical education and reeducation. I began work on this book at the suggestion of Richard Oehrle, made during a conversation over coffee after my last lecture. I am particularly grateful for the hospitality of the Max Planck Institute for Psycho-linguistics, Nijmegen, The Netherlands, and of its then-managing director Pim Levelt, for providing such inestimable facilities during the writing of this book.

Pomona College, Claremont, has provided travel assistance and other research support, as well as sabbatical leaves; my thanks to the faculty research committee, especially for support from a National Endowment for the Humanities sabbatical grant, to former Associate Dean Fred Greiman, and to Jane Arnal. The President Emeritus of Pomona College, Peter Stanley, was wonderfully supportive of intellectual life at the college. Michiel Leezenberg University of Amsterdam has been a source of intellectual stimulation, friendship, and assistance on many occasions.

I am, as always, deeply grateful to the playwright John Francis Walter for his friendship, his continuing interest in my intellectual work for more than twenty years, and his intense intellectual and artistic energy. White, and from the late Rogers Albritton in our conversations. Atlas, M. Someday I hope to write a book that more of them will be interested in reading.

I am also grateful to these brilliant programmers for making old-fashioned DOS programs such effective instruments for writing see J. My editors Peter Ohlin and Catharine Carlin at Oxford University Press, New York, have been wonderfully patient and supportive; I am grateful to them and to the production staff for dealing gracefully with a complex manuscript.

The same axiom, every decoding is another encoding, applies. David Lodge, The Practice of Wriring We cannot assume that statements let alone sentences have truth-conditions. There is no reference-based semantics. There is a rich and intriguing internalist semantics, really part of syntax, on a par in this respect with phonology. If, as I believe, that whole picture is wrong, a certain kind of analytic philosophy is ripe for going out of business. Jerry Fodor, In Critical Condition This page intentionally left blank Logic, Meaning, and Conversation This page intentionally left blank 1 Semantical Underdeterminacy 1 Metaphor, nonspecific meaning, and utterance interpretation: Two dogmas of literary modernism Twentieth-century studies of literary style and early, influential studies in philosophy of language have been conditioned in large part by a dogma.

Its inspiration was an essay by William Gass , and it is offered to him as a modest gesture of appreciation. I am also indebted to the Educational Foundation of America for its sponsorship of this research through a Pomona College, Claremont, research award in —76 to me and Mark Allen Phillips. I was struck by some of the similarities in our views of metaphor, which I had never heard him discuss in his seminars at Princeton, but I was unsurprised that I had absorbed from his teaching an approach that brought me close to his position.

Lakoff and M. This dogma, I shall argue, is ill founded. One effect of abandoning it is a revision of Fregean semantics, a departure not only from the view that meaning determines reference but from the view that literal meaning is determinate. A second effect is the disappearance of the supposed boundary between linguistic art and linguistic life.

To adapt a figure of W. Anyone wishing to understand the modernist view of the relationship between art and life must understand an earlytwentieth-century view of metaphor. His descriptions are always the most ordinary details, without any capacity for simile or metaphor which is one of the absolute definitions for the literary. But Dickens finds the unexpected detail, the vivid simile. For interesting comment on my view, see Noel Burton-Roberts , who had read a samizdat copy. There has been an extraordinary amount of work on metaphor in the last twenty years—for example, Bergmann , Fogelin , Glucksberg , Johnson , Kittay , Leezenberg , , Ortony , Sacks , Searle , Stern , , , , and Sperber and Wilson b.

None of it makes the point that I want to make here and made in For discussion of my view, see Leezenberg — The joy, the literary joy, is in the local fizz of each detail, and in the relation of each detail to the other, and then in the moral revelation that such similes provide.

He was pursuing an imaginary enemy. He wore only a cowboy hat and the briefest of under-trunks, and he carried a toy shotgun. Suddenly, on becoming aware of me, he was abashed by his near-nakedness and his imaginary game. We might also say that the boy played his game imaginatively.


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When the child announces angrily that he is really a United States marshal, we credit him with an understanding of storytelling as contrasted with lying and the strength of imagination that energized his pursuit of his imaginary villain. But shall we say that he was sincere, even though his tone was serious?

Does the fouryear-old really believe that he is a United States marshal? Surely not. Was he really asserting that he is a United States marshal? Interestingly, one is common-sensically inclined to say that the adults are childishly deluded while saying that the child is culturally sophisticated. Common sense is wrong on both counts, as I shall show in what follows. But what do we know of these literary abilities, powers, motives, and products when we know them all to be imaginative in this sense or these senses?

Have we said anything more than that these literary abilities, powers, motives, and products are. Still, we cannot be too simple at the start, since the obvious is often the unobserved. That novels should be made of words, and merely words, is shocking really. They have a philosophical belief about the literary use of language, a belief shared by the mid-twentieth-century W. Auden, the late-century William Gass, and the early-century Karl Kraus, among others: Auden It is both the glory and the shame of poetry that its medium is not its private property, that a poet cannot invent his words and that words are products, not of nature, but of a human society which uses them for a thousand different purposes.

Every scrap has been worn, every item handled; most of the pieces are dented or split. The writer may choose to be heroic—poets often are—he may strive to purify his diction and achieve an exclusively literary language. Such poets scrub, they clean, they smoothe, they polish, until we can scarcely recognize their words on the page. The use of language in fiction only mimics its use in life.

In poetic language attention is primarily on the words themselves and only secondarily on their communicative use.

Conversational Implicature - Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Linguistics

This attention is focused by special intonation, unusual vocabulary, and startling semantic juxtapositions of words. Of course, there is more to this view than dispassionate linguistic analysis. The laws governing the usual communication of thought must not, lest it be unbearable tyranny, be categorically imposed upon the poet who, beyond the bounds of the accepted forms of language, may find personalized forms of intuitive expression. It is up to him to use them in accord with his creative intuition and without other limits than those imposed by his own inspiration.

It is here that the literary aesthetes join forces with the logical empiricists. Both agree that scientific sentences are true or false and are communicative of thought, whereas poetic sentences are neither true nor false and are emotive. Locke 3. How far this seventeenth-century phrase seems from our self-conscious, post—World War II philosophical rhetoric! Such nonstandard dialects are just as clearly, cognitively communicative as the standard. One cannot conclude that such features make literary language uncommunicative of thought when ordinary language with such features is communicative of thought.

The aesthetic function of a term is incompatible with communicative function. Terms with standard form and meaning function communicatively. If neologisms that functioned aesthetically had standard form and meaning, they would function communicatively. If they functioned communicatively, they would not function aesthetically. Since they do function aesthetically, they do not have standard form and meaning. And, hence, they are not part of standard language. This is a valid argument, but it begs the question.

The distinction between poetic and standard language is just the distinction between aesthetic and communicative terms.

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The question of the intelligibility of the former distinction is the same as that of the latter distinction. Gass 33 Fiction and poetry provide the reader with a new self. Poetry is an art of language; certain combinations of words can produce an emotion that others do not produce, and which we shall call poetic. What kind of emotion is this? I recognize it in myself by this:.

They attract one another, they are connected in ways quite different from the ordinary; they become. Could not a theoretical physicist like Steven Weinberg or a biologist like Stephen Jay Gould, in reading an essay on general relativity or the theory of evolution, experience the same absorption Gass describes? The thesis now goes: poetic language differs from ordinary language because the former produces the poetic state of mind and the latter does not.

Of course, the poetic state is just that state caused by and having as its object poetic language. He characterizes the receptive state as follows: Observe the effect of poetry on yourselves. You will find that at each line the meaning produced within you, far from destroying the musical form communicated to you, recalls it. But there are flowers that fly and all but sing, And now from having ridden out desire They lie closed over in the wind and cling Where wheels have freshly sliced the April mire.

Frost Even in as uncomplicated a structure as this, it is evident that paraphrase into prose loosens the taut connection between sound and sense that makes those words worthy of attention. How would one flatly begin? But even if we adopt a more conventional notion of translation, as Robert Frost did, the criterion is still in difficulty. In the first place, even in the most rarefied poetry, there are some elements which are translatable.

The sound of the words, their rhythmical relations, and all meanings and association of meanings which depend upon sound, like rhymes and puns, are, of course, untranslatable, but poetry is not, like music, pure sound. Any elements in a poem which are not based on verbal experience, are, to some degree, translatable into another tongue, for example, images, similes, and metaphors which are drawn from sensory experience. For good translations of literature not only preserve sense and convey the connotations of the original text, it is possible for them to capture relations of sound and rhythm.

Es brillig war. Let us review. Is there a theoretical distinction to be drawn between metaphorical and ordinary language? Will this distinction do any explanatory, linguistic work? The behavior of this dog is wittily precise in their minds. It nags— shrewishly, wifelike. The air is acidulous, too, like sour wine. Hamlet and Horatio, furthermore, are aware of the physical quality of their words. It is cold.

The wind is out. The wind is alive, malevolent with wise jaws. The two clauses have a very clear relation. The first is metaphorical, the second literal [my emphasis]. Both are about the weather, but one is art, the other not [my emphasis]. We are forced, in what is really a very complicated and very peculiar manner, to infer [the state of the weather] from logical absurdities, strange comparisons, and silly riddles. The speed with which we make our inferences should not deceive us of the fact we make them.

The air bites, therefore the air is alive. The air bites shrewdly, therefore the air is wise. It is eager, so it feels. These deductions, upon the information that it nips, and the immediate conclusion that it nips as dogs nip, give us the dog of the air itself. Air, not being animate, cannot literally have jaws that bite. Thus one standard story goes. A semantical explanation of metaphor will not rest on the notion of ambiguity.

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Consider what one would say the line meant if one confronted the single sentence: The air bites shrewdly. Contrast this with the sequence of lines: The air bites shrewdly; it is very cold. It is a nipping and eager air. The problem is, Why is this special to metaphor? To understand the appropriateness of such an utterance, we construct this argument: if anything cold bites shrewdly, and the air is cold, it follows that the air bites shrewdly.

We infer the premise—viz. This is an inference analogous to what C. We sometimes use metaphors to understand metaphors via their implicata, and thus inference analogous to abduction is essential.

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In fact, the same formal analogy holds of Practical Syllogisms; see Brown and Levinson , and Kenny It is a mistake, though, to think that an analogy is an identity. Interpretative inference is not identical to abductive, explanatory inference. Psychological explanation is not the same as semantic interpretation, I shall claim, contra Grice a and Hobbs et al. Metaphorical understanding is achieved by tapping a whole system of concepts Black c; Lakoff and Johnson Again, the problem is, Why is this special to metaphor?

I am not claiming that the distinction is rather one of degree—tight versus loose—than of kind Sperber and Wilson a , or that it is hard to know how to make it. This distinction is not susceptible to conversion from one of kind to one of degree and still be an intelligible distinction between terms, or of meanings, or of uses of language.

I am claiming that there is no distinction. It is not there to be drawn. And it gives a false picture of the way language functions. These two understandings of the sentence do not constitute an ambiguity. This might be an example, I suppose, of J. Atlas and Levinson 40—41, Atlas a. Of course, the application of the predicate is made easier by its being applied to an entity that possesses all the commonsense stereotypical properties of boys Putnam Also like metaphorical uses, this use of the sentence remains perfectly intelligible.

This use of the sentence satisfies all the traditional criteria of metaphorical use. Young, human hermaphrodites are biologically male just not only male.

Logic, Meaning, and Conversation

What does this mean? It means that the traditional criteria of metaphoricity do not suffice to distinguish between so-called metaphorical and ordinary uses of language. Faced with this consequence, one may assert that, for reasons unknown to ourselves, our traditional characterization of metaphor is faulty and we must look for subtler and more adequate criteria, or one may take a more radical position, which was my choice in There is a deep semantical reason for this similarity in logical type, and for the failure of classical semantical theories to note it.

It has one sense. This special kind of nonambiguity of the word-form boy is pervasive in language and of great theoretical interest. For more on this theme, see Ziff b and Horn b. For more on this theme, see Atlas 7— What Gass and other literary modernists fail to perceive, for philosophical and linguistic reasons of their own, is the theoretical banality of fictive, or ordinary, language, and the theoretical abnormality of factive, or extraordinary, language. The literary modernist aesthetes and the logical empiricists made the same mistake in accepting the language of science as the norm.

The aesthete had the right conception of language and the wrong conception of the imaginative. The positivist had the right conception of the imaginative and the wrong conception of language. Neither got what he wanted, and each got what the other wanted. In a bivalent language the negations are extensionally identical. In a non-bivalent language they diverge. Hanson and B. Russell 9. In doing so I examine the influential views of Jerry Fodor a. I discuss the distinction between semantical nonspecificity and ambiguity in both the visual and the verbal. I discuss the senses in which perceptual mechanisms are inferential in character and introduce the distinction between encapsulated and unencapsulated processes.

Then I turn explicitly to the question whether speech perception is a modular process and criticize the account of Fodor b. I draw on my discussion of visual and verbal nonspecificity to develop an alternative account of speech perception and interpretation of utterances. Described by the Swiss crystallographer L. Necker in , the classic example is a figure we take to display a cube fig. The back face and front face are drawn the same size; thus no size difference—the smaller as the back, the larger as the front—serves to indicate which is the front and which the back.

What is curious is that although we recognize the figure as a cube-picture and not as a truncated pyramid-picture, which the figure would display if we always imposed converging perspective [Hochberg 56—57]—and I can see fig. See also A. Sokal and J. Bricmont and Thomas Nagel Alternately, the figure is seen as a left-directed, downwardprojecting cube seen from above or as a right-directed, upward-projecting cube seen from below.

Occasionally, a viewer will see the figure as just a set of intersecting line segments in the plane. Here is a story that the English psychologist Richard Gregory , , tells: Given a roughly two-dimensional image on the retina, the brain tries to determine what three-dimensional object is being seen, or, what distal three-dimensional object causes the proximal two-dimensional stimulus. Although the retinal image could be the result of any number of different projections onto a plane of any number of different three-dimensional objects, the brain either rejects or never considers odd or complex possibilities.

As the viewer continues to look at the drawing, the seen cube spontaneously flips in and out of the page. Psychologists have described multistable figures as depth-ambiguous. A multistable Necker cube figure is not a figure that manifests distinct perspectival analyses; it is not the outcome of encoding distinct depth cues. Rather, it is constructed without conventional perspectival cues; the construction is depthperspective free. So the figure is neutral with respect to depth perspective. This absence from the construction of the figure of perspectival cues for depth creates the multistability, the spontaneous reversals of depth in what is seen.

An ambiguous sentence does not spontaneously perform semantic flips, overruling the meaning being attended to by the mind. Nor does the grasp of one sense exclude the simultaneous grasp of another sense: one can understand both meanings of a presented two-ways ambiguous sentence. These observations emphasize important differences between the mental processing of an ambiguous phrase and the processing of figure 1.

Haj Ross that a necessary condition of syntactical deletion was sameness of sense of the deleted element with a formally identical element in the sentence. Sentence 9 is ambiguous. Crossed interpretations are not possible as literal meanings of the sentence. The reduced form allows only parallel interpretations as possible meanings. George Lakoff and A. Zwicky and J. Sadock adopt the following two criteria: 1. The impossibility of a crossed, literal paraphrase for a conjunctionreduced sentence S entails the ambiguity of S. The possibility of a crossed, literal paraphrase for a conjunctionreduced sentence S entails the nonambiguity of S.

The distinct, parallel paraphrases do not express distinct senses. One ought to be able to see a conjoined, reduced, double Necker cube drawing so that simultaneously one cube is seen in one perspective and the other cube in the other perspective. If you fill in the two missing edges of that figure, you will discover that you will see two intersecting Necker-cubes in their respective, different perspectives.

One paradigm example of an ambiguous figure is W. Like the alternative readings of an ambiguous sentence that are often unnoticed by listeners in conversation, the alternative displays of an ambiguous figure are often unnoticed by viewers. In both cases, unlike the Necker cube figure, prompting is sometimes necessary before the alternative reading or display is perceived or comprehended. And unlike the Necker cube figure, seeing the figure as a young woman and seeing it as an old woman do not freely, attention-independently alternate, though with attention to different parts of the figure, one can see it as a young woman and then as an old woman.

This is not a neurophysiological claim; this is a perceptual claim about what it is possible to see. This is not typical of spontaneously multistable figures like the Necker cube drawing. Seeing-as can be overridden; it is possible to: See displays two or more simultaneously Grasp senses c.

Nonspecificity: Visual e. See presentations two or more only alternately10 Grasp contents c. Now I want to introduce into my discussion a story from Jerry Fodor: Changes in states of the retina, for example, register changes in the properties of incident light, which are in turn caused by alterations in the arrangement of the distal objects that radiate and reflect the light. To the extent that such proximal effects are specific to their distal causes, cognitive processes with access to the one have grounds for inference to the other.

So, the picture is that certain organic states register the proximal stimuli that cause them, and that certain cognitive processes infer the arrangement of local distal objects from the organic effects of these proximal stimulations. In addition, Fodor holds a Modularity Thesis, according to which the mechanisms that execute these inferences are both dedicated and encapsulated. Why should we conceive of this perceptual process as inferential?

The extra information presumably must come from a store of background knowledge. Hence, it is inferential. The argument is, rather, that perception fixes beliefs about distal objects. If the organic effects—for example, on the retina—represent at all, they represent the proximal stimuli that cause them. Take the case of speech-perception. The result in each case, nearly instantaneously, is, respectively, an understood utterance-type and the perception of a cube-picture.

These processes are notable for the following features: speed; not being consciously accessible; not being voluntary; and at least hypothetically, being algorithmic, in the sense that a computable function succeeds in assigning to an acoustic argument a linguistic value Fodor —52; Fodor c: , b: , Otherwise, these features suggest the use of a dedicated, special-purpose processor rather than the use of a generalized problem solver.

By virtue of those differences in background beliefs, hearers may disagree about what the speaker meant when, in, or by uttering what he uttered, but they will not, ceteris paribus, disagree about the identity of the sentence the speaker uttered Fodor b: The truth of such causal statements skips the part of the story in which I am most interested: the intermediate step of the utterance-type between the acoustic form and the inferred belief of the speaker. This description almost fits the description that I have given.

Fodor ignores this description because he wishes to minimize the importance of the conventionality of language in order to maximize the similarity of sentence perception with ordinary visual perception as he conceives it and, hence, to maximize the significance of causal relations rather than conventional rules. My discussion of the Necker cube drawing suggests that visual perception is more like sentence perception, as I conceive it, than Fodor realizes. Nor is it ambiguous between them. An ambiguous figure would conventionally display both contents; a semantically nonspecific figure conventionally displays neither content—the figure is a conventional drawing of neither an inward-projecting cube nor an outward-projecting cube.

In Atlas I had suggested the existence of previously unnoticed similarities in visual and verbal processing. The relationship between stimuli and interpretation in each respective case shows some strikingly similar properties: semantical nonspecificity versus semantical ambiguity and the mental processing thereof. If I am right about this parallel between visual processing and sentence processing, there should be something in the perception of ordinary physical objects that corresponds to the conventions of language in the perception of sentences.

I think there is. In the information processing of which we are speaking, it plays the same role of constraining the interpretation of retinal data that the grammar plays in constraining the interpretation of the acoustical data. Working out what has been implicated is not a matter of deduction, but of inference to the best explanation. What is to be explained is why the speaker has uttered the words that she did, in the way and in the circumstances that she did.

Grice proposed that rational talk exchanges are cooperative and are therefore governed by a Cooperative Principle CP and conversational maxims: hearers can reasonably assume that rational speakers will attempt to cooperate and that rational cooperative speakers will try to make their contribution truthful, informative, relevant and clear, inter alia, and these expectations therefore guide the interpretation of utterances. On his view, since addressees can infer implicatures, speakers can take advantage of their ability, conveying implicatures by exploiting the maxims.

In contrast, work in linguistic pragmatics has attempted to model their actual derivation. Conversational implicatures typically have a number of interesting properties, including calculability, cancelability, nondetachability, and indeterminacy. These properties can be used to investigate whether a putative implicature is correctly identified as such, although none of them provides a fail-safe test. A further test, embedding, has also been prominent in work on implicatures.


  • A brief history of Britain 1066-1485 : the birth of the nation;
  • Watermark Embedding Mechanism Using Modulus-based for Intellectual Property Protection on Image Data.
  • Toni Morrison (Blooms Modern Critical Views).
  • Geometrisation of 3-manifolds;
  • Comfort and Joy: Cooking for Two.
  • A number of phenomena that Grice treated as implicatures would now be treated by many as pragmatic enrichment contributing to the proposition expressed. Keywords: implicature , conversational implicature , pragmatics , inference , communication , speaker meaning , Grice , relevance theory , neo-Gricean pragmatics.

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