Institut Jean Nicod

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Emanuel Viebahn, "Speaker Intentions and Semantic Content"

The meetings take place on Tuesdays, from 12:00 to 14:00 in the salle de réunion, 29 rue d’Ulm, Pavillon Jardin

December 11, 2012 : Emanuel Viebahn (visitor from Oxford University) ; "Speaker Intentions and Semantic Content"

Abstract :

This talk will deal with the role of speaker intentions in semantic theories. It is widely held that the semantic content in context of many indexicals (e.g. of demonstratives and gradable adjectives) is determined by the speaker’s intentions. I will argue that even the best-developed version of this view, due to King (forthcoming), is unsatisfactory. I will discuss a number of cases in which it either predicts unintuitive semantic content or demands too much of speakers and their intentions. This will lead me to argue that speaker intentions should generally be kept out of semantics. I will then consider alternatives to intention-sensitive semantics and will end by proposing a new version of non-propositional semantic minimalism. On this view, the semantic content of many sentences is a propositional fragment that systematically constrains, but does not determine, the proposition a literal speaker can communicate.