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Dissimilarities in Perspective: a Reply to Kjøll

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Relevance theorists have claimed that successful communication need result only in similarity, not identity, of mental representations across communicator and addressee. Cappelen and Lepore have criticised this stance, partly on the basis that any definition of similarity must make reference to identity. Accepting this point, Kjøll (2010) argued in this journal that Relevance Theory has an appropriate notion of identical "shared content", in the shape of relevant contextual implications. While this is convincing on a technical level, Relevance Theory owes no such concessions to Cappelen and Lepore, and Kjøll's observations would in any case fail to meet their theoretical requirements. This relates to an important but under-appreciated distinction in analytical perspective that is instantiated in the difference between the cognitive pragmatics of Relevance Theory and the philosophical-semantic approach of Cappelen and Lepore – a distinction that is worthy of further reflection, having significant implications for linguistic theory, within and beyond pragmatics.


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