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Contextual effects on explicature

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Optional pragmatics or optional syntax?

image of International Review of Pragmatics

The debate between advocates of free pragmatic enrichment and those who maintain that any pragmatic contribution to explicature is mediated by a covert linguistic indexical took a new turn with the claim that these covert elements may be optional (Martí, 2006). This prompted the conclusion (Recanati, 2010b) that there is no longer any issue of substance between the two positions, as both involve optional elements of utterance meaning, albeit registered at different representational levels (conceptual or linguistic). We maintain, on the contrary, that the issue remains substantive and we make the case that, for a theory of the processes involved in utterance comprehension, the free pragmatic enrichment account is indispensable. We further argue that the criticism of free enrichment that motivates at least some indexicalist accounts rests on a mistaken assumption that it is the semantic component of the grammar (linguistic competence) that is responsible for delivering truth-conditional content (explicature).

Affiliations: 1: University College London, UK ; 2: De Montfort University, Leicester, UK


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