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date: 15 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

A cognitive-scientific approach to the pragmatic interpretive ability is presented, according to which it is seen as a specific cognitive system dedicated to the interpretation of ostensive stimuli, that is, verbal utterances and other overtly communicative acts. This approach calls for a dual construal of semantics. The semantics which interfaces with the pragmatic interpretive system is not a matter of truth-conditional content, but of whatever components of meaning (lexical and syntactic) are encoded by the language system (independent of any particular use of the system by speakers in specific contexts). This linguistically provided meaning functions as evidence that guides and constrains the addressee’s pragmatic inferential processes whose goal is the recovery of the speaker’s intended meaning. Speakers communicate thoughts (explicatures and implicatures)—that is, fully propositional (truth-evaluable) entities—and it is these that are the proper domain of a truth-conditional (referential) semantics.

Keywords: pragmatics module, ostensive stimuli, communicative development, evolution of pragmatics, theory of mind, encoded meaning, linguistic semantics, explicature, truth-conditional semantics

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