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date: 08 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

The debate between contextualists and semantic minimalists about meaning/content is one that matters most to philosophers of language, even though the debate is not solely a philosophical one. There are at least three ways of casting the debate. Firstly, it can be cast as one about how and when semantic and pragmatic mental resources are used during ordinary conversational exchanges. This debate utilizes theories and methodologies from psychology. Secondly, it can be framed in terms of the logic of natural languages and how to incorporate context sensitivity into a formal, compositional model of natural-language sentence-level meaning. Thirdly, it can be approached from an analytic philosophy of language perspective, with the aim of clarifying various crucial concepts, such as the concepts of saying and implicating, using a priori methods. Ideally, these domains of research will produce outcomes that cohere with each other. This essay surveys recent progress in these three domains.

Keywords: context sensitivity, implicatures, indexicals, pragmatic modulation, semantic underdetermination

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