UCL Working Papers in Linguistics 9 (1997)

Relevance-theoretic pragmatics and modularity


An interesting issue for any mentalist approach to pragmatics is whether the utterance comprehension system is an autonomous processor within the overall cognitive system or consists of processes carried out by an unencapsulated central inferencing system. Two approaches to pragmatics which claim to involve modular subsystems in utterance understanding are discussed (Barton's contextual submodules and Kasher's pragmatic competence systems) and their modularity claims are found to be unwarranted. Then, a recent shift within relevance theory towards a modular view of pragmatics is outlined; some of the evidence supporting it, some of the questions it raises and some of its implications are discussed.

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