UCL Working Papers in Linguistics 10 (1998)

The semantics/pragmatics distinction: a view from relevance theory


The assumption that sentence types encode proposition types was shaken by Donnellan's observation that a sentence with a definite description subject could express either a general or a singular proposition. In other words, a single sentence type could have different truth conditions on different occasions of use. Relevance Theory holds a strong version of this "semantic underdeterminacy" thesis, according to which natural language sentences standardly fall far short of encoding propositions or proposition types. The relevance-driven pragmatic inferential mechanism is part of our "theory of mind" capacity and functions independently of any code; it follows that linguistically encoded utterance meaning need be only schematic.

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