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Nicholas Allott considers how relevance theory can be seen as responding to doubts about the possibility of any kind of systematic pragmatic theory. He considers three sceptical positions: Fodor’s argument that pragmatic processes are not amenable to scientific study because they are unencapsulated (highly context-sensitive), Chomsky’s claim that human intentional action is a mystery rather than a scientifically tractable problem, and a third view which maintains that intentional communication is too complex for systematic study. Allott argues that work in relevance theory can be seen as successfully challenging these sceptical views and he gives concrete examples of its achievements.
The chapter addresses the concept of ‘explicature’, a notion which has been central to relevance theory from its inception and which introduced a radically new way of thinking about explicitly communicated meaning and about the semantics–pragmatics distinction. Victoria Escandell-Vidal focuses here on how utterances of particular expressions in Spanish (some occurrences of the verb estar and some uses of 3rd-person imperfective forms) lead to ‘higher-level’ explicatures expressing a speaker’s evidential commitment. She argues that the evidential meaning does not arise from the semantic composition of linguistically encoded content but rather emerges as the optimal solution to a ‘feature mismatch’ between two components of encoded meaning.
In this chapter, Jacques Moeschler addresses some complex issues about the function of negation and its interaction with metarepresentation. He identifies three distinct uses of negation, namely, descriptive negation and two kinds of metarepresentational negation (one metalinguistic, the other presupposition-cancelling), which differ in their semantic entailments. His key claim is that all three of them have what he calls ‘representational’ (or propositional) effects on the context, specifically the elimination and/or the strengthening of existing assumptions, albeit different for each of the uses.
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