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Do we need specifically linguistic semantics?

Sztencel, Magdalena (2012) Do we need specifically linguistic semantics? Newcastle Working Papers in Linguistics, 18. pp. 73-92.

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Abstract

Gibbs (2002) argues that there is no psycholinguistic evidence for the existence of linguistic semantics at the sentence or word level. I provide theoretical arguments in support of Gibbs’ view with reference to Relevance Theory’s distinction between lexical and ad hoc concepts. I argue that positing linguistic semantics and the process of deterministic decoding of such content is (i) problematic and (ii) unnecessary in constraining and explaining meaning in language. After discussing some problems with the nature and acquisition of linguistic semantics(i), I argue (ii) that the posited process of deterministic decoding of lexical concepts is redundant in loose use, cases of so-called concept narrowing and where the communicated
concept is the same as the assumed lexical concept, i.e. in pretty much all cases. I argue that there is no linguistic semantics and that utterance interpretation is a wholly
pragmatic inferential process. I defend my view by dismissing two potential criticisms: (a) If words do not have meaning in virtue of encoding linguistic semantics as their constitutive property, then how do they mean?; (b) If there is no linguistic semantics constraining word use, then how do we ever communicate successfully? I argue that Burton-Roberts’ (in press) definition of meaning-as-relation invalidates criticism (a) and that Hintzman’s(1986)
multiple trace theory of memory and information retrieval invalidates (b).

Item Type: Article
Status: Published
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
School/Department: School of Languages & Linguistics
URI: http://ray.yorksj.ac.uk/id/eprint/1062

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