Syntax-Semantics Reading Group, 11/24 — Eliot Michaelson.

Who: Eliot Michaelson (Philosophy. McGill)

What: “Against Salientism”.

Both philosophers of language and linguists commonly appeal to salience in order to fix the meanings of context-sensitive terms in context.  By considering the particular case of demonstratives, I will argue that the claim that salience fixes meaning in context is either trivial and uninformative, or else it is false.  To show this, it will prove necessary to distinguish between four different types of salience: objective, speaker-oriented, listener-oriented, and coordinative.  Objective salience, I argue, is in fact conceptually incoherent.  The other three notions, on the other hand, make bad predictions in a number of cases.  On this basis, I suggest that salience-based theories ought to be dispreferred to the alternative hypothesis —that speakers’ intentions are in fact responsible for fixing meaning in context.

When:  Friday, November 29, 2013, 3:00-4:30 pm. (Room 117)

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