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Pragmatics and the explicit-implicit distinction

Carston, Robyn; (1998) Pragmatics and the explicit-implicit distinction. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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A conception of the semantics/pragmatics distinction as coextensive with a distinction between two types of cognitive process, decoding and inference, is defended. The main purpose of the thesis is to investigate a different but apparently related distinction, that between what is explicitly communicated and what is implicitly communicated. Views surveyed include Grice's original saying/implicating distinction, certain subsequent adjustments to his conception, and the explicature/implicature distinction developed within the cognitively-based Relevance Theory approach to utterance interpretation, the approach adopted in the thesis. A strong essentialist view of linguistic underdeterminacy is taken; that is, the encoded content of an utterance always and necessarily underdetermines the proposition it is used to express. It is argued that recovery of the proposition explicitly communicated by a speaker requires not only disambiguation, reference assignment and essential completion processes, but also adjustments (strengthenings and loosenings) of concepts encoded in the utterance and decisions concerning whether the speaker intends her utterance to be taken descriptively (as representing the external world) or meta-representationally (as representing some other representation). This account has a range of consequences. One of these is that certain aspects of utterance meaning which have been treated as conversational implicatures by Griceans emerge as aspects of explicitly communicated assumptions. Another is that indeterminacy, recognised as characteristic of implicatures, is shown to be a pervasive feature of explicatures too. A third result is that within the sort of cognitive account employed here the explicit/implicit distinction is merely a derivational distinction; that is, it is a distinction between two means by which a hearer may derive utterance meaning: by developing an encoded logico-semantic form or by pragmatic inference alone. The properties of an utterance that have real import for the interpreter are the degree of strength with which particular assumptions are communicated and the locus of relevance (cognitive effects), both of which, it is argued, crosscut the explicature/implicature distinction. In the course of developing these ideas, new semantic-pragmatic accounts of a range of key linguistic phenomena are given, including 'and'-conjunction, negation (including metalinguistic negation), and loose (including metaphorical) uses of expressions.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Pragmatics and the explicit-implicit distinction
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10100579
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