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The relevance of words and the language/communication divide

Carston, Robyn; (2023) The relevance of words and the language/communication divide. Frontiers in Psychology , 14 , Article 1187343. 10.3389/fpsyg.2023.1187343. Green open access

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Abstract

First, the wide applicability of the relevance-theoretic pragmatic account of how new (ad hoc) senses of words and new (ad hoc) words arise spontaneously in communication/comprehension is demonstrated. The lexical pragmatic processes of meaning modulation and metonymy are shown to apply equally to simple words, noun to verb ‘conversions’, and morphologically complex cases with non-compositional (atomic) meanings. Second, this pragmatic account is situated within a specific view of the cognitive architecture of language and communication, with the formal side of language, its recursive combinatorial system, argued to have different developmental, evolutionary and cognitive characteristics from the meaning side of language, which is essentially pragmatic/communicative. Words straddle the form/meaning (syntax/pragmatics) divide: on the one hand, they are phrasal structures, consisting of a root and variable numbers of functors, with no privileged status in the syntax; on the other hand, they are salient to language users as basic units of communication and are stored as such, in a communication lexicon, together with their families of related senses, which originated as cases of pragmatically derived (ad hoc) senses but have become established, due to their communicative efficacy and frequency of use. Third, in an attempt to find empirical evidence for the proposed linguistic form-meaning divide, two very different cases of atypical linguistic and communicative development are considered: autistic children and deaf children who develop Homesign. The morpho-syntax (the formal side of language) appears to unfold in much the same way in both cases and is often not much different from that of typically developing children, but they diverge markedly from each other in their communication/pragmatics and their development of a system (a lexicon) of meaningful words/signs.

Type: Article
Title: The relevance of words and the language/communication divide
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2023.1187343
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2023.1187343
Language: English
Additional information: © 2023 Carston. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
Keywords: Lexical pragmatics, relevance theory, metonymy, root-based syntax, non-compositional meaning, communicational lexicon, form/meaning divide, decoded linguistic meaning
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Linguistics
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10171286
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