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Ever since antiquity, people have been fascinated by the power of words. But only recently have we come to the insight that this power is not a unique property of the individual speaker(s), the language user(s), but that the user only can exercise this faculty on the conditions of the society that he or she is a member of. The article will look at this problem from the point of view of ancient history, from the more recent standpoint of the philosophy of language, and finally discuss the relationship between societal conditions and the affordances and limitations of modern language users. In particular, emphasis will be placed on the dialectic character of language use, that is to say, the reciprocal influence that society and the user exert on one another in and through language. Pragmatics, as the science of language in use, is shown to be a science of the social use of language, rather than merely a science of words and phrases, as they are put together more or less correctly, and studied in grammars. The article concludes with pointing to the emancipatory opportunities that a social pragmatics has to offer the user.
Do words have literal meaning? Can a sentence express meaning in virtue of itself? Or is meaning (and nonsense) genuinely context dependent? In this paper we try to combine what we take to be two plausible intuitions about meaning by arguing that meaning must be understood as essentially dispositional. The words we use contribute to meaning in the sense that they tend towards a particular meaning without guaranteeing that this meaning actually gets conveyed. Meaning will depend on contextual factors beyond the words themselves, such as utterers intention, the situation that the words are uttered within, and the hearers background information. A result of a dispositional understanding of meaning is that words cannot be said to express meaning or nonsense in virtue of themselves.
This paper assumes Sperber and Wilsons relevance-theoretic view of the relationship between the linguistically encoded meaning of sentences and the explicitly communicated propositional contents of utterances of sentences, as represented in the minds of the communicator and the addressee. Relevance Theory (RT) takes the coded logical form of a sentence to be a conceptual template that is subject to pragmatically informed modification, including conceptual completion triggered by linguistic markers in the sentence itself and free enrichment of a global sort. The currently approved RT view entails that context-independent logical forms can be expanded into context-dependent mental representations that are truth-conditionally fully specified, and that no semantic material in the logical form can be lost so that it fails to serve as part of the input to compositional semantics. I am arguing against the current RT view that prohibits loss of any encoded conceptual material. Kaplans direct reference (DR) philosophy is argued to be correct in not ascribing a semantic role to the descriptive part of noun phrases that are used referentially, but my own justification for not entering the descriptive part of definite and demonstrative noun phrases into the truth-conditional content of utterances is not quite the same as that of the DR philosophers.
In this paper I address the topics of the pragmatics of rumours and gossip, on the one hand, and the question of unwarranted questions, on the other. I briefly introduce the case of Bill Clinton who got asked by the press about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, before I turn to an analysis of rumours and gossip. Sometimes lack of openness gives rise to rumours and gossip, while other times it is enough that something is mentioned for it to give rise to rumours and gossip. In the last part of the paper I show that the presss questions about Monica Lewinsky were unwarranted, unwarranted questions understood as questions about topics you are not in a position to inquire about. I argue that since merely mentioning something can give rise to rumours and gossip, for example by asking a unwarranted question, and the questions about Lewinsky were unwarranted, it would have been (morally) permissible for Clinton to lie to the press regarding his affair with Monica Lewinsky.
This article adresses interpreter mediated communication in public service in Norway. Light is shed on this particular form of communication through theoretical perspectives from pragmatics and examples from empirically based research on police interviews and court room hearings. The problematic nature of different communication practices in public sector is discussed. Furthermore, the article demontrates that these different communication practices may have serious social effects, as they may deprive some people of their fundamental human rights in the Norwegian legal system.