Philosophy of Language

Lecturers: Salvatore Pistoia-Reda, ZAS Berlin / Università degli Studi di Siena, and Mihaela Popa-Wyatt, ZAS Berlin
Room: 1.404

Logicality (Pistoia-Reda)

In this seminar, we will discuss the thesis that language includes a deductive system to draw inferences from the structures. In current linguistics work, this thesis is often referred to as the «Logicality of Language» proposal (cf. e.g. Gajewski 2008; Chierchia 2013. Cf. also von Fintel 1993). Main evidence in favour of this proposal includes observation that some analytic sentences result in ungrammaticality effects, arguably on account of their analytic status. In our discussion, we will present the proposal in some details, including with formal analysis of the crucial cases. In addition, we will provide a philosophical analysis of the notion of analyticity and we will try to connect the logicality proposal with  classical discussion on analyticity (cf. e.g. Carnap  1936; Quine 1960. Cf. Chierchia 2013). In the second part of the seminar, we will discuss scalar implicatures. This phenomenon, traditionally understood as being an exemplum of Gricean reasoning (cf. Grice 1989; Horn 1989; Geurts 2010), has been recently reassigned to the semantic level of composition (cf. Chierchia 2006; Fox 2007; Chierchia et al. 2012). We will discuss the interaction between grammatical approaches to scalar implicatures and the logicality of language proposal. Special emphasis will be put on the contextual blindness of scalar implicatures, i.e. the property whereby scalar implicatures do not access to contextual knowledge and, as a result, contextual contradiction can be generated as scalar implicatures. 

Philosophy (Popa-Wyatt)

Language is a powerful tool. It not only conveys information, but changes social relations. This includes the capacity to harm others, which will be the focus of this course. We will cover pejoratives, slurs, hate speech, sexist and racist language, generics, and code words such as ‘dogwhistles’. Because of the nature of the topic, the course will take the approach of philosophy of language rather than one based on formal semantics.

We will cover the following questions: 

  1. How shall we theorise about the role of attitude-expression and their place with respect to the semantics/pragmatics distinction?
  2. What kind of speech-acts are performed with slurring acts, sexist speech and generic speech?
  3. What role does such speech play in oppression and what does this tell us about the nature of meaning?
  4. How does slurring speech contribute to imposing and reinforcing imbalanced power relations?
Course material

Mon Aug 5th

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    The «Logicality of Language» proposal

Tue Aug 6th

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    Analyticity and philosophy

Wed Aug 7th

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    Grammatical scalar implicatures

Thu Aug 8th

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    Scalar implicatures and contextual blindness

Fri Aug 9th

Mon Aug 12th

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    Overview. Categories of pejoratives and hate speech. Relationship with moral terms

Tue Aug 13th

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    Expressivism. Pejoratives as attitude expression. Expressivist semantics

Wed Aug 14th

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    Slurs 1: Data on offence. Variable offence. Semantic vs Pragmatic theories

Thu Aug 15th

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    Slurs 2: Conversational games. Game theory. Game theoretic models of slurs

Fri Aug 16th