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