Semantic and pragmatic theories tend to deal with context-change in two radically opposing ways. Some view it as theoretically irrelevant, interpreting each sentence relative to the context as it happens to be at the moment of its utterance. Others view it as theoretically fundamental, proposing to view context-change as the very subject-matter of the theory of interpretation. Robert Stalnaker’s book Context steers a middle course between the extremes–to keep the semantics mostly static while letting the pragmatics go mostly dynamic. Within his framework, context-change matters because interpretation is sometimes prospective, relying not on the context as it is at the time of utterance but on the context as it is anticipated to be somewhat later. This paper critically examines how Stalnaker makes use of prospective interpretation in accounting for accommodation and in capturing the insights of expressivism.
KeywordsAccommodation Context Expressivism Presupposition Speech acts
Thanks to Mike Deigan, Tamar Szabó Gendler, Kate Stanton, and Jason Stanley for their comments. Special thanks to the participants of the UConn workshop on Context for discussion. Extra special thanks to Bob Stalnaker for his response to an earlier draft at the same workshop.
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