Philosophical Studies

, Volume 174, Issue 6, pp 1617–1627 | Cite as

Pragmatic force in semantic context

  • Elisabeth CampEmail author


Stalnaker’s Context deploys the core machinery of common ground, possible worlds, and epistemic accessibility to mount a powerful case for the ‘autonomy of pragmatics’: the utility of theorizing about discourse function independently of specific linguistic mechanisms. Illocutionary force lies at the peripherybetween pragmatics—as the rational, non-conventional dynamics of context change—and semantics—as a conventional compositional mechanism for determining truth-conditional contents—in an interesting way. I argue that the conventionalization of illocutionary force, most notably in assertion, has important crosscontextual consequences that are not fully captured by a specification of dynamic effects on common ground. More generally, I suggest that Stalnaker’s purely informational, propositional analysis of both semantic content and dynamic effects distorts our understanding of the function of language, especially of the real-world commitments and consequences engendered by robustly ‘expressive’ language like slurs, honorifics, and thick terms.

Semantics Pragmatics Illocutionary force Expressivism Truth-conditional content 


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyRutgers UniversityNew BrunswickUSA

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