Speakers’ Intuitive Judgements about Meaning – The Voice of Performance View

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Abstract

Speakers’ intuitive judgements about meaning provide important data for many debates in philosophy of language and pragmatics, including contextualism vs. relativism in semantics; ‘faultless’ disagreement; the limits of truth-conditional semantics; vagueness; and the status of figurative utterances. Is the use of speakers intuitive judgments about meaning justified? Michael Devitt (2012, 2013) has argued that their use in philosophy of language is problematic because they are fallible empirical judgements about language that reflect speakers’ folk theories about meaning rather than meaning itself. In this paper I respond to Devitt’s criticism and propose a positive account explaining the nature and evidential status of such judgements. I argue that speakers’ intuitive judgements about meanings of utterances provide valuable evidence for various debates in philosophy of language because they are importantly (causally) connected to the linguistic performance of speakers. Arguably, the connection is reliable due to a constant monitoring of the interpretations ascribed to linguistic utterances. I call this the voice of performance view. My account restores prominence to speakers’ intuitive judgements about meaning while avoiding Devitt’s worries.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Science StudiesAarhus UniversityAarhus CDenmark
  2. 2.Centre for the Study of Mind in Nature (CSMN)University of OsloOsloNorway

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