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One popular way of construing silence as a speech act is to appeal to Grice’s account of implicature. It’s worth noting, however, that Grice explicitly rejects this move (see Grice, 1957).
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The workshop from which this exchange originated was funded by the British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship “The Politics of Silence.”
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Brito Vieira, M., Jung, T., Gray, S.W.D. et al. The Nature of Silence and Its Democratic Possibilities. Contemp Polit Theory 18, 424–447 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41296-019-00330-2