Cognitive Pragmatics and Evolutionism

  • Antonino Pennisi
  • Alessandra Falzone
Part of the Perspectives in Pragmatics, Philosophy & Psychology book series (PEPRPHPS, volume 20)


In this paper we put forward an evolutionary hypothesis on the role of pragmatics. We are perfectly aware that the definition of the term “evolutionary” is controversial. The matter gets worse when we apply the term to pragmatics, which in turn is not a homogeneous area of research.

Here we argue that pragmatics need to avoid taking two opposite attitudes. The first one is to passively embrace the variability of cultural contexts, and the endless proliferation of their “ad hoc” rules, which would jeopardise any scientific aspiration. The second one is to comply with the principles of logical formalism; such operation would in fact excessively restrict the number of real explicable phenomena, as has already happened with some analytical philosophical approach or, over the last century, with Chomskyan Universal Grammar.

An evolutionarily oriented cognitive pragmatics might escape both traps by establishing a finite number of natural mental procedures that could explain the core principles of any species-specific social behavior.

This approach is based on our attempt to figure out whether contemporary pragmatics is culturally oriented or not, and on the existence of pragmatic studies that rely on naturalistic explanations.

Finally, we will argue that a biologically grounded account is necessary in order to furnish a scientific ground even to the most extreme cultural approaches to pragmatics. This would allow pragmatics to enter the cognitive science’s paradigm, which is considered today the best way to unify human and natural sciences.


Naturalistic pragmatics Biolinguistics Darwinian biolinguistics 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Antonino Pennisi
    • 1
  • Alessandra Falzone
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Cognitive ScienceUniversity of MessinaMessinaItaly

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