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LINGUIST List 18.1562

Tue May 22 2007

Disc: RE: Semantic vs. Pragmatic Interpretation

Editor for this issue: Ann Sawyer <sawyerlinguistlist.org>

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        1.    Ahmad R. Lotfi, RE: Semantic vs. Pragmatic Interpretation

Message 1: RE: Semantic vs. Pragmatic Interpretation
Date: 19-May-2007
From: Ahmad R. Lotfi <arlotfiyahoo.com>
Subject: RE: Semantic vs. Pragmatic Interpretation

In response to the query by Arash Golzari posted as 
José-Luis Guijarro wrote:

''[T]he real way we proceed is (1) We try to make sense of whatever
stimulus we notice, (2) We decode the meaning of the sentence that may be
the gist of this stimulus, (3) We accept it if it seems relevant for us.
In other words: We start with pragmatic inferencing from premises offered
by (1) our chosen context AND (2) from those offered by the decoded meaning
of the sentence uttered, checking its relevance and if it's ok, then we
don't look for more. If not, we try again.''

I understand this as saying that relevance is something on our pragmatic
menu we need to check, and that we do so quite late in the process of
interpretation. This, however, seems to be radically different from Wilson
and Sperber's (1986, 1995) own formulation of relevance: For W&S, ''every
act of ostensive communication communicates a *presumption* (emphasis mine)
of relevance'', which means that we don't ''follow'' the principle of
relevance (as it would apply without exception), and that the principle
doesn't serve as a final checkpoint but as a first step in one's
interpretation of the intended speaker meaning: taken for granted that the
speaker is sane when they communicate ostensively, we assume that what the
speaker says is relevant, and then, and only then, we make an attempt to
assign an interpretation to what we hear. As such, relevance causally
precedes the hearer's interpretation of the speaker's utterance. It is more
than a mere test tube for one's interpretation of meaning.


Ahmad R. Lotfi
Azad University at Esfahan

Linguistic Field(s): Cognitive Science

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