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It's Been Said Before

By Orin Hargraves

It's Been Said Before "examines why certain phrases become clichés and why they should be avoided -- or why they still have life left in them."

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Sounds Fascinating

By J. C. Wells

How do you pronounce biopic, synod, and Breughel? - and why? Do our cake and archaic sound the same? Where does the stress go in stalagmite? What's odd about the word epergne? As a finale, the author writes a letter to his 16-year-old self.

Academic Paper

Title: Shared assumptions: Semantic minimalism and Relevance Theory
Author: Daniel Wedgwood
Institution: University of Edinburgh
Linguistic Field: Linguistic Theories; Philosophy of Language; Semantics
Abstract: Cappelen & Lepore (2005, 2006a, 2007) note that linguistic communication requires ‘shared content’ and claim that Relevance Theory makes content sharing impossible. This criticism rests upon two important errors. The first is a flawed understanding of Relevance Theory, shown in the application of an omniscient third party perspective to parts of Relevance Theory that depend only upon subjective judgements made by the addressee of an utterance. The second is confusion about different definitions of content. Cappelen & Lepore's evidence actually involves the communication of what they term Speech Act content, which need not be perfectly ‘shared’ according to their own position. Looking beyond this flawed criticism, a general comparison of Relevance Theory with Cappelen & Lepore's semantic minimalism reveals significant parallels, pointing to a notable convergence of two distinct approaches – one cognitive-pragmatic, the other philosophical-semantic – on the rejection of currently dominant assumptions in linguistic semantics. The key remaining difference is Cappelen & Lepore's claim that shared content is propositional. This contradicts other claims made for such content and in any case plays no active role in the explanation of communication. Cappelen & Lepore's position thus poses no threat to Relevance Theory; rather, Relevance Theory can benefit from their philosophical analysis of the state of semantic theory.


This article appears IN Journal of Linguistics Vol. 43, Issue 3.

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