An application of Relevance Theory
Michael Dummett has nicely expressed a rather widespread doctrine about the primacy of sentences. He writes: "you cannot DO anything with a word — cannot effect any conventional (linguistic) act by uttering it — save by uttering some sentence containing that word ...". In this paper we argue that this doctrine is mistaken: it is not only sentences, but also ordinary words and phrases which can be used in isolation. The argument involves two steps. First: we show — using Sperber and Wilson's relevance theory — that an utterance of "John's father" could COMMUNICATE a proposition. Second: we point out that, in this context, this proposition would be asserted rather than merely implicated. Because there is nothing importantly idiosyncratic about the phrase "John's father", we infer that words and phrases generally can be used in isolation to make assertions.
Cited by 30 other publications
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