Vol. 21:1 (2013) ► pp.1–34
The calculability of communicative intentions through pragmatic reasoning
We provide conceptual and empirical support for the core tenet in pragmatic theory that speakers make their communicative intention about the pragmatic meaning of their utterances recognizable to hearers. First, we attribute skepticism about this tenet to conceptualizing communicative intentions as private cognitive states that hearers cannot reliably discern. We show it is more parsimonious to conceptualize communicative intention as arising from communally shared knowledge of discursive means to ends that is the basis for pragmatic reasoning about utterance meaning by speaker and hearer alike. Second, we address skepticism based on experiments interpreted as finding an egocentric bias where people regard communicative intentions as more obvious to others than they are. We report two original experiments we carried out that found that participants as third party observers and as communicators routinely engaged in pragmatic reasoning about the meaning of utterances in context that took others’ perspectives into account.
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