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semantic, pragmatic

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  [in J. Keim Campbell, M. O'Rourke, and D. Shier, eds., Meaning and Truth, New York: Seven Bridges Press (2002), pp. 284-292] SEMANTIC, PRAGMATIC   Kent Bach  The distinction between semantics and pragmatics has received a lot of bad press in recent years. It has been claimed to be faulty, confused, or even nonexistent. However, these claims are based on misconceptions of what the distinction is and of what it takes to show there to be something wrong with it. As I see it, the semantic-pragmatic distinction fundamentally concerns two types of information associated with an utterance of a sentence. Semantic information is encoded in the sentence; pragmatic information is generated by, or at least made relevant by, the act of uttering the sentence. This explains the oddity of such pragmatic contradictions as I am not speaking and It is raining but I don't believe it. In The Semantics-Pragmatics Distinction: What It Is and Why It Matters (Bach 1999a), I develop this conception of the distinction and contrast it with alternatives. Here I will to try clarify that conception by showing how it avoids certain objections. Space will not permit going into much detail on the various linguistic data and theoretical considerations that have been thought to undermine the semantic-pragmatic distinction in one way or another. Historically, this distinction has been formulated in various ways. These formulations have fallen into three main types, depending on which other distinction the semantic-pragmatic distinction was thought to correspond to: + linguistic (conventional) meaning vs. use + truth-conditional vs. non-truth-conditional meaning + context independence vs. context dependence  None of these distinctions does the job. The trouble with the first one is that there are expressions whose literal meanings are related to use. The second distinction is unhelpful because some expressions have meanings that do not contribute to truth-conditional contents. And the third distinction overlooks the fact that there are two kinds of context. This last point deserves elaboration. It is a platitude that what a sentence means generally doesn't determine what a speaker means in uttering it. The gap between linguistic meaning and speaker meaning is said to be filled by context : what the speaker means somehow depends on context, or at least context makes it clear what the speaker means. But there are two quite different sorts of context, and they play quite different roles. What might be called wide context concerns any contextual information that is relevant to determining (in the sense of ascertaining) the speaker's intention. Narrow context concerns information specifically relevant to determining (in the sense of providing) the semantic values of context-sensitive expressions (and morphemes of tense and aspect). Wide context does not literally determine anything. It is the body of mutually evident information that the speaker exploits to make his communicative intention evident and that his audience relies upon, taking him to intend them to do so, to identify that intention.  Another source of confusion is the phrase utterance interpretation. Strictly speaking, sentences (and subsentential expressions), i.e. types not tokens, have semantic properties. Utterances of sentences have pragmatic properties. Also, the term interpretation is ambiguous. It can mean either the formal, compositional determination by the grammar of a language of the meaning of a sentence or the psychological process whereby a person understands a sentence or an utterance of a sentence. Using the phrase utterance interpretation indiscriminately for both tends to confound the issues. My conception of the semantic-pragmatic distinction involves certain asssumptions about semantics and a certain view of communication. I take the semantics of a sentence to be a projection of its syntax. That is, semantic structure is interpreted syntactic structure. Contents of sentences are determined compositionally; they are a function of the contents of the sentence's constituents and their syntactic relations. This leaves open the possibility that some sentences  do not express complete propositions and that some sentences are typically used to convey something more specific than what is predictable from their compositionally determined contents. Also, insofar as sentences are tensed and contain indexicals, their semantic contents are relative to contexts (in the narrow sense). Accordingly, the following distinctions should be recognized: + between a sentence and an utterance of a sentence + between what a sentence means and what it is used to communicate + between what a sentence expresses relative to a context and what a speaker expresses (communicates) by uttering the sentence in a context + between the grammatical determination of what a sentence means and the speaker's inferential determination of what a speaker means (in uttering the sentence)  As for communication, when a speaker utters a sentence in order to convey something, the content of the sentence provides the basis for his audience's inference to what he is conveying and what attitudes he is expressing, e.g., belief in the case of assertion and desire in the case of requesting. In fact, as Bach and Harnish (1979, ch. 3) argue, because types of communicative speech acts may be individuated by the types of attitudes they express, their contents are simply the contents of the attitudes they express. That is one reason why the notion of the content of an utterance of a sentence has no independent theoretical significance. There is just the content of the sentence the speaker is uttering, which, being semantic, is independent of the speaker's communicative intention, and the content of the speaker's communicative intention. When one hears an utterance, one needs to understand the sentence the speaker is uttering in order to figure out the communicative intention with which he is uttering it, but understanding the sentence is independent of context except insofar as there are elements in the sentence whose semantic value are context-relative. Recognizing the speaker's communicative intention is a matter of figuring out the content of that intention on the basis of contextual information in the broad sense. This information does not literally determine that content. In no case does the semantic content of the uttered sentence determine what the speaker is  communicating or, indeed, that he is communicating anything. That he is attempting to communicate something, and what that is, is a matter of his communicative intention, if he has one. If he is speaking literally and means precisely what his words mean, even that is a matter of his communicative intention. Communicative intentions are reflexive in the sense discovered by Grice: a communicative intention is one whose fulfillment consists in its recognition by the audience, partly on the basis that it is intended to be recognized. The role of Grice's maxims, or presumptions as they might better be regarded (Bach and Harnish 1979, pp. 62-65), is to provide inference routes across any gap between what the sentence means and what the speaker aims to be communicating in uttering it. This Gricean view of linguistic communication (it is developed in detail in Bach and Harnish 1979) lends itself to a certain conception of the semantic-pragmatic distinction. This distinction can be drawn with respect to various items, such as ambiguities, contradictions, implications, presuppositions, interpretations, knowledge, processes, rules, and principles, and, of course, semantics and pragmatics are also names for the study of these phenomena. For me the distinction applies fundamentally to types of information. Semantic information is information encoded in what is utteredóstable linguistic features of the sentenceótogether with any extralinguistic information that contributes to the determination of the references of context-sensitive expressions. Pragmatic information is (extralinguistic) information that arises from an actual act of utterance, and is relevant to the hearer's determination of what the speaker is communicating. This way of characterizing pragmatic information generalizes Grice's point that what a speaker implicates in saying what he says is carried not by what he says but by his saying it and sometimes by his saying it in a certain way (1989, p. 39). The act of producing the utterance exploits the information encoded but by its very performance creates new and otherwise invokes extralinguistic information. This extralinguistic information includes the fact that the speaker uttered that   sentence and did so under certain mutually evident circumstances. This is context in the broad sense. Importantly, nonsemantic information is relevant to the hearer's inference to the speaker's intention only insofar as it can reasonably be taken as intended to be taken into account, and that requires the
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