Relevance and Linguistic Meaning: The Semantics and Pragmatics of Discourse Markers

By Diane Blakemore | Go to book overview

1
Meaning and truth

1.1 Introduction

The expressions which occupy centre stage throughout this book have played a number of different roles. In this part of the book, we shall examine the role they have played in the move towards a non-unitary theory of meaning. As we shall see, this move is itself not always a move towards the same sort of distinction, and the purpose of this and the following two chapters is to tease these distinctions apart, and to argue for a distinction between two kinds of meaning that is grounded in human cognition.

For many writers, this distinction is the distinction between semantics and pragmatics, and the significance of the expressions which I am calling discourse connectives lies in the role they have played in arguments for the existence of pragmatic meaning. Chapter 2 will examine the attempts that have been made to develop the notion of pragmatic meaning within the framework of speech act theory. This chapter focusses on the view of semantics which underlies the argument that expressions such as but and well have pragmatic meaning rather than semantic meaning.

This view is implicit in Gazdar's (1979) definition of pragmatics:

PRAGMATICS = MEANING MINUS TRUTH CONDITIONS

(Gazdar 1979:2)

According to this view, discourse connectives such as but must have pragmatic meaning rather than semantic meaning because they do not contribute to the truth conditional content of the utterances that contain them. And indeed, this is usually believed to be the case. For example, Rieber's (1997) analysis of but is based on the assumption that the suggestion that there is a contrast between the two segments of (1) is due to the presence of but, but that the truth of (1) depends only on the truth of the proposition in (2):

(1) Sheila is rich but she is unhappy.

(2) Sheila is rich and she is unhappy.

-12-

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Relevance and Linguistic Meaning: The Semantics and Pragmatics of Discourse Markers
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgements viii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Meaning and Truth 12
  • 2 - Non-Truth Conditional Meaning 32
  • 3 - Relevance and Meaning 59
  • 4 - Procedural Meaning 89
  • 5 - Relevance and Discourse 149
  • Conclusion 184
  • Bibliography 186
  • General Index 193
  • Name Index 198
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