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Semantics versus Pragmatics$
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Zoltan Gendler Szabo

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780199251520

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199251520.001.0001

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Naming and Asserting

Naming and Asserting

(p.356) 9 Naming and Asserting
Semantics versus Pragmatics

Scott Soames (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter draws a distinction between the semantic content of a sentence, and the assertive content of a normal, literal utterance of it. Semantic content is a set of constraints that determines a class of structural enrichments of the minimal proposition, or proposition-matrix, satisfying the constraints. Pragmatic aspects of the context determine which propositions in this class are then asserted. Even when the constraints determine a complete minimal proposition (traditionally identified as the semantic content), it is not always asserted, and, whether or not it is, other propositions typically are. Examples involving linguistically simple, as well as partially descriptive, names are used to illustrate the view — which has the effect of reconciling certain Fregean intuitions about assertions and beliefs with a Millian semantics of names.

Keywords:   semantic content, assertive content, minimal proposition, partially descriptive name, Millian semantics, pragmatics

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