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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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In Defense of Non-Sentential Assertion

In Defense of Non-Sentential Assertion

Chapter:
(p.383) 10 In Defense of Non-Sentential Assertion
Source:
Semantics versus Pragmatics
Author(s):

Robert J. Stainton (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199251520.003.0011

This chapter introduces a pragmatics-oriented approach to non-sentential speech, and defends it against two recent attacks. Among other things, it rehearses and elaborates a defence against the idea that much, or even all, of such speech is actually syntactically elliptical — and hence should be treated semantically, rather than pragmatically. The chapter is structured as follows. Section 1 introduces the phenomenon, contrasts semantic versus pragmatic approaches to it, and explains some of what hinges on which approach is taken. Section 2 presents Jason Stanley's objections to the pragmatics-oriented approach, and his counterproposal that all truth-conditional effects of context on what is asserted can be traced to elements of underlying structure. Section 3 canvasses numerous varieties of ellipsis. It focuses on what kind of ‘ellipsis’ is required if the pragmatics-oriented approach is actually to be rejected rather than being recast in other terms. Section 4 responds to Stanley, and shows that the two known varieties of ellipsis which would turn the trick for the semantics-oriented approach are not empirically plausible when applied to the cases in question. In further defence of this conclusion, Section 5 presents a family of syntactic arguments — from Peter Ludlow and others — in favour of ellipsis (and a concomitant semantics-based approach), and replies to these latter arguments. Section 6 returns explicitly to issues of the semantics-pragmatics boundary and draws some larger lessons about what sub-sentential speech does and does not entail, including what it does not entail vis-à-vis the distinctiveness of linguistic communication, and the viability of truth-conditional semantics.

Keywords:   elipsis, Jason Stanley, Peter Ludlow

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