Multiple Word Meanings, Pragmatics and the Lexicon (Seminar)


Seminar on Language and Communication


Friday, October 6 2017, 10:30 AM


Institute for Logic, Cognition, Language and Information (ILCLI)UPV-EHU

Robyn Carston (Linguistics, University College London).

Venue: Carlos Santamaria Zentroa, Room A 2


It's a virtual truism that (substantive) words can be, and often are, used to communicate different senses (concepts) on different occasions of use, and that we, therefore, need to make a distinction between a word's standing meaning and its occasion-specific senses. According to some recent views, a word's meaning is ‘semantically underspecified': it does not specify a concept/sense which can contribute directly to truth conditions, but is either too rich or too meagre and has to be transformed in some way before it can express a specific semantic content. Focussing on the phenomenon of polysemy, I discuss the underspecification options on offer and find problems with all of them.
I propose a different sort of account, one which requires making a distinction between the kind of lexicon that features in a narrow construal of language (I-language, as in the generative grammar tradition) and the lexicon of the broader public language system, a repository of communicative devices, which are both inputs to and outputs of the inferential pragmatic system.

(Attendance is free, but it should be notified in advance to