MoL-2009-01: Normativity and interaction: from ethics to semantics

MoL-2009-01: Crespo, María Inés (2009) Normativity and interaction: from ethics to semantics. [Report]

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Judgments about semantic (in)correctness in natural language occur in our daily conversations. Regarding a speaker or interpreter, we can make an assessment of her use or interpretation of an expression with respect to that expression~s linguistic meaning. Judgments about semantic (in)correctness steer our behaviour in conversations. An interpreter who considers that the speaker has made a semantic mistake, or who doubts whether she understands the speaker properly, can indicate her hesitation, make a polite comment or simply protest. The same can happen with a speaker who regards the interpreter~s understanding of her utterance as faulty. A witness can also interrupt a conversation to warn the participants about the blunder. Judgments about semantic (in)correctness stand in need of justification. Anyone, witness or participant of the dialogue, has a right to ask for reasons supporting the (dis)approval of the speaker~s or the interpreter~s behaviour. This thesis is motivated by the seeming unclarity of what can count as a good answer. A certain irresoluteness in the discussion of the subject in the recent academic literature leaves this worry unaddressed, and this fact motivates our interrogation. In this thesis we try to characterize what can provide reasons which adequately justify our judgments of semantic (in)correctness. For this, we follow this methodological strategy. First we present conditions of material adequacy; evidence of judgments of semantic (in)correctness constitute data that candidate sources should accommodate. Next, we give general conditions on the source of semantic normativity and its reasons. These broad constraints are central but they do not suffice to identify what can be such a source. Further requisites are obtained by looking at the possible sources for reasons in other normative judgments. In particular, we employ Korsgaard (1996)~s systematic examination of the sources of ethical normativity as a scaffold to approach the normative question in semantics. We study the transposition of Korsgaard~s requirements for ethical normativity onto the justification of semantic judgments, and we propose and discuss candidate sources for the normativity of meaning analogous to those she considers for ethics. The results of the discussion will allow us to re-focus on the recent literature with a sharper perspective on what can settle their debate. Moreover, they reveal a certain connection between between (meta)semantics and (meta)ethics. Finally, they raise certain issues to which disciplines within semantics, such as formal semantics, have to attend.

Item Type: Report
Report Nr: MoL-2009-01
Series Name: Master of Logic Thesis (MoL) Series
Year: 2009
Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2016 14:38
Last Modified: 12 Oct 2016 14:38

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