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
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
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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