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Interpreting Mrs Malaprop: Davidson and communication without conventions

Smith, Imogen (2012)
M.Phil. thesis, University of Birmingham.

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Abstract

Inspired by my reading of the conclusions of Plato’s Cratylus, in which I suggest that Socrates endorses the claim that speaker’s intentions determine meaning of their utterances, this thesis investigates a modern parallel. Drawing on observations that people who produce an utterances that do not accord with the conventions of their linguistic community can often nevertheless communicate successfully, Donald Davidson concludes that it is the legitimate intentions of speakers to be interpreted in a particular way that determine the meanings of their utterances.
This thesis investigates how we might interpret the non-standard utterances of another from the perspective of Davidson’s anticonventionalist picture of language. It proceeds by investigating the possible roles for radical interpretation and triangulation in explaining successful day-to-day communication, where non-standard language use abounds, and argues that - even from a Davidsonian perspective - a full account of the linguistic skills and knowledge that a language user requires to interpret utterances must ultimately appeal at least to regularities word use and expressions, if not full-blown conventions.

Type of Work:M.Phil. thesis.
Supervisor(s):Byrne, Darragh
School/Faculty:Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
Department:Department of Philosophy
Subjects:B Philosophy (General)
HM Sociology
P Philology. Linguistics
Institution:University of Birmingham
ID Code:3387
This unpublished thesis/dissertation is copyright of the author and/or third parties. The intellectual property rights of the author or third parties in respect of this work are as defined by The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 or as modified by any successor legislation. Any use made of information contained in this thesis/dissertation must be in accordance with that legislation and must be properly acknowledged. Further distribution or reproduction in any format is prohibited without the permission of the copyright holder.
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