Interpreting Mrs Malaprop: Davidson and communication without conventions

Smith, Imogen (2012). Interpreting Mrs Malaprop: Davidson and communication without conventions. University of Birmingham. M.Phil.


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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: Thesis (Masters by Research > M.Phil.)
Award Type: Masters by Research > M.Phil.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of Philosophy, Theology and Religion, Department of Philosophy
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics


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