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Truthfulness and relevance

Abstract : This paper questions the widespread view that verbal communication is governed by a maxim, norm or convention of truthfulness which applies at the level of what is literally meant, or what is said. Pragmatic frameworks based on this view must explain the frequent occurrence and acceptability of loose and figurative uses of language. We argue against existing explanations of these phenomena and provide an alternative account, based on the assumption that verbal communication is governed not by expectations of truthfulness but by expectations of relevance, raised by literal, loose and figurative uses alike. Sample analyses are provided, and some consequences of this alternative account are explored. In particular, we argue that the notions of ‘literal meaning' and ‘what is said' play no useful theoretical role in the study of language use, and that the nature of explicit communication will have to be rethought.
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Contributor : Dan Sperber <>
Submitted on : Tuesday, July 16, 2002 - 9:49:25 AM
Last modification on : Friday, July 2, 2021 - 9:58:02 AM



  • HAL Id : ijn_00000102, version 1



Deirdre Wilson, Dan Sperber. Truthfulness and relevance. Mind, Oxford University Press (OUP), 2002. ⟨ijn_00000102⟩



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