Content Similarity and Communicative Success

in International Review of Pragmatics
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Abstract

In this paper, I discuss the relevance theoretic view of shared content and ask how one can use the theory to understand in what situations communication is successful and when it's not. The paper is meant as a case study in the philosophy of linguistics, in which I aim to draw some conclusions based on a particular debate between two very influential groups of theorists. I look at Cappelen and Lepore's (2007) critique of Sperber and Wilson (1995) and claim that, contrary to standard conceptions in philosophy, it is possible to be a coherent similarity theorist about communicated content, postulating another level of content as the locus of identity. I emphasize the importance of basing a similarity view of communication on a foundation of identity, and argue, against Wedgwood (2007), that it's not possible for relevance theorists to abstract away from this issue.

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