From Psychology to Language and Back: The Role of Intentions in Utterance Comprehension
Ira Noveck (Institut des Sciences Cognitives- Marc Jeannerod, Lyon, France)
November 19, 2018 (5:00 PM, LC 104)
Paul Grice famously made a distinction between sentence meaning (the properties of a sentence assigned to it by the grammar) and speaker’s meaning (what the speaker intended to communicate by uttering a sentence). This distinction is arguably at the core of Experimental Pragmatics, which is a discipline devoted to (a) testing pragmatic theories (and often between two or more) and, more generally, (b) investigating pragmatic phenomena, with the rigorous methods of experimental psychology. One goal of this talk is to describe how an experimental approach has added value to debates and discussions concerning pragmatics. A second goal is to describe how Grice indirectly augured a different sort of divide, i.e. between researchers who have employed his approach in order to propose what are essentially linguistic rules that lead to a speaker’s meaning and those who have focused on the role played by intention-reading in accessing a speaker’s meaning. In retrospect, intention-reading has not received nearly as much attention in experimental pragmatics as, say, the hypothesized step-by-step accounts of scalar inferences (e.g. how a listener interprets Some cabs are yellow to mean Some but not all cabs are yellow). I will thus describe how Grice envisioned communication as a means of accessing a speaker’s intentions. From there, I will turn to areas of experimental pragmatic research that highlight the role of intention-reading in communication.