Friday 3:30 to 6pm | Gray
In this course we will explore two related questions: What is a speech act? What is linguistic meaning?
In a speech act, a speaker uses a linguistic expression to do something: make an assertion, ask a question, make a promise, etc. We will ask: What kinds of speech acts are there? What does it take to perform a speech act? Are speech acts characterized in terms of speakers' intentions or normative conventions?
What a speaker can do with her words depends on what the words mean. The other topic in the course is the nature of linguistic meaning. We will examine the motivation for, and structure of, contemporary formal accounts of linguistic meaning. This will include discussions of truth, compositionality and context-dependence.
The goal of the course is to understand how these two sets of issues relate to each other. In particular, we will examine recent literature which calls into question the assumption that the object of a speech act (what is asserted, promised, etc) should be identified with the meaning of the sentence used in performing that speech act. Is there a gap between what our words mean and what we do with them?