Event Detail

Wed Nov 14, 2012
234 Moses Hall, 6:10–8 PM
Working Group in the History and Philosophy of Logic, Mathematics, and Science
Geoffrey Nunberg (UC Berkeley, School of Information)
Derogatives: Meaning or Metadata?

The literature on derogatives—a lot of it coming from philosophy of language, rather than linguistic semantics—usually departs from two assumptions: that derogatives are a coherent linguistic class, and that their derogative force follows from their linguistic meanings, either as an entailment or a conventional implicature. Ill propose another approach here, making three main points. First, derogatives are part of a much more extensive class of appraisive expressions; the principles that account for the derogative force of redskin should also account for the appraisive force of la-la land, bureaucrat, and free enterprise. Second, rather than connecting this force directly to the meanings of the expressions, we should treat it the way standard dictionaries do, as following from metadata about their associated communities of judgment, in Alan Gibbards phrase. Third, the full effect of strong derogatives follows from two independent sources: an appraisive judgment associated with the illocutionary act, and a noncancellable exhibitive force associated with the act of locution itself, which is why one cant even mention them with impunity.