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Linguistics Question

ANSWER 6 out of the 8 questions (answer each question with 400-600 words). Let me know what questions you plan to answer, and I can provide pdfs of the readings and lecture slides.

1. In his chapter “Language Use,” Herbert Clark claims that language use is essentially a form of joint action. What does Clark mean when he says that language use is a form of joint action? Do you agree with the claim that joint action is essential for language use? Why or why not?

2. In Section 8 of Chapter 2 of Book 2 of his Essay Concerning Human Understanding, John Locke argues that no single individual—including a Roman Emperor—has the power to make a new word of a common language without the “common use” and “tacit consent” of others. What reasons does Locke provide in support of this claim? Do you think these reasons support Locke’s claim about the inability of single individuals to unilaterally make new words? Why or why not?

3. In her essay “Significs” Victoria Welby makes a distinction between three different features of expressions: (i) Sense, (ii) Meaning, and (iii) Significance. According to Welby, what are these three different features of expressions? Do you agree with Welby that it is important to distinguish these three features of expressions? Why or why not?

4. In his paper, “On Referring” P.F. Strawson argues that linguistic expressions do not refer and are not true or false but, rather, that people use linguistic expressions to refer and to assert true or false statements. In motivating this claim, Strawson distinguish between expressions, uses of expressions, and utterances of expressions. According to Strawson, what is the difference between expressions, uses of expressions, and utterances of expressions? Do you agree with the claim that it is people and not linguistic expressions themselves that refer? Why or why not?

5. In his paper, “Logic and Conversation” H.P. Grice introduces the category of conversational implicature. According to Grice, what is a conversational implicature? In what way does Grice claim that the ability to produce a conversational implicature depends upon the presumption that the speaker is conforming to what Grice calls the cooperative principle. What is one particular example of a conversational implicature and how, if at all, does that particular example involve the cooperative principle? Do you agree with Grice that the category of conversational implicature is important for understanding human language use? Why or why not?

6. In their essay, “David Lewis on Convention” Ernest Lepore and Matthew Stone describe Lewis’ view that social conventions are specific solutions to problems of social coordination. What exactly is a coordination problem? In what way can communication be understood as an instance of a coordination problem? According to Lepore and Stone, how is a conventional solution to a coordination problem different from other kinds of solutions to coordination problems? Do you think that the meanings of words and sentences in natural language are conventional in Lewis’ sense of the term? Why or why not?

7. In his paper, “Scorekeeping in a Language Game” David Lewis introduces the notion of a conversational score that governs the dynamics of conversational interaction. According to Lewis, what role does the conversational score play in human social interaction—in other terms, in what way does Lewis claim (p. 345) that the moves in a language game at a time are governed by the conversational score at that time? According to Lewis, what is the rule of accommodation and how does it relate to the conversational score? Do you think that the appeal to the conversational score is a helpful construct in making sense of human conversation? Why or why not?

8. In her chapter, “Context in Dynamic Interpretation” Craige Roberts discuss the elements that make up the conversational context of linguistic discourses (or Lewis’ conversational scoreboard). One central element of the conversational context of linguistic discourses, according to Roberts, is what she calls the Questions Under Discussions or QUDs. According to Roberts, what are the questions under discussion and how do these questions under discussion change as a discourse proceeds? As stated by Roberts, how do the questions under discussion relate to the maxim of Relevance? Do you agree with Roberts that appealing to a set of questions under discussion provides a helpful way to make sense of human conversation? Why or why not?

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