Literal-Minded

Linguistic commentary from a guy who takes things too literally

Pragmatics Linkfest

Posted by Neal on August 25, 2005

I’ve read several interesting posts recently that had to do with pragmatics.

From the linguablogosphere, there are a couple on Russell Lee-Goldman’s Noncompositional. This one talks about speech acts, and sentences like, “Jim’s really upset now, because he’s grinding his teeth.” Wait, shouldn’t that be, “Jim’s grinding his teeth because he’s really upset now”? Not necessarily. And this one asks, how can you say you accidentally revealed a secret if you intentionally told someone something that, unbeknownst to you, was a secret? I have a feeling that the answer to this question must have to do with presuppositions that arise when you use the word secret. That is, when you say your secret, it is usually understood that you know that it is a secret. But when you say you accidentally revealed it, if the accidentally can’t apply to the actual act of uttering the words, then the hearer takes it to refer to the larger act of “uttering words with the effect of revealing a secret,” and cancels the presupposition that you knew what you told was a secret.

From the blogosphere at large, there is Greg Larson’s rant about how ads lie, or at least abuse Gricean maxims.

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