Meaning and Relevance

Cambridge University Press
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When people speak, their words never fully encode what they mean, and the context is always compatible with a variety of interpretations. How can comprehension ever be achieved? Wilson and Sperber argue that comprehension is a process of inference guided by precise expectations of relevance. What are the relations between the linguistically encoded meanings studied in semantics and the thoughts that humans are capable of entertaining and conveying? How should we analyse literal meaning, approximations, metaphors and ironies? Is the ability to understand speakers' meanings rooted in a more general human ability to understand other minds? How do these abilities interact in evolution and in cognitive development? Meaning and Relevance sets out to answer these and other questions, enriching and updating relevance theory and exploring its implications for linguistics, philosophy, cognitive science and literary studies.
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About the author

Deirdre Wilson is Emeritus Professor of Linguistics at University College London and Research Professor at the Centre for the Study of Mind in Nature at the University of Oslo.

Dan Sperber is Emeritus Directeur de Recherche at the Institut Jean Nicod, CNRS, Paris and part-time university professor in the departments of philosophy and cognitive science at the Central European University, Budapest.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Cambridge University Press
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Published on
Mar 22, 2012
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Pages
397
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ISBN
9781107376779
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Language
English
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Genres
Language Arts & Disciplines / Linguistics / General
Language Arts & Disciplines / Linguistics / Semantics
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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MORE THAN 15 YEARS OF WORK TO PREPARE THIS UNIQUE DICTIONARY


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Extract from the Preface by Kasara (Kaya’s daughter)


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This book explores the value for literary studies of the model of communication known as relevance theory. Drawing on a wide range of examples—lyric poems by Yeats, Herrick, Heaney, Dickinson, and Mary Oliver, novels by Cervantes, Flaubert, Mark Twain, and Edith Wharton—nine of the ten essays are written by literary specialists and use relevance theory both as a broad framing perspective and as a resource for detailed analysis. The final essay, by Deirdre Wilson, co-founder (with Dan Sperber) of relevance theory, takes a retrospective view of the issues addressed by the volume and considers the implications of literary studies for cognitive approaches to communication. Relevance theory, described by Alastair Fowler as 'nothing less than the makings of a radically new theory of communication, the first since Aristotle's', offers a comprehensive pragmatics of language and communication grounded in evidence about the ways humans think and behave. While designed to capture the everyday murmur of conversation, gossip, peace-making, hate speech, love speech, 'body-language', and the chatter of the internet, it covers the whole spectrum of human modes of communication, including literature in the broadest sense as a characteristically human activity. Reading Beyond the Code is unique in using relevance theory as a prime resource for literary study, and it is also the first to claim that the model works best for literature when understood in the light of a broader cognitive approach, focusing on a range of phenomena that support an 'embodied' conception of cognition and language. This broadened perspective serves to enhance the value for literary studies of the central claim of relevance theory, that the 'code model' is fundamentally inadequate to account for human communication, and in particular for the modes of communication that are proper to literature.
This book explores the value for literary studies of the model of communication known as relevance theory. Drawing on a wide range of examples—lyric poems by Yeats, Herrick, Heaney, Dickinson, and Mary Oliver, novels by Cervantes, Flaubert, Mark Twain, and Edith Wharton—nine of the ten essays are written by literary specialists and use relevance theory both as a broad framing perspective and as a resource for detailed analysis. The final essay, by Deirdre Wilson, co-founder (with Dan Sperber) of relevance theory, takes a retrospective view of the issues addressed by the volume and considers the implications of literary studies for cognitive approaches to communication. Relevance theory, described by Alastair Fowler as 'nothing less than the makings of a radically new theory of communication, the first since Aristotle's', offers a comprehensive pragmatics of language and communication grounded in evidence about the ways humans think and behave. While designed to capture the everyday murmur of conversation, gossip, peace-making, hate speech, love speech, 'body-language', and the chatter of the internet, it covers the whole spectrum of human modes of communication, including literature in the broadest sense as a characteristically human activity. Reading Beyond the Code is unique in using relevance theory as a prime resource for literary study, and it is also the first to claim that the model works best for literature when understood in the light of a broader cognitive approach, focusing on a range of phenomena that support an 'embodied' conception of cognition and language. This broadened perspective serves to enhance the value for literary studies of the central claim of relevance theory, that the 'code model' is fundamentally inadequate to account for human communication, and in particular for the modes of communication that are proper to literature.
This book explores the value for literary studies of the model of communication known as relevance theory. Drawing on a wide range of examples—lyric poems by Yeats, Herrick, Heaney, Dickinson, and Mary Oliver, novels by Cervantes, Flaubert, Mark Twain, and Edith Wharton—nine of the ten essays are written by literary specialists and use relevance theory both as a broad framing perspective and as a resource for detailed analysis. The final essay, by Deirdre Wilson, co-founder (with Dan Sperber) of relevance theory, takes a retrospective view of the issues addressed by the volume and considers the implications of literary studies for cognitive approaches to communication. Relevance theory, described by Alastair Fowler as 'nothing less than the makings of a radically new theory of communication, the first since Aristotle's', offers a comprehensive pragmatics of language and communication grounded in evidence about the ways humans think and behave. While designed to capture the everyday murmur of conversation, gossip, peace-making, hate speech, love speech, 'body-language', and the chatter of the internet, it covers the whole spectrum of human modes of communication, including literature in the broadest sense as a characteristically human activity. Reading Beyond the Code is unique in using relevance theory as a prime resource for literary study, and it is also the first to claim that the model works best for literature when understood in the light of a broader cognitive approach, focusing on a range of phenomena that support an 'embodied' conception of cognition and language. This broadened perspective serves to enhance the value for literary studies of the central claim of relevance theory, that the 'code model' is fundamentally inadequate to account for human communication, and in particular for the modes of communication that are proper to literature.
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