Lichtenberg-Kolleg - The Göttingen Institute for Advanced Study

Content, Context, and Conversation (23 June – 24 June 2011)

This workshop brought together linguists and philosophers of language interested in empirical and theoretical aspects of linguistic meaning and truth-conditional content. In recent years, there has been a lively debate on an old issue, namely the proper distinction, if any, between semantics and pragmatics, as well as the influence of pragmatic processes on semantic content. The background is the classical Gricean distinction between ‘what is said’ on the one hand and ‘what is implicated’ on the other. But how the boundaries are to be drawn is controversial. Contextualists share the common belief in the underdetermination of propositional structures by conventional linguistic rules and the need for context-driven pragmatic enrichment. By contrast, semantic minimalists defend a minimalist view on truth-conditional content, which construes it as relatively context-independent and determined by linguistic rules. But when it comes to pinpoint what exactly a context, or conversational background, is supposed to be, most researchers simply define their notion of context according to their particular empirical and theoretical aims. The very fact that in recent discussions on linguistic meaning, minimalists and contextualists entertain quite different conceptions of the context-dependence of meaning and content regarding sentences employed in communicative acts, shows that there is a need for in-depth discussion of the relevant notions and theories dealing with content, context, and conversation.


This workshop was initiated by Christian Beyer, Magdalena Schwager and Markus Steinbach (University of Goettingen) in cooperation with Nicholas Asher und Julie Hunter (Fellows Lichtenberg-Kolleg 2010/11).