Semantics without the distinction between sense and force

In Savas L. Tsohatzidis (ed.), John Searle's Philosophy of Language: Force, Meaning and Mind. Cambridge University Press. pp. 190-210 (2007)
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Abstract

At the heart of semantics in the 20th century is Frege’s distinction between sense and force. This is the idea that the content of a self-standing utterance of a sentence S can be divided into two components. One part, the sense, is the proposition that S’s linguistic meaning and context associates with it as its semantic interpretation. The second component is S’s illocutionary force. Illocutionary forces correspond to the three basic kinds of sentential speech acts: assertions, orders, and questions. Forces are then kinds of acts in which propositions are deployed with certain purposes. I sketch a speech-act theoretic semantics in which that distinction does not hold. Instead of propositions and forces, the theory proposes proto-illocutionary acts and illocutionary acts. The orthodox notion of a proposition plays no role in the framework, which is a good thing, since that notion is deeply problematic. The framework also shows how expressionists, who embrace a sophisticated speech-act framework, face no Frege-Geach embedding problem, since the latter assumes the Sense/Force distinction.

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Stephen Barker
Nottingham University

Citations of this work

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