Metalinguistic Negotiation and Matters of Language: A Response to Cappelen

Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy:1-25 (forthcoming)
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Abstract

In previous work, we have developed the idea that, in some disputes, speakers appear to use (rather than mention) a term in order to put forward views about how that term should be used. We call such disputes “metalinguistic negotiations”. Herman Cappelen objects that our model of metalinguistic negotiation makes implausible predictions about what speakers really care about, and what kinds of issues they would take to settle their disputes. We highlight a distinction (which we have emphasized in prior work) between the question of which disagreements speakers have vs. which disagreements are immediately expressed in a given linguistic exchange. Once this distinction is clear, we can appreciate that speakers who are engaged in a metalinguistic negotiation (where certain issues in conceptual ethics are immediately expressed) can also disagree about other issues, including both other issues in conceptual ethics and “object-level” issues that aren’t about words or concepts. In many metalinguistic negotiations, speakers (we think correctly) care more about these other issues than they do about ones concerning the meaning of a word. Because of this, Cappelen’s objection fails to identify any data that challenge our model.

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Author Profiles

David Plunkett
Dartmouth College
Tim Sundell
University of Kentucky

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