Generics and Metalinguistic Negotiation

Synthese 201 (50):1-46 (2023)
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Abstract

In this paper, we consider how the notion of metalinguistic negotiation interacts with various theories of generics. The notion of metalinguistic negotiation we discuss stems from previous work from two of us (Plunkett and Sundell). Metalinguistic negotiations are disputes in which speakers disagree about normative issues concerning language, such as issues about what a given word should mean in the relevant context, or which of a range of related concepts a word should express. In a metalinguistic negotiation, speakers argue about such issues implicitly, via competing “metalinguistic” usages of terms. Here, we argue that some disputes involving generics are best thought of as metalinguistic negotiations, and that these cases can be illuminating for our more general theorizing about generics. Specifically, we argue that the “contextualist” theory of generics that one of us (Sterken) has developed in other work is best equipped to account for these metalinguistic negotiations, relative to other leading views of generics. We thus argue for a “package deal” view of generics: a view that combines Plunkett and Sundell’s account of metalinguistic negotiation with Sterken’s contextualist view of generics.

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Author Profiles

Rachel Katharine Sterken
University of Hong Kong
Tim Sundell
University of Kentucky
David Plunkett
Dartmouth College

References found in this work

Elusive knowledge.David Lewis - 1996 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 74 (4):549 – 567.
Conceptual Ethics I.Alexis Burgess & David Plunkett - 2013 - Philosophy Compass 8 (12):1091-1101.

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