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The language game of lost meaning: Using literal meaning as a metalinguistic resource

Marco Carapezza

Marco Carapezza is Associate Professor at Department of Scienze Umanistiche, University of Palermo, Italy. His prevalent interest is the relation between pragmatic aspects of language use and fundamental principles of human cognition. In his research, he brings together insights from philosophical theories of language use (with a particular focus on Wittgenstein) and more applied analyses of the relationship between language use and seemingly non-linguistic practices (eg., artistic practices or performing art).

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From the journal Intercultural Pragmatics

Abstract

By literal meaning (LM) we usually refer to a theoretical notion which is at the center of a big debate involving philosophers and linguists with various orientations. At the same time, LM is rooted in a linguistic intuition of the speaker, which we could formulate as follows: words taken in isolation have a meaning. Adopting this general take on LM, we are using a notion of LM that seems incompatible with any research program of a contextualist type; I will show, instead, that in a radically contextualist (and Wittgensteinian) perspective, this notion of LM can have legitimate circulation in particular types of language games.

I will propose a recovery of the notion of LM saving the speaker’s intuition showing that this notion can have heuristic power but only in those particular language games in which it is necessary to recover the meaning of words considered in isolation. To put it differently, I will maintain that the LM of a linguistic expression can be considered as a metalinguistic resource available to the speaker making use of it in various cases, for example when the conversational exchange that characterizes communication breaks down.

About the author

Marco Carapezza

Marco Carapezza is Associate Professor at Department of Scienze Umanistiche, University of Palermo, Italy. His prevalent interest is the relation between pragmatic aspects of language use and fundamental principles of human cognition. In his research, he brings together insights from philosophical theories of language use (with a particular focus on Wittgenstein) and more applied analyses of the relationship between language use and seemingly non-linguistic practices (eg., artistic practices or performing art).

Acknowledgements

This work is carried out as part of the research activities funded by the grant PRIN2015 Perception, Performativity and Cognitive Sciences, coordinated by Antonino Pennisi. I would like to thank the referees for their important suggestions, Roberta Rocca for useful remarks, and my student Stefania Garello who read an earlier version of this paper.

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Published Online: 2019-05-29
Published in Print: 2019-05-27

© 2019 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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