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Journal of Literary Semantics

An International Review

Founded by Eaton, Trevor

Ed. by Toolan, Michael

2 Issues per year

CiteScore 2017: 0.38

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2017: 0.122
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2017: 0.575

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Volume 46, Issue 1


The curse of the perceptual: a case from kinaesthesia

Patricia Kolaiti
Published Online: 2017-04-07 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jls-2017-0003


Debate in philosophy of language and linguistics has focused on conceptual representations/propositional thought; as a result there has been little discussion on the effability of perceptual or, more generally, phenomenal representations and the communicative difficulties associated with them. In this paper, I start from an example based on the relative ineffability of kinaesthetic representations, i. e. representations involving bodily posture and movement, and then generalise the discussion by looking at the reasons why – even when there are no limits on either the richness of available contexts or the ways in which contextual material could be used to enrich linguistically encoded meanings – perceptual/phenomenal representations test our expressive capacities to the limit. Some recent work on linguistics suggests that the ineffability problem arises mainly with words whose linguistic meanings are tightly associated with perception. Arguing that a much wider variety of linguistic expressions can evoke phenomenal states – including proper names, whose main function is referential – I will try to show that the challenges phenomenal experience poses for our communicative abilities reach well beyond the limited range of those expressions tightly associated with emotion and perception.

Keywords: perceptual or phenomenal representation; ineffability; kinaesthetic representation


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About the article

Published Online: 2017-04-07

Published in Print: 2017-04-01

This work was supported by the AHRC [grant number 2004/111218]; the UCL Graduate Scholarship; the AHRC grant ‘A Unified Theory of Lexical Pragmatics’ [grant number RG/AN9291/APN16356] and the Balzan project on ‘Literature as an Object of Knowledge’ (based at St John’s College Research Centre, Oxford).

Citation Information: Journal of Literary Semantics, Volume 46, Issue 1, Pages 47–65, ISSN (Online) 1613-3838, ISSN (Print) 0341-7638, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jls-2017-0003.

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