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Meaning and Relevance
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Book description

When people speak, their words never fully encode what they mean, and the context is always compatible with a variety of interpretations. How can comprehension ever be achieved? Wilson and Sperber argue that comprehension is a process of inference guided by precise expectations of relevance. What are the relations between the linguistically encoded meanings studied in semantics and the thoughts that humans are capable of entertaining and conveying? How should we analyse literal meaning, approximations, metaphors and ironies? Is the ability to understand speakers' meanings rooted in a more general human ability to understand other minds? How do these abilities interact in evolution and in cognitive development? Meaning and Relevance sets out to answer these and other questions, enriching and updating relevance theory and exploring its implications for linguistics, philosophy, cognitive science and literary studies.


‘… significantly expands upon [the authors'] groundbreaking 1986/1995 book Relevance: Communication and Cognition, and nicely situates relevance theory within contemporary developments in cognitive science … a masterful scholarly achievement that correctly places mind and relevance as the essential site for the scientific study of meaning and cognition.'

Raymond W. Gibbs, Jr - University of California, Santa Cruz

‘Wilson and Sperber are not merely the promoters of an influential framework in linguistic pragmatics, which this book beautifully illustrates; their pioneering work has implications for a wide range of disciplines, from evolutionary psychology to literary theory, and is of special interest to philosophers of language and mind.’

François Recanati - Institut Jean Nicod, CNRS, Paris

‘Twenty-five years ago, Sperber and Wilson published Relevance, Communication and Cognition: this was a major breakthrough in pragmatics. Philosophers and cognitive scientists intrigued by the subtle mapping between concepts and words should delve right away into their new Meaning and Relevance.’

Pierre Jacob - Institut Jean Nicod, CNRS, Paris

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