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Pragmatic Interpretation and Signaler-Receiver Asymmetries in Animal Communication

In Kristin Andrews Jacob Beck (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Animal Minds. Routledge. pp. 291-300 (2017)

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  1. ‘Pragmatics First’: Animal Communication and the Evolution of Language.Dorit Bar-On - forthcoming - Review of Philosophy and Psychology:1-28.
    Research on the evolution of language is often framed in terms of sharp discontinuities in syntax and semantics between animal communication systems and human language as we know them. According to the so-called “pragmatics-first” approach to the evolution of language, when trying to understand the origins of human language in animal communication, we should be focusing on potential pragmatic continuities. However, some proponents of this approach (e.g. Seyfarth and Cheney Animal Behavior 124: 339–346, 2017) find important pragmatic continuities, whereas others (...)
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  • Simple Utterances but Complex Understanding? Meta-studying the Fuzzy Mismatch between Animal Semantic Capacities in Varied Contexts.Sigmund Ongstad - 2022 - Biosemiotics 15 (1):85-108.
    This meta-study of animal semantics is anchored in two claims, seemingly creating a fuzzy mismatch, that animal utterances generally appear to be simple in structure and content variation and that animals’ communicative understanding seems disproportionally more advanced. A set of excerpted, new studies is chosen as basis to discuss whether the semantics of animal uttering and understanding can be fused into one. Studies are prioritised due to their relatively complex designs, giving priority to dynamics between syntax, semantics, pragmatics, and between (...)
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  • A Conceptual Framework for Studying Evolutionary Origins of Life-Genres.Sigmund Ongstad - 2019 - Biosemiotics 12 (2):245-266.
    The introduction claims that there might exist an evolutionary bridge from possible genres in nature to human cultural genres. A sub-hypothesis is that basic life-conditions, partly common for animals and humans, in the long run can generate so-called life-genres. To investigate such hypotheses a framework of interrelated key communicational concepts is outlined in the second, main part. Four levels are suggested. Signs are seen as elements in utterances. Further, sufficiently similar utterances can be perceived as kinds of utterances or genres. (...)
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  • Can Animals Refer? Meta-Positioning Studies of Animal Semantics.Sigmund Ongstad - 2021 - Biosemiotics 14 (2):433-457.
    This meta-study applies a socio-semiotic framework combining five basic communicational aspects, form, content, act, time, and space, developed to help answering the questionCan animals refer?It further operates with four levels, sign, utterance, genre, and lifeworld, studying relations between utterance and genre in particular. Semantic key terms found in an excerpted ‘resource collection’ consisting of three anthologies, two academic journals, and a monography, studying content in animal communication, are inspected, and discussed, especially information, functional reference, and reference. Since a temporary inspection (...)
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  • The cultural evolution of mind-modelling.Richard Moore - 2020 - Synthese 199 (1-2):1751-1776.
    I argue that uniquely human forms of ‘Theory of Mind’ are a product of cultural evolution. Specifically, propositional attitude psychology is a linguistically constructed folk model of the human mind, invented by our ancestors for a range of tasks and refined over successive generations of users. The construction of these folk models gave humans new tools for thinking and reasoning about mental states—and so imbued us with abilities not shared by non-linguistic species. I also argue that uniquely human forms of (...)
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  • Gricean communication, language development, and animal minds.Richard Moore - 2018 - Philosophy Compass 13 (12):e12550.
    Humans alone acquire language. According to one influen- tial school of thought, we do this because we possess a uniquely human ability to act with and attribute “Gricean” communicative intentions. A challenge for this view is that attributing communicative intent seems to require cognitive abilities that infant language learners lack. After considering a range of responses to this challenge, I argue that infant language development can be explained, because Gricean communication is cognitively less demanding than many suppose. However, a consequence (...)
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  • Different Approaches to Meaning in Primate Gestural and Vocal Communication.Katja Liebal & Linda Oña - 2018 - Frontiers in Psychology 9.
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  • How to do things with nonwords: pragmatics, biosemantics, and origins of language in animal communication.Dorit Bar-On - 2021 - Biology and Philosophy 36 (6):1-25.
    Recent discussions of animal communication and the evolution of language have advocated adopting a ‘pragmatics-first’ approach, according to which “a more productive framework” for primate communication research should be “pragmatics, the field of linguistics that examines the role of context in shaping the meaning of linguistic utterances”. After distinguishing two different conceptions of pragmatics that advocates of the pragmatics-first approach have implicitly relied on, I argue that neither conception adequately serves the purposes of pragmatics-first approaches to the origins of human (...)
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