Beyond ostension: Introducing the expressive principle of relevance

Journal of Pragmatics 187:13-23 (2022)
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In this paper, I am going to cast doubt on an idea that is shared, explicitly or implicitly, by most contemporary pragmatic theories: that the inferential interpretation procedure described by Grice, neo-Griceans, or post-Griceans applies only to the interpretation of ostensive stimuli. For this special issue, I will concentrate on the relevance theory (RT) version of this idea. I will proceed by putting forward a dilemma for RT and argue that the best way out of it is to accept that the relevance-theoretic comprehension procedure ap- plies to certain non-ostensive stimuli, contrary to what is generally claimed within RT. In particular, I will argue that relevance theorists should accept that (ceteris paribus) non- ostensive emotional expressions in interactions guarantee a presumption of relevance such that they are interpreted through the relevance-theoretic comprehension procedure. This leads me to propose what I call 'the expressive principle of relevance'.

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Constant Bonard
Institut Jean Nicod


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