Hearing meanings: the revenge of context

Synthese 198 (6):5229-5252 (2019)
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Abstract

According to the perceptual view of language comprehension, listeners typically recover high-level linguistic properties such as utterance meaning without inferential work. The perceptual view is subject to the Objection from Context: since utterance meaning is massively context-sensitive, and context-sensitivity requires cognitive inference, the perceptual view is false. In recent work, Berit Brogaard provides a challenging reply to this objection. She argues that in language comprehension context-sensitivity is typically exercised not through inferences, but rather through top-down perceptual modulations or perceptual learning. This paper provides a complete formulation of the Objection from Context and evaluates Brogaards reply to it. Drawing on conceptual considerations and empirical examples, we argue that the exercise of context-sensitivity in language comprehension does, in fact, typically involve inference.

Author Profiles

Luca Gasparri
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique
Michael Murez
Université de Nantes

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