What is Literal Meaning?

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The meaning of morpheme (a minimal unit of linguistic significance) cannot diverge from what it is taken to mean. But the meaning of a complex expression can diverge without limit from what it is taken to mean, given that the meaning of such an expression is a logical consequence of the meanings of its parts, coupled with the fact that people are not infallible ratiocinators. Nonetheless, given Chomsky’s distinction between competence (ability) and performance (ability to deploy ability), what a complex expression means does, after a fashion, coincide with what it is taken to mean: to the extent that speaker-performance approximates to speaker-competence---i.e. to the extent that people are able to operationalize their linguistic competence---what speakers take complex expressions to mean coincides with they in fact mean; and herein lies an answer to the question “what is linguistic meaning?” that holds with respect to both simple and complex expressions.
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First archival date: 2015-07-06
Latest version: 2 (2015-07-06)
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