Conservative speech

Ratio 33 (4):243-254 (2020)
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In this paper, I argue that an utterance can function to conserve or maintain the truth of its asserted content, what I call conservative speech. Conservative utterances can work to preserve the truth of their asserted content in two ways. In the first, directive conservatives, the utterance serves as an indirect directive for interlocutors to act in ways that serve to maintain the asserted content. In the second, constitutive conservatives, serve to partly constitute the truth conditions of the asserted content directly. Constitutive conservatives, I argue, are particularly important because they are a central tool for how social groups enforce and thereby maintain facts about group norms and values in the face of deviation. They thus have a central role to play in understanding the role of language in the abilities of social groups to create and maintain their norms and values.

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Kathryn Lindeman
University of South Carolina


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