The Lying Test

Mind and Language 31 (4):470-499 (2016)
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Abstract

As an empirical inquiry into the nature of meaning, semantics must rely on data. Unfortunately, the primary data to which philosophers and linguists have traditionally appealed—judgments on the truth and falsity of sentences—have long been known to vary widely between competent speakers in a number of interesting cases. The present article constitutes an experiment in how to obtain some more consistent data for the enterprise of semantics. Specifically, it argues from some widely accepted Gricean premises to the conclusion that judgments on lying are semantically relevant. It then endeavors to show how, assuming the relevance of such judgments, we can use them to generate a useful, widely acceptable test for semantic content.

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Eliot Michaelson
King's College London

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