Compound figures: priority and speech-act structure

Philosophical Studies 174 (1):141-161 (2017)
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Compound figures are a rich, and under-explored area for tackling fundamental issues in philosophy of language. This paper explores new ideas about how to explain some features of such figures. We start with an observation from Stern that in ironic-metaphor, metaphor is logically prior to irony in the structure of what is communicated. Call this thesis Logical-MPT. We argue that a speech-act-based explanation of Logical-MPT is to be preferred to a content-based explanation. To create this explanation we draw on Barker’s expressivist speech-act theory, in which speech-acts build on other speech-acts to achieve the desired communicative effects. In particular, we show how Barker’s general ideas explain metaphor as an assertive-act, and irony as a ridiculing-act. We use Barker’s notion of proto-illocutionary-acts to show how metaphorical-acts and ironic-acts can build one on the other. Finally, we show that while an ironic-act can build on a metaphorical-act, a metaphorical-act cannot build on an ironic-act. This restriction on how they can be composed establishes Logical-MPT via a different route

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Mihaela Popa-Wyatt
University of Manchester


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