Meaning, Interpretation

In D. Beaver & P. Scotto di Luzio (eds.), Words, Proofs, and Diagrams. CSLI Publications. pp. 217-240 (2002)
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This paper1 explores, quite tentatively, possible consequences for the concept of semantics of two phenomena concerning meaning and interpretation, viz., radical interpretation and normativity of meaning. Both, it will be argued, challenge the way in which meaning is conceived of in semantics and thereby the status of the discipline itself. For several reasons it seems opportune to explore these issues. If one reviews the developments in semantics over the past two decades, one observes that quite a bit has changed, and one may well wonder how to assess these changes. This relates directly to the status of semantics. If semantics is an empirical discipline, one might expect that most changes are informed by empirical considerations. However, one may also note that the core notion of semantics, meaning, today is conceived of quite differently than in, say, the seventies. How can that be? How can that what semantics is about, be different now from what is was back then? Or is this perhaps an indication that semantics is not as empirical as it is often thought to be? Moreover, it seems that in some deep sense meaning as explicated in semantics and interpretation as studied in various philosophical approaches are strangely at odds. Meaning is what interpretation is concerned with: meaning is, at least so it seems, what in the process of interpretation language users try to recover (or analogously, what they try to convey in production). Yet, the way meaning is conceived of in semantics seems not to square all that neatly with how the process of interpretation is supposed to proceed. In particular it seems to lack some of the intrinsic features that various approaches to interpretation assume it to have. Given these discrepancies, one wonders how the two can be incorporated within a single theory. And that such a theory is desirable goes, it may be presumed, without saying These are the reasons that figure in this paper. At the background there are some others..
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