How to have a metalinguistic dispute


There has been recent interest in the idea that speakers who appear to be having a verbal dispute may in fact be engaged in a metalinguistic negotiation: they are communicating information about how they believe an expression should be used. For example, individuals involved in a dispute about whether a racehorse is an athlete might be communicating their diverging views about how ‘athlete’ should be used. While many have argued that metalinguistic negotiation is a pervasive feature of philosophical and everyday discourse, the literature currently lacks an account of this phenomenon that can be situated within a ‘mainstream’ view of communication. I propose an independently motivated account where individuals reconstruct metalinguistic propositions by means of a pragmatic, Gricean reasoning process.

Synthese. Open Access Publication