Re: Pragmatic/Semantic

From: Jonathan Robie (
Date: Tue Mar 17 1998 - 14:11:19 EST

At 01:39 PM 3/17/98 -0500, Rod Decker wrote:
>>M. Olsen provides one of the best, concise distinctions between semantics
>>and pragmatics: "Semantics is the 'uncancelable' meaning of a word/
>>sentence/grammtical form, the meaning it must have, in each context of
>>use.... Pragmatics ... refers to the aspects of meaning that are cancelable
>>(without contradiction) and reinforceable (without redundancy), credit
>>Grice. These aspects of meaning depend on context interacting with the
>>semantics" (B-Greek post, 5 August 97, s.v., "semantics vs. pragmatics"
>><>; she develops
>>this distinction more fully in her dissertation: "Model," 21-29). See also
>>B. Comrie, Tense, CTL, 23.
Let me give an example from Grice. If you knock on my door with a gas can
in your hand, telling me your car ran out of gas, and I tell you "there is
a gas station around the corner", I have *implied* that it is open, that it
still functions as a gas station, that it serves the general public, that
there is no gas station closer. None of this is part of the literal meaning
of what I said. It is implied by the pragmatics of the situation.

The semantic meaning of my statement is simply that there is a gas station
around the corner. I can not cancel the semantic meaning without producing
a nonsense sentence: "*there is a gas station around the corner, but it
isn't there".

The pragmatic implicature can be canceled sensibly: "there is a gas station
around the corner, but they are closed right now". "there is a gas station
around the corner, but they converted it to a disco". "there is a gas
station around the corner, but they don't sell to people with PhDs".


Jonathan Robie

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