About the Conference

What does it mean that something has been said?

Is there literal meaning and how does it constitute utterance meaning? What kind of pragmatic inference is relevant for utterance understanding on different levels of utterance interpretation? How is pragmatic information processed?

A series of fundamental problems are standing behind these questions, having been discussed intensely since more than a decade in different paradigms. The field of pragmatics has changed since then substantially. The different approaches are centered around the question, whether utterances can be interpreted solely using their semantic-lexical meaning or whether pragmatic inferences already are essential on an early level of utterance interpretation. The debate between protagonists of the first solution (minimalist approach) and of the second (contextualist approach) – including a range of intermediate positions – dominates the present development of pragmatics.
New fields of research are arising: Lexical knowledge is conceived in part as pragmatic knowledge, and grammatical relations are seen as pragmatically grounded, thus pragmatics is entering linguistic disciplines traditionally being treated as non-pragmatic.
The specific character of the relevant pragmatic inferences is under debate too. Do we need default-inferences in order to catch meaning-aspects of utterances ‘beyond the words’, these inferences being cancelled in case of purely literal meaning? Questions of pragmatic processing strategies arise at this point, focusing on the relation between procedural effort and the respective communicative effect of the utterance.
Communicative understanding has been conceived as a form of understanding other persons as intentional actors. This skill is acquired in early childhood and the strategies of acquisition of pragmatic knowledge are under scrutiny in a range of important studies.
Finally, the methodological question arises whether pragmatic intuition may be captured by means of an intuitive strategy of the pragmatist himself or whether one has to rely on evidence delivered by experimental studies with children and adult speakers.
The planned international conference is intended to document pragmatic theorizing in the light of the present debates on the one hand and to reveal the developing potential of future research strategies in pragmatics on the other.

questions should be send to: cschulze at rz.uni-leipzig.de

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