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Products for grant FEL-267473-20

FEL-267473-20
Expression, Communication, and Origins of Meaning
Dorit Bar-On, University of Connecticut

Grant details: https://securegrants.neh.gov/publicquery/main.aspx?f=1&gn=FEL-267473-20

“How to Do Things with Nonwords: Pragmatics, Biosemantics, and Origins of Language in Animal Communication” [ (Article)
Title: “How to Do Things with Nonwords: Pragmatics, Biosemantics, and Origins of Language in Animal Communication” [
Author: Dorit Bar-On
Abstract: Recent discussions of animal communication and the evolution of language have advocated adopting a ‘ pragmatics-first ’ approach, according to which “a more productive framework” for primate communication research should be “pragmatics, the field of linguistics that examines the role of context in shaping the meaning of linguistic utterances” (Wheeler & Fischer 2012: 203). After distinguishing two different conceptions of pragmatics that advocates of the pragmatics-first approach have implicitly relied on (one Carnapian , the other Gricean ), I argue that neither conception adequately serves the purposes of pragmatics-first approaches to the origins of human linguistic communication. My main aim in this paper is to motivate – and begin to articulate – an intermediary conception whose scope is narrower than Carnapian pragmatics but broader than Gricean pragmatics. To do so, I first spell out what I take to be the key insight offered by proponents of the Gricean approach concerning the emergence of linguistic communication, namely, its being communication ‘from a psychological point of view’ (Tomasello, 2008). I then develop this insight using key elements from the anti-Gricean ‘biosemantic’ account of linguistic communication due to Ruth Millikan (1984, 1995, 2006, 2017, and elsewhere). I argue that the intermediary pragmatics-first approach that I propose, which draws on both Gricean and Millikanian resources, would be better equipped to serve the purposes of those who search for potential precursors of human linguistic communication in animal communication.
Year: 2021
Format: Journal
Publisher: Biology and Philosophy

“‘Pragmatics-First’ Approaches to Animal Communication and the Evolution of Language” (Article)
Title: “‘Pragmatics-First’ Approaches to Animal Communication and the Evolution of Language”
Author: Dorit Bar-On
Abstract: Recent discussions of animal communication and the evolution of language have advocated a ‘pragmatics-first’ approach to the subject. Seyfarth & Cheney (2017), for example, propose that “animal communication constitutes a rich pragmatic system” and that “the ubiquity of pragmatics, … suggest[s] that, as language evolved, semantics and syntax were built upon a foundation of sophisticated pragmatic inference”. I begin by distinguishing two different notions of pragmatics advocates of the ‘pragmatics-first’ approach have implicitly relied on (cf. Bar-On and Moore, 2018). On the first, Carnapian notion, pragmatic phenomena are those that involve context-dependent determination of the content or significance of an utterance or signal. On the second, Gricean notion, pragmatic phenomena involve reliance on speakers’ communicative intentions and their decipherment by their hearers. I use the distinction, first, to evaluate a recent formal linguistic analysis of monkey calls, due to Schlenker et al. (e.g. 2014, 2016a,b), which explains the derivation of call meanings through a form of pragmatic enrichment. And, second, I use the distinction to motivate the need for an ‘intermediary pragmatics’ that, I argue, applies only to a subset of animal communicative behaviors, and would allow us to reconceive the significance of animal communication for our understanding of the evolution of language.
Year: 2021
Publisher: under review

Expression and Self-Knowledge (submitted, under contract) (Book)
Title: Expression and Self-Knowledge (submitted, under contract)
Author: Crispin Wright
Abstract: N/A
Year: 2022
Publisher: Wiley
Type: Multi-author monograph
Copy sent to NEH?: No

"No-'How' Privileged Self-Knowledge" (Article)
Title: "No-'How' Privileged Self-Knowledge"
Author: Dorit Bar-On
Abstract: Ordinarily, if someone produces a nonreflective, ‘unstudied’ self-attribution of a present state of mind – an avowal – we do not presume that there must be some kind of evidence, observation, or other ‘cognitive work’ that the person could cite as the epistemic basis for her avowal. We take the self-beliefs proclaimed in avowals to be entirely spontaneous and base-less (as I shall put it). Correlatively, it seems out of place to expect the person to have reasons for the belief that she is in the relevant state, much less to expect her to know how she knows the self-attribution to be true. I will refer to this as the no-‘how’ character of so-called basic self-knowledge. And yet we tend to regard a person’s avowals as both distinctively secure and likelier to manifest knowledge than other contingent attributions (including attributions of mental states to/by others and even nonevidential self-attributions of bodily states). Basic self-knowledge thus has a first-person privileged character. Taken at face value, this combination of substantiveness, no-‘how’, and first-person privilege is puzzling: how can substantive knowledge of contingent matters of facts be at once epistemically base-less and substantive? And what makes such knowledge distinctively first-personal? It seems that we must either give up on base-lessness or accept that basic mental self-beliefs cannot amount to substantive (let alone privileged) factual knowledge concerning one’s present states of mind. I am here interested in views that avoid this dilemma by denying an epistemological presupposition on which it rests. After rejecting a well-known reliabilist introspectionist approach to reconciling base-lessness with substantiveness, I turn to an increasingly popular constitutivist approach. I argue that leading constitutivist views fail properly to accommodate a certain doxastic (as opposed to justificatory) aspect of base-less self-knowledge, for reasons I explain. I then use my proposed diagnosis to
Year: 2022
Format: Journal
Publisher: under review

"Pragmatic Protolanguage" (Article)
Title: "Pragmatic Protolanguage"
Author: Dorit Bar-On
Abstract: To appear in Evolutionary Pragmatics, edited by Moore and Geurts In this paper, I begin to articulate what would be involved in a *pragmatic* Profolanguage that would qualify as a genuine intermediary between animal communication systems and human language.
Year: 2022
Format: Other
Publisher: Oxford

"Pragmatic Protolanguage"; Keynote (Public Lecture or Presentation)
Title: "Pragmatic Protolanguage"; Keynote
Abstract: Recent discussions of animal communication and the evolution of language have advocated adopting a ‘pragmatics-first’ approach. On this approach, “a more productive framework” for identifying precursors of language in animal communication should be “pragmatics, the field of linguistics that examines the role of context in shaping the meaning of linguistic utterances” (Wheeler & Fischer 2012: 203). It is reasonable to expect such an approach to yield a feasible characterization of Protolanguage – a hypothetical stage between animal communication systems as we know them and human natural languages. After distinguishing two different conceptions of pragmatics that advocates of the pragmatics-first approach have implicitly relied on (one Carnapian, the other Gricean), I argue that neither conception is adequate to this task. My main aim in this paper is to motivate – and begin to articulate – an intermediary conception of pragmatics whose scope is narrower than Carnapian pragmatics but broader than Gricean pragmatics. This conception, I argue, would allow us to characterize a stage at which our pre-human ancestors moved significantly beyond the merely coded communication that is often claimed to be characteristic of nonhuman animals’ use of communicative signals. This, despite not yet being capable of fully Gricean communication. On the intermediary pragmatics-first approach I advocate, users of Protolanguage would have learned to bring a basic capacity to display to each other – and recognize each other’s – states of mind directly to bear on their use of communicative signals. They would have learned to engage in what I describe as psychologically mediated, proto-Gricean communication. Proper understanding of the character of such communication should, I believe, reveal the advantages of Protolanguage over existing animal communication systems. It could also contribute to our understanding of what it would have taken for Protolanguage users to move further in the direc
Author: Dorit Bar-On
Date: 9/2/2021
Location: Online; remote presentation to an international audience


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