Metalinguistic Negotiation and its Limits

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William Chao


This paper defends the idea that disputes which do not feature conflicts in literally-expressed contents could express genuine disagreement. Using the model of metalinguistic negotiation and Stalnakerian common ground, the paper argues that many such disputes are driven by the conversational parties’ disagreements in the meaning of expressions. The disputants convey and settle their disagreement pragmatically, negotiating the meanings of terms under controversy by using instead of mentioning the terms. The paper further examines how the disputants collect cues from the conversation to become aware of the metalinguistic nature of their dispute and explains why such an account is compatible with semantic externalism, by clarifying the scope and limits of metalinguistic negotiation.

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