Deirdre Wilson

Deirdre Wilson
University College London | UCL · Department of Linguistics

PhD

About

115
Publications
191,103
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Introduction
Deirdre Wilson is Emeritus Professor of Linguistics at University College London and a former co-director (with Herman Cappelen) of the Linguistic Agency project at CSMN, University of Oslo. Her main research interests are in communication: her long-standing collaboration with Dan Sperber ('Relevance: Communication and Cognition', Blackwell, 1986/95; 'Meaning and Relevance', Cambridge University Press, 2012) has led to publications on a wide variety of pragmatic topics, from disambiguation and reference resolution to rhetoric, and style. Her novel 'Slave of the Passions' (Picador, 1991) was shortlisted for two prizes, and she recently co-edited (with Terence Cave) 'Reading Beyond the Code: Literature and Relevance Theory' (OUP).
Additional affiliations
June 2007 - July 2018
University of Oslo
Position
  • Managing Director

Publications

Publications (115)
Chapter
Pragmatic processes crucially rely on background or contextual information supplied by the hearer, which may significantly affect the outcome of the comprehension process. Construed as a branch of cognitive psychology, pragmatics is the study of the cognitive systems apart from the I‐language and the parser which enable speaker and hearer (or commu...
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This paper considers what the literature on irony acquisition can tell us about the distinctive features of verbal irony, and how far they are explained by traditional and more modern theories of irony. Among the widely recognised features of typical cases of verbal irony are (a) the expression of a characteristic (mocking, scornful or contemptuous...
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Relevance theory is a cognitive approach to pragmatics which starts from two broadly Gricean assumptions: (a) that much human communication, both verbal and non-verbal, involves the overt expression and inferential recognition of intentions, and (b) that in inferring these intentions, the addressee presumes that the communicator's behavior will mee...
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Although some utterances communicate a determinate speaker's meaning which can be duplicated in the minds of speaker and hearer, others communicate – either alongside or instead of a speaker's meaning – something much less determinate, often described as a ‘non-propositional effect’. Creative metaphors, for instance, are seen as conveying loose imp...
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This concluding chapter reflects in general terms on some aspects of relevance theory that have been fruitfully used in the analyses in this volume, and on some aspects of literary communication that have been seen by both supporters and critics of relevance theory as showing the need for modifications to the inferential mechanisms it proposes. Aft...
Book
This book explores the value for literary studies of relevance theory, an inferential approach to communication in which the expression and recognition of intentions plays a major role. Drawing on a wide range of examples from lyric poetry and the novel, nine of the ten chapters are written by literary specialists and use relevance theory both as a...
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In the last 10 or 15 years, following the collapse of the traditional definition of irony as a matter of saying one thing and meaning the opposite, a range of disparate phenomena including hyperbole, banter, understatement, jokes and rhetorical questions have been commonly treated as forms of irony in the experimental literature. Drawing on recent...
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My aim in this paper is to reassess the conceptual-procedural distinction as drawn in relevance theory in the light of almost thirty years of research. In Section 1, I make some comparisons between approaches to semantics based on a conceptual-procedural distinction and those based on a distinction between truth conditions and conditions for approp...
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This paper outlines the main assumptions of relevance theory (while attempting to clear up some common objections and misconceptions) and points out some new directions for research. After discussing the nature of relevance and its role in communication and cognition, it assesses two alternative ways of drawing the explicit–implicit distinction, co...
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Our main aim in this paper is to show that constructing an adequate theory of communication involves going beyond Grice's notion of speaker's meaning. After considering some of the diffi culties raised by Grice's three-clause defi nition of speaker's meaning, we argue that the characterisation of ostensive communication introduced in relevance theo...
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There has been some discussion about how far relevance theory can help in analysing the interpretation of literary works. Starting from the assumption that literary works are not entirely sui generis but exploit at least some of the abilities used in other varieties of verbal communication, I show how the same theoretical machinery used in analysin...
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Lexical pragmatics studies the processes by which lexically encoded meanings are modified in use; well-studied examples include lexical narrowing, approximation and metaphorical extension. Relevance theorists have been trying to develop a unitary account on which narrowing, approximation and metaphorical extension are all explained in the same way....
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Full-text available
In the last ten or fifteen years, following the collapse of the traditional definition of irony as a matter of saying one thing and meaning the opposite, a range of disparate phenomena including hyperbole, banter, understatement, jokes and rhetorical questions have been commonly treated as forms of irony in the experimental literature. Drawing on r...
Article
Full-text available
Lexical pragmatics studies the processes by which lexically encoded meanings are modified in use; well-studied examples include lexical narrowing, approximation and metaphorical extension. Relevance theorists have been trying to develop a unitary account on which narrowing, approximation and metaphorical extension are all explained in the same way....
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This paper considers what light experimental work on the development of irony comprehension can shed on the relation between echoic and pretence accounts of irony, and how theoretical debates about the nature of irony might suggest fruitful directions for future developmental research. After surveying the results of developmental studies of three d...
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According to the approach relying on relevance theory, used In this paper, metaphors do not form a natural kind, and "metaphor" is not a concept of theoretical relevance in the study of linguistic communication. Metaphorical meanings are arrived at on the same road as literal, loose, or hyperbolic Interpretations. There is no metaphor specific mech...
Book
When people speak, their words never fully encode what they mean, and the context is always compatible with a variety of interpretations. How can comprehension ever be achieved? Wilson and Sperber argue that comprehension is a process of inference guided by precise expectations of relevance. What are the relations between the linguistically encoded...
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How are non-declarative sentences understood? How do they differ semantically from their declarative counterparts? Answers to these questions once made direct appeal to the notion of illocutionary force. When they proved unsatisfactory, the fault was diagnosed as a failure to distinguish properly between mood and force. For some years now, efforts...
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Traditional approaches to irony Here are some typical examples of verbal irony: I left my bag in the restaurant, and someone kindly walked off with it. In each case, the point of the irony is to indicate that a proposition the speaker might otherwise be taken to endorse (that the party was fun, the person who took her bag behaved kindly, or Sue is...
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There has been some discussion about how far relevance theory can help in analysing the interpretation of literary works. Starting from the assumption that literary works are not entirely sui generis but exploit at least some of the abilities used in other varieties of verbal communication, I show how the same theoretical machinery used in analysin...
Chapter
Pragmatics is often described as the study of language use, as opposed to language structure. In this broad sense, it covers a variety of loosely related research programmes ranging from formal studies of deictic expressions to sociological studies of ethnic verbal stereotypes. In a more focused sense – the one we will use here – pragmatics contras...
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My aim in this paper is to reassess the conceptual–procedural distinction in the light of the last twenty years of research, and to consider some possible revisions or extensions. Section 1 is a brief introduction. In section 2, I outline the rationale for drawing a conceptual–procedural distinction of the type proposed in relevance theory (Blakemo...
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Both cognitive linguists and relevance theorists are developing original approaches to metaphor. Both shed new light on old debates and suggest fruitful directions for research. Although there has so far been little interaction between the two approaches, Raymond Gibbs and Markus Tendahl (2006, 2008) have recently begun to compare them and consider...
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The human voice conveys a variety of information about people's feelings, emotions and mental states. Some of this information relies on sophisticated Theory of Mind (ToM) skills, whilst others are simpler and do not require ToM. This variety provides an interesting test case for the ToM account of autism, which would predict greater impairment as...
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On being told "John or Mary will come", one might infer that not both of them will come. Yet the semantics of "or" is compatible with a situation where both John and Mary come. Inferences of this type, which enrich the semantics of "or" from an 'inclusive' to an 'exclusive' interpretation, have been extensively studied in linguistic pragmatics. How...
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Humans massively depend on communication with others, but this leaves them open to the risk of being accidentally or intentionally misinformed. To ensure that, despite this risk, communication remains advantageous, humans have, we claim, a suite of cognitive mechanisms for epistemic vigilance. Here we outline this claim and consider some of the way...
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We report findings concerning the understanding of prosody in Asperger Syndrome (AS), a topic which has attracted little attention and led to contradictory results. Ability to understand grammatical prosody was tested in three novel experiments. Experiment 1 assessed the interpretation of word stress, Experiment 2 focused on grammatical pauses, and...
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The abstract for this document is available on CSA Illumina.To view the Abstract, click the Abstract button above the document title.
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The interpretation of metaphorical utterances often results in the attribution of emergent properties; these are properties which are neither standardly associated with the individual constituents of the utterance in isolation nor derivable by standard rules of semantic composition. For example, an utterance of ‘Robert is a bulldozer’ may be unders...
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Introduction Are metaphors departures from a norm of literalness? According to classical rhetoric and most later theories, including Gricean pragmatics, they are. No, metaphors are wholly normal, say the Romantic critics of classical rhetoric and a variety of modern scholars ranging from hard-nosed cognitive scientists to postmodern critical theori...
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According to recent work in the new field of lexical pragmatics, the meanings of words are frequently pragmatically adjusted and fine-tuned in context, so that their contribution to the proposition expressed is different from their lexically encoded sense. Well-known examples include lexical narrowing (e.g. 'drink' used to mean ALCOHOLIC DRINK ), a...
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This paper considers two post-Gricean attempts to provide an explanatory account of verbal irony. The first treats irony as an echoic use of language in which the speaker tacitly dissociates herself from an attributed utterance or thought. The second treats irony as a type of pretence in which the speaker “makes as if” to perform a certain speech a...
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Prosodic elements such as stress and intonation are generally seen as providing both ‘natural’ and properly linguistic input to utterance comprehension. They contribute not only to overt communication but to more covert or accidental forms of information transmission. They typically create impressions, convey information about emotions or attitudes...
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The interpretation of metaphorical utterances often results in the attribution of emergent properties, which are neither standardly associated with the individual constituents in isolation nor derivable by standard rules of semantic composition. An adequate pragmatic account of metaphor interpretation must explain how these properties are derived....
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Résumé Cet article propose un traitement unifié de problèmes de variation du sens lexical classiquement abordés dans des cadres théoriques différents et non articulés les uns aux autres (sémantique lexicale, rhétorique, pragmatique inférentielle, etc.). Notamment, les phénomènes d'expansion et de spécifi-cation du sens, par exemple dans l'usage vag...
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This paper considers the relation between the pragmatic abilities used to interpret communicative behaviour and more general mind-reading abilities used to interpret ordinary actions. According to the classical Fodorian view [J. Fodor, The Modularity of Mind, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 1983], pragmatics and mind-reading are central cognitive systems...
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This paper outlines the main assumptions of relevance theory (Sperber & Wilson 1985, 1995, 1998, 2002, Wilson & Sperber 2002), an inferential approach to pragmatics. Relevance theory is based on a definition of relevance and two principles of relevance: a Cognitive Principle (that human cognition is geared to the maximisation of relevance), and a C...
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Este artículo ofrece una visión sintetizada de la teoría de la relevancia. Comienza defendiendo el carácter fundamental de esta propiedad mental a la hora de explicar el conocimiento y la comunicación humana. La exposición se llava a cabo en diálogo constante con otras teorías sobnre la relación entre semántica y contexto, especialmente con Grice y...
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The goal of lexical pragmatics is to explain how linguistically specified ('literal') word meanings are modified in use. While lexical-pragmatic processes such as narrowing, broadening and metaphorical extension are generally studied in isolation from each other, relevance theorists (Carston 2002, Wilson & Sperber 2002) have been arguing for a unif...
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This paper questions the widespread view that verbal communication is governed by a maxim, norm or convention of truthfulness which applies at the level of what is literally meant, or what is said. Pragmatic frameworks based on this view must explain the frequent occurrence and acceptability of loose and figurative uses of language. We argue agains...
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The central problem for pragmatics is that sentence meaning vastly underdetermines speaker’s meaning. The goal of pragmatics is to explain how the gap between sentence meaning and speaker’s meaning is bridged. This paper defends the broadly Gricean view that pragmatic interpretation is ultimately an exercise in mind-reading, involving the inferenti...
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This paper is designed to illustrate and consider the relations between three types of metarepresentational ability used in verbal comprehension: the ability to metarepresent attributed thoughts, the ability to metarepresent attributed utterances, and the ability to metarepresent abstract, non-attributed representations (e.g. sentence types, uttera...
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We argue that the presence of a word in an utterance serves as starting point for a relevance guided inferential process that results in the construction of a contextually appropriate sense. The linguistically encoded sense of a word does not serve as its default interpretation. The cases where the contextually appropriate sense happens to be ident...
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This paper considers three recent approaches to bridging reference, based on notions of truth, coherence and relevance, and argues that a relevance-based approach to bridging is preferable on both descriptive and explanatory grounds. Using questionnaire results from Matsui 1995, it compares the predictions of the relevance-theoretic account with se...
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This paper is a response to the arguments of Rachel Giora (1997) that relevance theory, as developed by Sperber and Wilson (1986/1995), cannot account for intuitions of text or discourse coherence. The paper has three main aims: first, to clarify the goals and mechanisms of relevance theory; second, to show how relevance theory can shed some light...
Conference Paper
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The replacement of code theories of communication by inferential theories has implications for the study of linguistic meaning. This paper surveys some of these implications and outlines an inferential theory - relevance theory - with which semantic analyses of context-dependent expressions, polysemous and ambiguous expressions, and non-truth-condi...
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Introduction In interpreting utterances such as (1) and (2), the hearer generally treats the events described as temporally or causally related: Such relations are not encoded in the meanings of the sentences uttered. This chapter is concerned with how they arise. We will look in particular at the following problems: The sequencing problem. Why doe...
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Most relevance-theoretic work so far has been carried out at a fairly abstract level (where some interesting generalizations could be developed). It has in general ignored most of the social intricacies of communication. At the same time, as a theory of communication, relevance theory is a theory of a type of social phenomenon, the most ubiquitous...
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The following questions (prepared by Isao Higashimori and answered by Deirdre Wilson) were used to introduce a general discussion on relevance theory at the end of a Relevance Theory Workshop organised by Yuji Nishiyama and Isao Higashimori at Keio University in March 1996. We would like to thank Yuji Nishiyama and the other organisers of the Keio...
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Chiappe & Kukla argue that relevance theory fails to solve the frame problem as defined by Fodor. They are right. They are wrong, however, to take Fodor's frame problem too seriously. Fodor's concerns, on the other hand, even though they are wrongly framed, are worth addressing. We argue that relevance theory helps address them.
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Chiappe and Kukla argue that relevance theory fails to solve the frame problem as defined by Fodor. They are right. They are wrong, however, to take Fodor’s frame problem too seriously. Fodor’s concerns, on the other hand, even though they are wrongly framed, are worth addressing. We argue that Relevance theory helps address them.
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http://www.ethnologue.com/show_work.asp?id=21284
Book
Czech translation of Deirdre Wilson (1991) Slave of the Passions (Picador, London)
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Introduction Our book Relevance (Sperber and Wilson 1986a) treats utterance interpretation as a two-phase process: a modular decoding phase is seen as providing input to a central inferential phase in which a linguistically encoded logical form is contextually enriched and used to construct a hypothesis about the speaker’s informative intention. Re...
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A paradox and a dilemma The student of rhetoric is faced with a paradox and a dilemma. We will suggest a solution to the dilemma, but this will only make the paradox more blatant. Let us start with the paradox. Rhetoric took pride of place in formal education for two and a half millennia. Its very rich and complex history is worth detailed study, b...
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Gerschenfeld, A. , The following values have no corresponding Zotero field: ID - 56
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a2 Department of Linguistics, University College London, London WC1E 6BT, England
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In Relevance: Communication and Cognition, we outline a new approach to the study of human communication, one based on a general view of human cognition. Attention and thought processes, we argue, automatically turn toward information that seems relevant: that is, capable of yielding cognitive effects – the more, and the more economically, the grea...
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Gerschenfeld, A. , The following values have no corresponding Zotero field: ID - 56
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The following values have no corresponding Zotero field: ID - 88
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Dean FodorJanet: Semantics: theories of meaning in generative grammar. New York: Crowell, 1977. Pp. xi + 225. - Volume 14 Issue 1 - Deirdre Wilson