What words mean is a matter of what people mean by them

Tim Wharton


This paper considers the extent to which lexical acquisition is an exercise of an associationist ability, a general mind-reading ability or a specifically pragmatic ability. Particular attention is paid to the role played in word-learning by natural communicative phenomena—gaze direction, facial expression, tone of voice etc.—and to the question of how such behaviours might be accommodated within a pragmatic theory. As well as sketching some possible directions in which future research into the pragmatics of lexical acquisition might proceed I will also suggest, given recent research in relevance theoretic lexical pragmatics, that there are interesting parallels to be drawn between the processes at work in lexical acquisition and those at work in adult comprehension.


Associationism; Acquisition; Theory of Mind; Natural Pragmatics; Mindreading

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Ling. disc. Universidade do Sul de Santa Catarina, Santa Catarina, ISSN 1982-4017

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