figures of speech n.
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Figures of Speech
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  1. Figures of Speech Stephen Schiffer Go Figure, London 2013

  2. outline • Gricean model of figures of speech • Tough question • Sperber & Wilson suggested answer • Problems • The correct (roughly Davidsonian) model

  3. The Gricean model • Speaker-meaning • What S means in “uttering” x • supervenes on intentions with which S uttered x • not determined even in part by meaning of x (or whether x has meaning) • Role of x

  4. Gricean model (2) • Expression-meaning • σ: <A, Ψ> • ‘Is she amusing?’: <?, xf is amusing at tu> • ‘She’s amusing.’: <⊦, xf is amusing at tu> • Saying/speaking literally • S said p in uttering σ = S meant p in uttering σ & p “fits” the meaning of σ • S spoke literally in uttering assertoric sentence σ = for some p, S said p in uttering σ

  5. Gricean model (3) • Implicature • S “implicated” p in uttering σ ≈ S meant but didn’t say p in uttering σ • Any proposition that can be meant can in principle be said • Must have truth conditions • Proposition that colorless green ideas sleep furiously is false • Needn’t be “paraphrasable”

  6. GRICEAN MODEL (4) Mistakes to be avoided “Grice tended to take for granted … that when someone uses language to communicate, she is presumed to express her meaning literally. It can then be assumed by default that the literal linguistic meaning of the utterance is … the explicit part of her meaning (Grice’s what is said), with only the implicit part (Grice’s implicatures) left to be inferred” —Sperber & Wilson, “A Deflationary Account of Metaphors”

  7. GRICEAN MODEL (5) BUT • No “presumption” or “norm” of literalness • Meaning of sentence almost never what’s said • For Gricean, ALLspeaker-meaning is inferred

  8. Gricean Model (5) • Figures of speech are ways of generating implicatures • Irony: ‘Jane is a fine friend’ • Metaphor: ‘You are the cream in my coffee’ • Meiosis: ‘He was a little intoxicated’ • Hyperbole: ‘He has to walk around in the shower to get wet’

  9. Gricean model (6) • Corollaries • No such thing as “figurative meaning” of expression type • No proposition is per se a “figurative meaning” • Whatever proposition S means when speaking figuratively could in principle be said

  10. tough question How does model apply to “The Fog”? The fog comes on little cat feet. It sits looking over harbor and city on silent haunches and then moves on.

  11. Answer? … suggested by Sperber & Wilson’s “A Deflationary Account of Metaphor” • S weakly means p in uttering σ ≈ for some class of propositions K, S M-intends H to consider some proposition or propositions of kind K, where any K proposition is as good as any other • E.g. in uttering ‘George Eliot was a woman’ S intends there to be a concept C such that • C entails that GE was a 19th Century English novelist • H believes that C was a woman

  12. answer? (2) • Definition of weakly-meaning satisfied if H believes that the author of Daniel Deronda was a woman, even if S never heard of Daniel Deronda • Mistake to speak of “weakly intending” here • But can read definition as stipulative • S w-implicates p in uttering x ≈ in uttering x S w-means p but doesn’t w-say p

  13. Answer? (3) For any concept C of any property φ such that φ is (i) suggested by ‘on little feet’ & (ii) possibly shared by cat movements and fog movements, the poet in writing ‘The fog comes/on little cat feet’ w-implicated that the fog comes in way C • That’s what make sentence a metaphor

  14. answer? (4) Applies also to “poetic effects” achieved in literal use of language On a leafless bough A crow is perched— The autumn dusk.

  15. problems Consider • “… the rooks in the college garden/Like agile babies still speak the language of feeling…” (W. H. Auden, “Oxford”) • “Its edges foam'd with amethyst and rose,/Withers once more the old blue flower of day…” (AE, “The Great Breath”) • We have no sense of any propositions ascribing properties to rooks or days that Auden or AE w-mean • “Poetic effects” are gestalt affective responses, and there are no properties such that the “poetic effects” these figures might have on us can be identified with thinking of rooks or days having those properties

  16. problems (2) • While poets intend their figures of speech to resonate affectively with their readers, there isn’t even a particular vague response they’re going for in all readers • Sometimes poet’s just hoping there’s something—anything!—in their words to resonate Hope is the thing with feathers That tickles imploring souls, And sings the words forgotten in desolate lascivious bowls (Emile Dickinson, “Hope”)

  17. problems (3) • Likewise for Sandburg’s poem and Bashō’s haiku: w-implicating has nothing to do with the effectiveness of good figures of speech

  18. the correct model … is more or less what Davidson proposed in “What Metaphors Mean” (1978) “When I die, I want to die like my grandfather did: peacefully in his sleep—not screaming hysterically like the passengers in the car he was driving.” • One telling this joke might be doing so to implicate some proposition, but that has nothing to do with the joke qua joke

  19. correct model (2) • The words that express the joke have no meaning other than their literal meaning in the language • And there’s no proposition such that the joke consists in the teller’s implicating that proposition • To understand a joke is to “get” it, or know what there is that one’s supposed to get about it • Not “getting” a joke = not seeing what’s supposed to be funny about it; it’s not failing to realize that the teller meant some proposition

  20. correct model (3) • There might be propositions one has to grasp to get a joke, but they aren’t propositions implicated or expressed by the joke Heisenberg went for a drive and got stopped by a traffic cop. The cop asked, "Do you know how fast you were going?" Heisenberg replied, "No, but I know where I am." • Jokes aren’t “paraphrasable” because understanding them doesn’t consist in implicated propositions one could even try to express in other words

  21. correct model (4) • Same is true, mutatis mutandis, of effective figures of speech • Sometimes “getting” a figure of speech = “getting” the joke contained in it "Before I met my husband, I'd never fallen in love. I'd stepped in it a few times."(Rita Rudner) • Not all “figures of speech” equal as regards the correct model

  22. remaining questions • How can we precisely characterize affective responses to good figures of speech? • How do metaphors et al work to achieve those responses? • Analogous questions re jokes • Not clearly questions for philosophers to answer

  23. Final remarks …based on “Workshop Overview” Bearing of figures of speech on • semantics of propositional-attitude reports? • None, subject to small qualification • “Modes of presentation”

  24. Final remarks (2) Bearing of figures of speech on • on semantics/pragmatics distinction—is type of meaning figures of speech have a matter of “saying” or “implicating” • None—they don’t have “meaning” in relevant respect