The Semantics of Implicit Content

  1. Zeman, Dan
Supervised by:
  1. Josep Macià Fàbrega Director
  2. Genoveva Martí Campillo Director

Defence university: Universitat de Barcelona

Fecha de defensa: 26 April 2011

  1. François Recanati Chair
  2. Max Kölbel Secretary
  3. Peter Pagin Committee member

Type: Thesis

Teseo: 308207 DIALNET lock_openTDX editor


The main aim of the thesis is to give a semantic account of implicit content – the kind of content that plays a crucial role in implicit communication. Implicit communication is a species of communication in which a speaker communicates certain contents that go over and above the contents retrievable from the linguistic meaning of the words used. The focus of the thesis is a certain kind of implicit communication involving locations (when sentences such as “It is raining” are used to communicate that it is raining at a certain location) and judges (when sentences such as “Avocado is tasty” are used to communicate that avocado is tasty for a certain person, called “the judge”). The way the topic of implicit content is approached is via the notion, widespread in contemporary philosophy of language, of “unarticulated constituents”. The thesis contains an investigation of this notion, with the specific aim of disentangling the many senses it has been used and of providing a general definition of the notion. A direct product of this investigation is a partitioning of the logical space; three positions are then selected, which correspond to the main contenders in the current debate involving unarticulated constituents: truth-conditional semantics, truth-conditional pragmatics and relativism. The biggest part of the thesis is dedicated to investigating certain arguments that have surfaced in the debate between these positions, with the ultimate goal of proposing a relativist account of implicit content. The particular version of relativism offered consists in the combination of the claim that locations and judges are part of the circumstances of evaluation, rather than the content of utterances, with “the variadic functions approach” to certain natural language expressions. Also, several arguments against a truth-conditional semantic approach to predicates of personal taste are provided.