2nd Annual Conference of the Philosophy of Language Association

July 24, 2023 - July 25, 2023
Institut für Philosophie, Freie Universität Berlin

Habelschwerdter Allee 30
Berlin 14195

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  • Gesellschaft für Analytische Philosophie


Universitat de Barcelona
Institut Jean Nicod


University of Massachusetts, Amherst
King's College London
University of Missouri, Columbia
University of California, Irvine
Princeton University
Freie Universität Berlin
Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf

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The Second Annual Conference of the Philosophy of Language Association will take place at Freie Universität Berlin on July 24–25, 2023. The goal of the conference, and of the association, is to provide a venue for philosophers of language to discuss new work in all areas of the field.


Monday, July 24

10:00–11:10 Gabriel Dupre: Morphology and Conventionalism

11:20–12:30 Éno A. Agólli: Radical Schmentencism

12:30–14:30 Lunch break

14:30–15:40 Ethan Jerzak & Alexander W. Kocurek: Knowing What to Do

15:55–17:05 Alex Wiegmann & Louisa Reins: The impact of implicit content on lie and truth judgments: A cross-culture study

17:20–18:30 Keynote: Isidora Stojanovic: The asymmetry of negation revisited

Tuesday, July 25

10:00–11:10 Laura Delgado & Claudia Picazo: Exploiting Ambiguity

11:20–12:30 Brian Haas: Lying with “Ouch!” and “Oops!” 

12:30–14:30 Lunch break

14:30–15:40 Sam Berstler: Higher-Order Deniability

15:55–17:05 Katharina Felka: No Praise for Unknown Cakes. What Is the Source of the Acquaintance Requirement for Statements of Taste?

17:20–18:30 Keynote: Manuel García-Carpintero: On the mood for fiction-making


Monday, July 24

10:00–11:10 Gabriel Dupre: Morphology and Conventionalism

Standard conventionalist approaches to linguistic metasemantics take linguistic conventions to function to enact a mapping between publicly observable signals (say sound-forms or gestures) and meanings. Philosophers have argued extensively about the nature of the later relatum, but have largely taken the former for granted. In this paper, I shall argue that attention to the branches of linguistics which focus on the nature of word-forms, specifically morphology and phonology, pose deep worries for any attempt to view conventions as grounding these basic metasemantic mappings. The core worry is: word-forms are not memorized, repeated items, but products of a mental, computational system, just as are sentences. The details of this generative process lead to a wide range of variation in the forms that public signals take. I investigate ways that such a process might be viewed as conventional, arguing that none can be both empirically adequate and explanatorily illuminating.

11:20–12:30 Éno Agólli: Radical Schmentencism

I present a dilemma about the syntax of modality that poses a serious challenge to current theories on the nature of linguistic meaning. Radical schmentencism is the view that there are no intensional operators (and indeed no operators at all) in natural language; instead, modality and grammatical mood are analyzed as involving explicit quantification and variables over possible worlds at LF. Radical schmentencism seems to contravene not only the identity thesis, which identifies the compositional semantic value of a sentence with the content of an assertoric utterance of that sentence, but also the recoverability thesis, according to which the latter is recoverable from the former. Despite this, I will show that radical schmentencism is overwhelmingly supported by empirical considerations. I will resolve this dilemma by attempting a schmentencist analysis of modality and mood which vindicates weakened versions of the identification thesis and, a fortiori, the recoverability thesis

14:30–15:40 Ethan Jerzak & Alexander W. Kocurek: Knowing What to Do

Much has been written on whether practical knowledge (knowledge-how) reduces to propositional knowledge (knowledge-that). Less attention has been paid to knowledge ascriptions embedding other infinitival questions, like where to meet, when to leave, and what to bring—what we call "deliberative knowledge" (knowledge-to). Standard linguistic accounts say yes: knowing what to do just is knowing, for example, what one can or should do to achieve one's goals. We offer an analysis of knowledge-to, and argue on its basis that whether or not knowledge-how reduces to knowledge-that, no such reduction for knowledge-to is forthcoming. Knowledge-to, unlike knowledge-that and knowledge-how, requires the agent to have formed certain conditional intentions.

15:55–17:05 Alex Wiegmann & Louisa Reins: The impact of implicit content on lie and truth judgments: A cross-culture study

In recent years, several empirical studies have been conducted to investigate whether people think it is possible to lie with deceptive implicatures. While the findings are not clear cut, there is quite strong evidence that at least some cases of deceptive implicatures are considered to be lies. Moreover, it has been found that some literally true utterances that convey a false implicature are judged to be false. In the present paper, we investigate whether the aforementioned phenomena can be generalized to different languages and cultures. To this aim, we conducted a cross-cultural study in which participants were presented with ten cases of deceptive implicatures and asked to judge whether the speaker lied and (in a different condition) whether what she said was true or false. 3660 participants (183 per condition; 366 per country) were recruited in ten countries (USA, UK, South Africa, Spain, Chile, Mexico, Israel, Germany, China, and Japan). Surprisingly, highly similar result patterns were found for all countries.

17:20–18:30 Keynote: Isidora Stojanovic: The asymmetry of negation revisited

If one is told that something is "not good", one will likely to pragmatically infer that it is pretty bad, whereas if one is told, conversely, that something is "not bad", one is less likely to infer that it is pretty good. This "negation asymmetry" (Colston 1999), aka "negative strengthening" (Horn 1989, Mazzarella & Gotzner 2002, i.a.) has been confirmed experimentally for a variety of antonyms, and is typically explained in terms of politeness. My talk has two aims. First, I will outline a novel explanation, inspired in Sassoon (2013)'s semantics of antonyms. Second, I will point out and address an analogous valence asymmetry as it arises with scalar implicatures.

Tuesday, July 25

10:00–11:10 Laura Delgado & Claudia Picazo: Exploiting Ambiguity

Ambiguity is pervasive in natural language. Although often it makes sense to disambiguate between the possible meanings or contents of our expressions, it seems to also be the case that we are quite happy with ambiguities, i.e., that we tolerate them and even exploit them for various communicative and non-purely communicative purposes. In this paper we explore some of the ways in which speakers exploit ambiguity, and argue that some forms of ambiguity exploitation are best explained using multipropositionalist semantics.

11:20–12:30 Brian Haas: Lying with “Ouch!” and “Oops!” 

Orthodoxy within the literature on the lying-misleading distinction takes the distinction to be between “asserting disbelieved information [maybe with an intention to deceive] and conversationally implicating such information by asserting something believed to be true.” The main battleground within Orthodoxy is over what account of assertion correctly captures our intuitions on the lying-misleading distinction. In this paper I argue against Orthodoxy. More specifically, I argue that lying does not require assertion, nor is the relevant attitude disbelief. Speakers can expressively lie when they utter “Ouch!” while not being in acute pain. Expressive lies necessitate a dramatic shift away from the traditional, assertion-based account of lying which dominates the literature and towards a heterodox, expressing-based one. 

14:30–15:40 Sam Berstler: Higher-Order Deniability

I introduce higher-order deniability, as a state that speakers strategically aim to create. Philosophers, linguists, and social scientists have studied what I call first-order deniability.  When a speaker aims to retain first-order deniability for G-ing, she typically aims to prevent her addressee from knowing that she G-ed. The speaker hopes to constrain her addressee’s option set for responding to the speaker.  While this analysis successfully explains why antagonistic speakers seek to create deniability for themselves, it fails to account for another core way in which speakers use deniability. Speakers sometimes aim to create deniability because they want to be polite, discrete, or respectful.  I propose that such speakers are aiming to secure higher-order deniability for their speech acts. In securing higher-order deniability, the speaker would thereby expand her addressee's option set for responding to her. Higher-order deniability is thus empowering for the addressee. I show that this strategy is continuous with other conversational face-saving strategies. Finally, I tease out the consequences of my analysis for our theory of speaker meaning. 

15:55–17:05 Katharina Felka: What Is the Source of the Acquaintance Requirement For Statements of Taste?

Statements of taste appear to be subject to an acquaintance requirement. For instance, it seems that the sentence 'The cake is tasty' can only be uttered legitimately if the speaker has tried the cake. Various authors have argued that the acquaintance requirement is due to specific linguistic features of taste predicates. In the talk we critically discuss these proposals and reject them in favour of an epistemic account of the phenomenon, according to which it results from peculiarities of knowledge about taste.

17:20–18:30 Keynote: Manuel García-Carpintero: On the mood for fiction-making

How should we think of the utterances that convey (literary) fictions? Searle (1974/5) (and before him MacDonald (1954), with better arguments) influentially argues that they are (non-deceptive) mere pretense – the simulation of acts like assertions or questions. They don’t constitute sui generis, dedicated representational practices of a specific kind, fictionalizing, on a par with assertions or questions. This has been the standard view in analytic philosophy until the 1990s, causally endorsed already by Frege, and then by many others like Austin, Kripke and van Inwagen. Even though authors including Alward (2009), Predelli (2019, 2020), and Recanati (2021) still endorse the view, Walton (1990) and others provide in my view decisive objections (cf. in particular de Gaynesford 2009), mostly predicated on its lack of explanatory power for different aspects of fictionality that good theories should and can provide. Walton himself also rejects views of the kind MacDonald and Searle question, which take fictionalizing to be a sui generis speech act, but his arguments are uncompelling; Currie (1990) nicely articulated one such account inside a Gricean framework, showing its explanatory power. Recently other writers have argued that a more conventionalist, Austinian framework provides even better accounts, including García-Carpintero (2013),  Abell (2020) and Bergman & Franzén (2022). While following Currie I earlier defended classifying speech acts of fictionalizing as directives, the latter authors defend classifying them as declarations – like giving out players, naming ships or sentencing offenders. In my paper I'll question the declaration view, but I'll also explore another alternative to the directive taxonomy, by considering whether fictionalizings should be understood as a variety of constative act, along lines that Predelli (1997), Recanati (2000), and Reimer (2005) had previously theorized.

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July 10, 2023, 6:00pm CET

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Humboldt University, Berlin
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