Communication and Convention

Donald Davidson

in Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation

Published in print September 2001 | ISBN: 9780199246298
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191715181 | DOI:

Series: The Philosophical Essays of Donald Davidson (5 Volumes)

 Communication and Convention

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Davidson discusses the use the concept of convention has for illuminating linguistic behaviour and related semantic concepts. In particular, he discusses theories on which conventions connect (1) sentence types with particular (‘illocutionary’) uses of them (Dummett), (2) individual sentences with single uses (Chomsky), or (3) individual words to extensions or intensions (Lewis). In response to (1), Davidson denies that conventions govern the practice of assertion and the linkage of assertion to what is believed to be true. He claims that (2) offers at best a partial analysis of the connection of speakers’ intentions to their utterances; and that the conditions Lewis proposes for convention in (3) are partly unnecessary and jointly insufficient for the mutual interpretability between speakers. He concludes that convention is not a condition for language but vice versa.

Keywords: Chomsky; convention; Dummett; extension; Lewis; linguistic usage

Chapter.  6793 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Language

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