Associative and inferential approaches to pragmatics: The state of the art of experimental investigation.

Diana Mazzarella


A debate concerning associative versus inferential approaches to pragmatics has arisen within the recent ‘cognitive turn’ in the pragmatic field. The nature of on-line pragmatic processes has become the focus of attention of philosophers (Recanati 2002a, 2004, 2007b) and linguists
(Wilson & Carston 2007, Carston 2007). In this paper, I review this theoretical debate and then explore and assess the recent experimental literature focusing on it (Rubio-Fernández 2007, 2012). I address the question whether non-demonstrative inferential processes implemented
in a fast and automatic system (e.g. the relevance-theoretic comprehension procedure) can be empirically disentangled from ‘smart’ associative systems; and I raise some doubts about whether current experimental pragmatics is able to inform the theoretical debate on the nature of on-line pragmatic processes. I conclude by emphasising the role that philosophical analysis, with its traditional methodologies, can still play in the field of cognitive pragmatics.

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