Puns for Contextualists

  • Alberto Voltolini University of Torino, Italy
Keywords: Contextualism, non-contextualism, wide context


In this paper, I will first try to provide a new argument in favour of the contextualist position on the semantics/pragmatics divide. I will argue that many puns, notably multi-stable ones, cannot be dealt with in the non-contextualist way, i.e., as displaying a phenomenon that effectively involves wide context, the concrete situation of discourse, yet only in a pre-, or at least inter-, semantic sense. For, insofar as they involve ambiguous utterances rather than ambiguous sentences, these puns show that the wide context affecting them has a semantic role: it provides many truth-conditions for a single utterance. Moreover, I will try to show that the contextualist can provide a unitary account of the general phenomenon of puns. On the one hand, this account explains multi-stable puns as well as those puns the non-contextualist claims to deal with successfully, i.e., the ones involving a speaker-induced removal of a well-grounded misunderstanding. On the other hand, it also explains zeugmatic puns, i.e., those involving an ‘impossible’ meaning.

How to Cite
Voltolini, A. (2012). Puns for Contextualists. HUMANA.MENTE Journal of Philosophical Studies, 5(23), 113-140. Retrieved from https://www.humanamente.eu/index.php/HM/article/view/165