•  956
    Not all slurs are equal
    Phenomenology and Mind 11 150-156. 2016.
    Slurs are typically defined as conveying contempt based on group-membership. However, here I argue that they are not a unitary group. First, I describe two dimensions of variation among derogatives: how targets are identified, and how offensive the term is. This supports the typical definition of slurs as opposed to other derogatives. I then highlight problems with this definition, mainly caused by variable offence across slur words. In the process I discuss how major theories of slurs can accou…Read more
  •  444
    Slurs, roles and power
    Philosophical Studies 175 (11): 2879-2906. 2017.
    Slurring is a kind of hate speech that has various effects. Notable among these is variable offence. Slurs vary in offence across words, uses, and the reactions of audience members. Patterns of offence aren’t adequately explained by current theories. We propose an explanation based on the unjust power imbalance that a slur seeks to achieve. Our starting observation is that in discourse participants take on discourse roles. These are typically inherited from social roles, but only exist during a …Read more
  •  341
    Irony and the dogma of force and sense
    Analysis 75 (1): 9-16. 2015.
    Frege’s distinction between force and sense is a central pillar of modern thinking about meaning. This is the idea that a self-standing utterance of a sentence S can be divided into two components. One is the proposition P that S’s linguistic meaning and context associates with it. The other is S’s illocutionary force. The force/sense distinction is associated with another thesis, the embedding principle, that implies that the only content that embeds in compound sentences is propositional conte…Read more
  •  155
    Pretence and Echo: Towards an Integrated Account of Verbal Irony
    International Review of Pragmatics 6 (1). 2014.
    Two rival accounts of irony claim, respectively, that pretence and echo are independently sufficient to explain central cases. After highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of these accounts, I argue that an account in which both pretence and echo play an essential role better explains these cases and serves to explain peripheral cases as well. I distinguish between “weak” and “strong” hybrid theories, and advocate an “integrated strong hybrid” account in which elements of both pretence and ec…Read more
  •  137
    Embedding Irony and the Semantics/Pragmatics Distinction
    Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 1-26. 2018.
    This paper argues that we need to re-think the semantics/pragmatics distinction in the light of new evidence from embedding of irony. This raises a new version of the old problem of ‘embedded implicatures’. I argue that embedded irony isn’t fully explained by solutions proposed for other embedded implicatures. I first consider two strategies: weak pragmatics and strong pragmatics. These explain embedded irony as truth-conditional content. However, by trying to shoehorn irony into said-content, t…Read more
  •  110
    Go Figure: Understanding Figurative Talk
    Philosophical Studies 174 (1): 1-12. 2017.
    We think and speak in figures. This is key to our creativity. We re-imagine one thing as another, pretend ourself to be another, do one thing in order to achieve another, or say one thing to mean another. This comes easily because of our abilities both to work out meaning in context and re-purpose words. Figures of speech are tools for this re-purposing. Whether we use metaphor, simile, irony, hyperbole, and litotes individually, or as compound figures, the uses are all rooted in literal meaning…Read more
  •  109
    The starting point for this paper is a critical discussion of claims of psychological reality articulated within Borg’s (forth.) minimal semantics and Carpintero’s (2007) character*-semantics. It has been proposed, for independent reasons, that their respective accounts can accommodate, or at least avoid the challenge from psychological evidence. I outline their respective motivations, suggesting various shortcomings in their efforts of preserving the virtues of an uncontaminated semantics in th…Read more
  •  87
    Compound figures: priority and speech-act structure
    Philosophical Studies 174 (1): 141-161. 2017.
    Compound figures are a rich, and under-explored area for tackling fundamental issues in philosophy of language. This paper explores new ideas about how to explain some features of such figures. We start with an observation from Stern that in ironic-metaphor, metaphor is logically prior to irony in the structure of what is communicated. Call this thesis Logical-MPT. We argue that a speech-act-based explanation of Logical-MPT is to be preferred to a content-based explanation. To create this explan…Read more
  •  71
    Ironic Metaphor Interpretation
    Toronto Working Papers in Linguistics 33 1-17. 2010.
    This paper examines the mechanisms involved in the interpretation of utterances that are both metaphorical and ironical. For example, when uttering 'He's a real number-cruncher' about a total illiterate in maths, the speaker uses a metaphor with an ironic intent. I argue that in such cases both logically and psychologically, the metaphor is prior to irony. I hold that the phenomenon is then one of ironic metaphor, which puts a metaphorical meaning to ironic use, rather than an irony used metapho…Read more
  •  57
    Hyperbole is traditionally understood as exaggeration. Instead, in this paper, we shall define it not just in terms of its form, but in terms of its effects and its purpose. Specifically, we characterize its form as a shift of magnitude along a scale of measurement. In terms of its effect, it uses this magnitude shift to make the target property more salient. The purpose of hyperbole is to express with colour and force that the target property is either greater or lesser than expected or desire…Read more
  •  3
    Embedding irony and the semantics/pragmatics distinction
    Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 1-26. forthcoming.
  •  2
    Erratum to: Go Figure: understanding figurative talk
    Philosophical Studies 174 (5): 1363-1363. 2017.