Jeremy is a... Expressive-relativism and expressives in predicative positions

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Expressives are words that convey speakers’ attitudes towards a particular object or situation. Consider two examples:Attributive: That f**khead Jeremy forgot the turkey. Predicative: Jeremy is a f**khead. In both examples the word f**khead communicates some expressive content - the negative attitude of the speaker. However, only in Predicative does it appear to contribute to the truth-conditional content. The task is to explain the semantics of the word f**khead when it seemingly behaves wildly differently in different syntactic positions. In this paper I consider several good candidates for dealing with f**khead occurring in Predicative position: Expressivist and Descriptive approaches that treat f**khead in Predicative as purely descriptive; and Expressive-Contextualism that treats Predicative as communicating to both expressive and descriptive dimensions. I show that none of the options fully capture the meaning of f**khead. Treating Predicative as purely descriptive leaves out the highly important expressive element, whilst Contextualist semantics does not seem as a suitable descriptive theory for expressives. I finally present a novel hybrid account that combines Expressivist semantics with Relativism. I call this view Expressive-Relativism. I show that by adopting Expressive-Relativism we can not only explain the relationship of f**khead in Attributive and Predicative, but also give a suitable descriptive theory that captures the truth-conditions of Predicative.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 16 Aug 2021


  • Contextualism
  • Expressives
  • Expressivism
  • Relativism
  • Semantics


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