Date of Award

May 2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Peter van Elswyk

Committee Members

Joshua Spencer, Matthew Knachel


Assertion, Defaults, Epistemic Attitudes, Illocutionary Force, Philosophy of Language, Speech Acts


Recent theorizing about speech-acts concerns answering, what Portner (2016) calls, theconventionalization question: in virtue of what linguistic-mechanism are sentence-types related to their canonically associated forces? For instance, what is it for a declarative- typed clause to be linked with assertoric force? Answers to the conventionalization ques- tion can be broadly characterized as falling under two camps: The Dynamic Pragmatic Approach and The Dynamic Semantic Approach. Proponents of the Dynamic Pragmatic Approach (inter alia, Portner (2016) and Roberts (2018)) typically claim that clauses fall under particular sentence-types in virtue of their semantic content. The sentence types, then, are associated with forces in virtue of pragmatic linking principles. On the other side, Proponents of the Dynamic Semantic Approach (e.g., Murray and Starr (2020) argue that the conventional link between sentence-type and force cannot be grounded in pragmatic reasoning; rather, the conventions exhibit features of a compositional semantics. Nonethe- less, both approaches represent a departure from theorizing about force from a traditional speech-act theoretic perspective. Thus, this paper proposes a novel answer to the con- ventionalization question from a speech-act theoretic approach. The proposal suggests that the sentence-types and their canonical forces are linked via pragmatic principles, yet it differs from extant theories by grounding them in a peculiar, under-studied phenomena— namely, default meanings. As such, the resulting proposal either addressees or sidesteps criticisms that accompany pragmatic answers to the conventionalization question

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