The Maxims of relevance theory for determining the referent of a proper name

Özercan, Aliyar
People use proper names to refer to certain objects and people. One of the problems with this use is that people use the same name to refer to many other people. There many different theories developed by philosophers to explain how we refer to a person using a proper name. We shall see that though many of the theories can explain to a degree how we use the same name for different people but fail to elucidate how we determine the true referent among the many people that they know who bear the same name. This failure of semantic theories will lead us to study the pragmatic theories or communication theories and whether they can provide an explanation to how people use the proper names. As we elaborate the communication theories we will see that only Relevance Theory, developed by Wilson and Sperber, provides the closest account to explain how we communicate. Even though Wilson and Sperber claims that Relevance Theory cannot solve the problem we asserted above, we will see that there is a solution of Relevance theory and this solution comes from the problem that we stated for the semantic theories. Because semantic theories exclude the audience from the process of determining the true referent of a proper name, they cannot explain how we pick one of the referents. In Relevance Theory, however, the audience can enforce the speaker to increase the relevance. This enforcing is done with respect to certain maxims. In this thesis we will present these maxims. 


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Citation Formats
A. Özercan, “The Maxims of relevance theory for determining the referent of a proper name,” M.S. - Master of Science, Middle East Technical University, 2016.