Relevance: communication and cognition and ... ?

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Deirdre Wilson (2018) provides a reflective overview of a volume devoted to the historic application of relevance-theoretic ideas to literary studies. She maintains a view argued elsewhere that the putative non-propositional nature of (among other things) literary effects are an illusion, a view which dates to Sperber and Wilson (1986/1995:224): “If you look at [nonpropositional] affective effects through the microscope of relevance theory, you see a wide array of minute cognitive [i.e., propositional] effects.” This
paper suggests an alternative, that modern-day humans have two apparently different modes of expressing and interpreting information: one of these is a system in which propositional, cognitive effects dominate; the other involves direct, non-propositional effects. The paper concludes by describing two ways such affects might be assimilated into relevance theory. The first, to accept that humans are much more than merely cognitive organisms; the second, to rethink quite radically what we mean by cognition.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)321-346
Number of pages26
JournalPragmatics and Cognition
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jun 2022


  • affect
  • emotion
  • natural codes
  • non-propositional effects
  • non-verbal communication
  • propositions
  • relevance theory


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