Volume 7, Issue 3, 2007
Philosophy of Linguistics
Relating Conscious and Unconscious Semantic Knowledge
Normal mature human language users arguably possess two kinds of knowledge of meaning. On the one hand, they possess semantic knowledge that rationalizes their linguistic behavior. This knowledge can be characterized homophonically, can be self-ascribed without adverting to 3rd-person evidence, and is accessible to consciousness. On the other hand, there are empirical grounds for ascribing to them knowledge, or cognition, of a compositional semantic theory. This knowledge lacks the three qualities listed above. This paper explores the possible relations among these two kinds of semantic knowledge. Is the former derived from the latter? Do these ascriptions in fact characterize the same states albeit in different ways? Special attention is paid to the varying philosophical and empirical commitments that different answers incur.