Volume 10, 1997
Cognitive Semantics I
The Genesis of Meaning (a Myth)
In ‘Meaning Revisited’, a reconsideration of his famous views on meaning, H.P. Grice has put forward the thesis that natural meaning (n-meaning) might be a precursor or predecessor of non-natural meaning. In this paper, I will take up Grice’s challenge and sketch a picture of how natural meaning could give rise to nn-meaning. The relevance of Grice’s challenge is obvious for current attempts at naturalizing nn-meaning: a plausible theory of the genesis of meaning must show why nn-meaning is not an unexplicable cosmic event but a product of various ways creatures more or less like us optimize communicative behaviour and learn to reason about mental states that causally explain that behaviour.