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Abstract

The fields of semantics and pragmatics are devoted to the study of conventionalized and context- or use-dependent aspects of natural language meaning, respectively. The complexity of human language as a semiotic system has led to considerable debate about how the semantics/pragmatics distinction should be drawn, if at all. This debate largely reflects contrasting views of meaning as a property of linguistic expressions versus something that speakers do. The fact that both views of meaning are essential to a complete understanding of language has led to a variety of efforts over the last 40 years to develop better integrated and more comprehensive theories of language use and interpretation. The most important advances have included the adaptation of propositional analyses of declarative sentences to interrogative, imperative and exclamative forms; the emergence of dynamic, game theoretic, and multi-dimensional theories of meaning; and the development of various techniques for incorporating context-dependent aspects of content into representations of context-invariant content with the goal of handling phenomena such as vagueness resolution, metaphor, and metonymy. WIREs Cogn Sci 2013, 4:285–297. doi: 10.1002/wcs.1227

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Conflict of interest: The authors declare no conflict of interest.