AGAINST HEARING MEANINGS

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Abstract

Listening to speech in a language you know differs phenomenologically from listening to speech in an unfamiliar language, a fact often exploited in debates about the phenomenology of thought and cognition. It is plausible that the difference is partly perceptual. Some contend that hearing familiar language involves auditory perceptual awareness of meanings or semantic properties of spoken utterances; but if this were so, there must be something distinctive it is like auditorily to perceptually experience specific meanings of spoken utterances. However, an argument from homophony shows that auditory experiences do not resolve differences in meaning not marked by differences in sound. I propose an alternative explanation of the perceptual phenomenal difference in terms of perceptual awareness of language-specific but non-semantic features.

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