Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Stephen Neale

Committee Members

David Rosenthal

David Papineau

Gary Ostertag

Subject Categories

Philosophy of Language | Philosophy of Mind


unarticulated constituents, pragmatics, communication, the meaning-intention problem, teleosemantics, Relevance theory


This work is an investigation into a phenomenon introduced by John Perry that I call ‘totally unarticulated constituents.’ These are entities that are part of the propositional content of a speech act, but are not represented by any part of the sentence uttered or of the thought that is being expressed - that is, they are fully unarticulated. After offering a novel definition of this phenomenon, I argue that totally unarticulated constituents are attested in natural language, and may in fact be quite common. This raises fatal problems for a prominent theory of underspecification defended by Jason Stanley, according to which all context- sensitivity (including unarticulated constituents) can be traced to covert variables in the syntax. I then use these findings to draw out important lessons for the philosophy of language, including a rejection of a long-standing Gricean issue known as the “meaning- intention problem.” I also explore the dialectic between Paul Grice’s intention-based semantics and Ruth Millikan’s teleosemantics, arguing that Millikan’s perception-based response to the problem of underspecification is untenable unless it is modified to give prominence to the speaker’s intentions.