Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Stephen Neale

Committee Members

Noel Carroll

Daniel Harris

Gary Ostertag

Subject Categories

Philosophy of Language


pragmatics, Grice, interpretation, ostensive-inferential model of communication, Sperber, Wilson


Philosophers in the past have argued that the way the word “interpret” is used within creative fields unhelpfully conflates the notions of deriving and creating content. Arguing against this, I propose that the blurring of these two notions accurately describes how addressees interpret speakers, performers interpret scores, and audiences interpret art and music. Even speakers can be described as creative interpreters in this sense, as articulating a thought into an utterance requires an interpretive effort. I develop the idea that interpreting straddles the divide between deriving and creating content within the framework of the ostensive-inferential communication proposed by Sperber and Wilson (1986/95) in Relevance: Communication and Cognition. I also suggest that Sperber and Wilson’s framework should be modified to recognize both communicative and interpretive intentions. The notion of interpreting that I advocate supports the view of ostensive communication as spanning from regular everyday communication to creative and artistic expression in arts, music, and literature.