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CURCO, Carmen. Procedures and Representation in Lexical Semantics. Diánoia [online]. 2016, vol.61, n.77, pp.3-37. ISSN 0185-2450.

The semantic notion of procedural meaning was originally proposed as a way to explain the contribution of non-conceptual vocabulary to interpretation. Procedural elements were seen as encoding instructions to perform pragmatic inferences. Their rigidity, as opposed to the malleability of conceptual meaning, led to the idea of two types of lexical semantics for natural languages, one conceptual and another procedural. Recently, however, the study of natural and spontaneous behaviours ostensively used, in combination with the influence of the massive modularity view of the mind, have brought a different perspective about the role of procedural elements in language. According to this stance, procedural elements would have a wider role, operating more generally as triggers of cognitive processes which are in principle external to language, but that are crucially involved in communication. Their role as orientators of pragmatic inference is only one of such processes. Here I support this view. On the other hand, it has become increasingly difficult to maintain a view of conceptual meaning that assumes that words encode concepts, or concept schemas. To tackle the problems this view faces, I suggest that conceptual items share with procedural ones precisely such a triggering function. I argue that semantic encoding is never constitutive, and I suggest that both types of semantics consist in activating informative structures and mental processes conventionally associated to the lexical items of natural languages.

Palavras-chave : procedural meaning; cognition; communication; lexical semantics; pragmatics.

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