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Samia Hesni (Boston University)
Samia Hesni (Boston University)

Tue, 04 Apr


Online Lecture

Samia Hesni (Boston University)

Samia Hesni an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Boston University, with a core appointment in the Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program. Her research is in philosophy of language and feminist, social and political philosophy.


04 Apr 2023, 16:00 – 18:00 CEST

Online Lecture



Luck-Reducing Features of Lexical Innovation


Donald Davidson challenges Lewis’s view of conventionalized language by appealing to lexical innovation. According to the Davidsonian critique, we can and do often use completely novel and made-up expressions to communicate successfully. For example, when Busta Rhymes (2001) says “I’m about to Picasso a new picture for you,” we understand that he is promising to do something interesting and unusual. So, according to Davidson, linguistic communication can’t be fully or fundamentally conventional. This paper explores the difference between two kinds of lexical innovation: (i) lexical innovation as it pertains to lexical items that are already in use in a given linguistic community (for example, the evolution of the term “unicorn” to indicate a special person or thing; or using “Picasso” as a verb); and (ii) lexical innovation that involves the creation of new linguistic items (like mansplain and bromance). I evaluate whether there is a tension between treating the two the same way. My view leaves open the possibility that lexical innovation itself is not entirely conventionalized. The paper ends by considering the question: if lexical innovation is not conventional, then can it avoid being entirely luck-dependent? And if so, how?

Zoom meeting ID: 614 8076 0079

Zoom passcode: CEN23

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