Just Words: Intentions, Tolerance and Lexical Selection
Speakers are not infallible in tokening words, and so there has to be some tolerance for error in pronunciation and spelling. But, a common view is that not just anything goes, as a misspelling or mispronunciation might be too dramatic to be recognized as of a particular word. These considerations have bolstered a family of accounts that take speaker intentions and standards for tolerance as determinants of which word is uttered when an utterance of a word is made. I argue this is a mistake. Neither intentions nor standards of tolerance are necessary or sufficient (individually or jointly) for determining which word an utterance tokens. Instead, drawing in part on empirical research on word production, I offer an alternative account, Originalism-plus-Transfer (OPT). According to OPT what an utterance tokens depends entirely on the process of lexical selection of an item from the speaker's mental lexicon during word production, and on how this item is situated within the network of causal/historical connections leading back to its neologizing. Once the elements of my account are in place, as a bonus, we will have resources for a promising answer to the question of word individuation as well.