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Just Words: Intentions, Tolerance and Lexical Selection

We all make mistakes in pronunciation and spelling, but a common view is that there are limits beyond which a mistaken pronunciation or spelling becomes too dramatic to be recognized as of a particular word at all. These considerations have bolstered a family of accounts that invoke speaker intentions and standards for tolerance as determinants of which word, if any, an utterance tokens. 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 which word tokening depends entirely on lexical selection during word production, and on how the selected lexical 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.

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