Academic year
2020/2021 Syllabus of previous years
Official course title
Course code
NF001C (AF:342459 AR:182200)
ECTS credits
Degree level
Educational sector code
1st Term
Course year
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This course is one of the three parts of the Minor "Gli strumenti del pensare: elementi di epistemologia e di filosofia del linguaggio per le discipline scientifiche ed economiche" and aims to provide the basic philosophical and linguistic tools that can be useful to students of any other discipline.
The goals of this course are the following: acquisition of knowledge concerning linguistic and communicative phenomena along with the theories designed to explain them; development of the ability to recognize and analyze a wide range of linguistic and communicative phenomena, with special attention to phenomena of context-dependence and implicit communication; improvement of practical skills in the application of these analytic and creative instruments to diverse fields like ordinary conversation, public debate, advertising and propaganda, scientific discourse, journalistic communication.
The course contributes to the achievement of the Minor’s purposes both by offering sophisticated theoretical tools and by teaching their correct practical application. To this end, the proposed concepts and theories are illustrated not only by means of “handbook” examples, but also by considering “real” cases taken from texts of various origin which have indipendent communicative purposes (fragments of dialogues, newspaper articles, avertisements, scientific essays, etc.). Thanks to this approach, the course aims to stimulate students to a critical attitude towards language, that is, an attitude based on higher awareness of the diverse strategies used by the agents of communication.
The course offers an introduction to the study of communication from a philosophical point of view – more precisely, from the point of view of contemporary pragmatics of language. Lectures and individual study will provide students with the following knowledge, skills, and competences:
1) Knowledges and understanding:
- Understanding and mastering the technical vocabulary currently used in the philosophy of language and related disciplines: word, noun/name, phrase, sentence, utterance, proposition, use, syntax, semantics, pragmatics, meaning, reference, conversation.
- Knowing the basic concepts worked out by semantic and pragmatic theories: truth-conditions, compositionality, context, speech act, distinction between implicit and explicit, distinction between linguistic meaning and speaker’s meaning.
- Acquaintance with the linguistic phenomena that are most relevant to communication theory: deixis, performative utterance, illocutionary force, entailment, presupposition, accommodation, implicature, cooperation, politeness.
- Knowing the main theories that have been proposed to account for the communicative phenomena listed above, with special attention to Austin, Grice, Stalnaker, Kaplan, Leech.
- Familiarity with a method for analyzing linguistic facts that is based on argumentative rigor and the consideration of examples and counterexamples.
2) Ability to apply knowledge and understanding:
- Ability to use the philosophical-linguistic vocabulary in the appropriate way to correctly describe linguistic facts and exposing theories.
- Ability to detect, recognize, and analyze the main semantic and pragmatic phenomena that occur in various kinds of texts having different communicative purposes.
- In particular, students will be able to recognize the presence of implicit messages and make their contents explicit, by providing at the same time a justification of the proposed analysis.
3) Judgment ability:
- Ability to argue in favor or against a certain theoretical hypothesis on the basis of a wide repertoire of examples and counterexamples.
- Ability to evaluate the pros and cons of a certain communicative strategy in terms of rationality, cooperativity, functionality to context, and politeness.
The are no specific prerequisites. However, the course requires a solid general background, a very good mastery of Italian language, and an aptitude for reasoning and rational argumentation.
1. Introduction to the pragmatics of communication and the basic vocabulary
2. Communication and context
2.1. Semantic context and pragmatic context
2.2. Ambiguity and indexicality
3. Saying and doing: communication and social conventions
3.1. The performative dimension of language
3.2. The theory of speech acts
4. Implicit messages
4.1. Entailments: semantics and logic
4.2. Taking for granted: presuppositions
4.3. Implying: conversational implicatures
5. Politeness
5.1. Conversational maxims and politeness maxims
5.2. Social distance and face

- F. Domaneschi, "Introduzione alla pragmatica", Carocci, Roma.
- Texts provided in class.

In addition to the textbook, non-attending students are required to study:

- P. GRICE, "Logic and Conversation", in ID., "Studies in the Way of Words", Harvard University Press, 1989, pp. 22-40.

- W.G. LYCAN, "Philosophy of Language: A Contemporary Introduction", Routledge 2000 and ff., limited to the following chapters:
ch. 1. Introduction: meaning and reference
ch. 5. Traditional theories of meaning
ch. 7. Psychological theories: Grice’s program
ch. 11. Semantic pragmatics
ch. 12. Speech acts and illocutionary force
ch. 13. Implicative relations
ch. 14. Metaphor


- J.L. Austin, How to Do Things with Words, Oxford University Press, second ed., 1975.
- C. Bianchi, Pragmatica del linguaggio, Laterza, Roma-Bari.
- C. Bianchi and N. Vassallo (eds.), Filosofia della comunicazione, Laterza, Roma-Bari.
- C. Penco and F. Domaneschi, Come non detto. Usi e abusi dei sottintesi, Laterza, Roma-Bari.
- S. Predelli, Contexts. Meaning, Truth, and the Use of Language, Oxford University Press.
- M. Sbisà (ed.), Gli atti linguistici. Aspetti e problemi di filosofia del linguaggio, Feltrinelli, Milano.
- M. Sbisà, Linguaggio, ragione, interazione. Per una pragmatica degli atti linguistici, Il Mulino, Bologna. New digital edition: EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste, open source:à_linguaggio_ragione_interazione.pdf
Learning is assessed by means of a written exam. The exam consists of a series of open questions, which are aimed to ascertain the acquisition of both knowledge and abilities. The questions for assessing knowledge ask to expound topics and concepts that have been presented in the lessons and are treated in the bibliography. The questions for assessing abilities ask to solve exercises concerning communicative phenomena.
The exam takes up to 120 minutes. During the exam, the use of books, notes, or electronic devices is not allowed.
Frontal lectures.
Use of power point.
Analysis of conversation.
Accessibility, Disability and Inclusion

Ca' Foscari abides by Italian Law (Law 17/1999; Law 170/2010) regarding support services and accommodation available to students with disabilities. This includes students with mobility, visual, hearing and other disabilities (Law 17/1999), and specific learning impairments (Law 170/2010). If you have a disability or impairment that requires accommodations (i.e., alternate testing, readers, note takers or interpreters) please contact the Disability and Accessibility Offices in Student Services:
Definitive programme.
Last update of the programme: 22/06/2020