Truth and Communication

Mar 19, 2017

Time: 14:00 - 16:00

Venue: The University of Chicago Center in Hong Kong

Speaker: Chris Kennedy - William H. Colvin Professor, Department of Linguistics and Humanities Collegiate Division

Program:

  • 14:00 - 14:30 Registration
  • 14:30 - 15:30 Lecture by Prof Chris Kennedy, Department of Linguistics
  • 15:30 - 16:00 Q&A

False descriptions of child prostitution rings run by Hillary Clinton that are presented as actual news stories later turn out to be "fake news."  White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway characterises the misinterpretation of the size of the audience at the inauguration of President Donald Trump as "alternative facts."  President Donald Trump himself claims that millions of people voted illegally during the 2016 election, despite the absence of any evidence that this was the case.

These and other events in recent American public discourse have led to concerns that we are entering a "post-truth" society. But what exactly is truth, and why should we care about it? This talk will examine the role of a truth convention in language:  the foundational role it plays in meaning and communication, the ways that it is sometimes bypassed to make communication more efficient, and the ways in which it can be exploited for the purpose of deception or obfuscation.

Chris Kennedy is the William H. Colvin Professor of Linguistics at the University of Chicago. He received his PhD in 1997 from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and taught at Northwestern University for eight years before moving to the University of Chicago in 2005. His research addresses topics in semantics and pragmatics, the syntax-semantics interface, and philosophy of language.

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