Metalinguistic negotiation and matters of language: a response to Cappelen

David Plunkett, Timothy Sundell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


In previous work, we have developed the idea that, in some disputes, speakers appear to use (rather than mention) a term in order to put forward views about how that term should be used. We call such disputes “metalinguistic negotiations”. Herman Cappelen objects that our model of metalinguistic negotiation makes implausible predictions about what speakers really care about, and what kinds of issues they would take to settle their disputes. We highlight a distinction (which we have emphasized in prior work) between the question of which disagreements speakers have vs. which disagreements are immediately expressed in a given linguistic exchange. Once this distinction is clear, we can appreciate that speakers who are engaged in a metalinguistic negotiation (where certain issues in conceptual ethics are immediately expressed) can also disagree about other issues, including both other issues in conceptual ethics and “object-level” issues that aren’t about words or concepts. In many metalinguistic negotiations, speakers (we think correctly) care more about these other issues than they do about ones concerning the meaning of a word. Because of this, Cappelen’s objection fails to identify any data that challenge our model.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInquiry (United Kingdom)
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • conceptual engineering
  • conceptual ethics
  • Herman Cappelen
  • metalinguistic disputes
  • Metalinguistic negotiation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Health Policy


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