Humans are social primates, and our particular brand of sociality is enabled by cognitive capacities that are quantitatively or qualitatively unique on earth. One of these unique capacities is language, which allows us to store and communicate information using precise and informationally rich grammatical structures. A second capacity that makes us unique is mindreading—our capacity (and irresistible proclivity) to treat pieces of the world around us as agents and explain their behavior by inferring their thoughts. It seems likely that these two capacities will be the key ingredients in a full explanation of human communication. The interesting questions are: how do they work together, and what is the balance between them?

Here is an answer to these questions that has appealed to intentionalists—those philosophers, cognitive scientists, and anthropologists whose primary inspiration is the work of Paul Grice. Human communication is, at its...

You do not currently have access to this content.