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“Giving the Meaning” as a Social Practice on Pantelleria: The Metasemantics of Attunement


In this paper, I understand metasemantic practices (usually understood to give the meaning of an expression) as social practices that unfold interactionally according to pragmatic criteria. By examining verbal interactions centering on the toponymy and dialect of the Sicilian island Pantelleria, I show that metasemantic statements may (a) exhibit Pantelleria as an Orientalized “tourist place” through Arabic etymologies or (b) disclose it as a “place-world” through attunement to the singularity of what William James called the “tissue of experience”. By attending both formally and pragmatically to metasemantic constructions, I show that beyond their propositional content (expressing the equivalence of at least two expression-forms), translations may encode affective attunement and participate in place-making.

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