Stina Björkholm

Photo: Cato Lein

My research interests broadly concern evaluative and normative aspects of linguistic communication.

I defended my PhD thesis The Duality of Moral Language: On Hybrid Theories in Metaethics at Stockholm University in 2022. The thesis is about the way that moral sentences have a dual linguistic function: both to direct behavior, and to describe what the speaker takes to be true. In the thesis, I criticize existing theories of the semantic and pragmatic mechanisms responsible for the way that these two aspects of moral assertions are conveyed, and present my own view called dynamic descriptivism. According to dynamic descriptivism, moral utterances can be analyzed by appeal to a dynamic pragmatic model according to which interlocutors update a body of information which they assume to share when they engage in conversation. It includes what they assume to mutually believe, what they assume each interlocutor is committed to do, and which questions they together aim to resolve. I argue that some moral utterances update this shared body of information in a dual way, both affecting what is mutually believed, and how the interlocutors are committed to act.

My current research is within the project Social norms, implicit bias and discrimination. I focus on the way that speakers can derogate or offend through speech in a way that enforces stereotypes, norms, and the distribution of power in communicative interactions. I address this topic by applying the pragmatic model of communication which I used to analyze moral language in my thesis. The model provides a structured way to analyze potentially harmful ways in which interlocutors can update the body of information which they assume to share when they engage in conversation. My research mainly focuses on how this shared body of information can contain derogatory or offensive information, and how this might lead to discrimination in communicative interactions and in other contexts.

Selected publications