ProjectPlauDe – Horizon-MSCA-2021-PF-01-01 - Postdoctoral Fellowship 2021

Basic data

Horizon-MSCA-2021-PF-01-01 - Postdoctoral Fellowship 2021
01/09/2022 to 31/08/2024
Abstract / short description:
Plausible deniability (PD) can be used strategically to convey content without dealing with the repercussions of asserting it explicitly. For instance, one might say "I admire your courage for wearing this dress" to convey an insult without incurring the social costs of explicit aggression. PD underlies such important phenomena as politeness, covert threats, political dog whistles and flirting. Despite this, PD ist understudied and as of yet imperfectly understood. Arguably, PD cannot be reduce to the mere probability of the relevant interpretation. Rather, it also relies on subtle social structures, such as power dynamics, attribution and responsibility and commitment, and their interactions with the linguistic expression of content. This makes PD an extremely complex and fascination phenomenon from the point of view of linguistics, philosophy of language and, more generally, the cognitive and social sciences. The PlauDe (Plausible Deniability) project aims to develop a unified account of PD that untangles its conceptual components and unifies its various guises under one theoretical umbrella. PlauDe will develop a formal computational model of PD to achieve a high degree of clarity and precision and generate quantitative empirical prediction that will ne tested experimentally. The model will improve over previous accounts by analyzing PD as a compromise between conveying content to another language user and avoiding judgement by a judge or bystander, be it concrete or imagined. This model will be used to systematically analyze real-world cases of manipulative language use with the aim of disseminating the judge-based account, which is not only a technical innovation but will also from the basis for a non-technical explanation of the phenomenon, resulting in a workshop to help entities vulnerable to PD-based linguistic strategies.

Involved staff


Institute of Linguistics (SfS)
Department of Modern Languages, Faculty of Humanities

Other staff

Carcassi, Fausto
Institute of Linguistics (SfS)
Department of Modern Languages, Faculty of Humanities

Local organizational units

Institute of Linguistics (SfS)
Department of Modern Languages
Faculty of Humanities



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