There are several linguistic phenomena that, when examined closely, give evidence that people speak through characters, much like authors of literary works do, in everyday discourse. However, most approaches in linguistics and in the philosophy of language leave little theoretical room for the appearance of characters in discourse. In particular, there is no linguistic criterion found to date, which can mark precisely what stretch of discourse within an utterance belongs to a character, and to which character. And yet, without at (...) least tentatively marking the division of labor between the different characters in an utterance, it is absolutely impossible to arrive at an acceptable interpretation of it. As an alternative, I propose to take character use seriously, as an essential feature of discourse in general, a feature speakers and listeners actively seek out in utterances. I offer a simple typology of actions in discourse that draws on this understanding, and demonstrate its usefulness for the analysis of a conversation transcript. (shrink)
Occurrences of sentences that are traditionally considered category mistakes, such as 'The red number is divisible by three', tend to elicit a sense of oddness in assessors. In attempting to explain this oddness, existing accounts in the philosophical literature commonly claim that occurrences of such sentences are associated with a defect or phenomenology unique to the class of category mistakes. It might be thought that recent work in experimental psycholinguistics—in particular, the recording of event-related brain potentials (patterns of voltage variation (...) in the brain)—holds the potential to shed new light on this debate. I review the relevant experimental results, before arguing that they present advocates of accounts of category mistakes with a dilemma: either the uniqueness claims should be rejected, or the experimental technique in question cannot be used to test existing accounts of category mistakes in the manner that philosophers might hope. (shrink)
What, exactly, is the difference between words such as ‘dead’ and ‘deceased’? In this paper, I argue that such differences in register, or style, ought to be construed as genuine differences in non-truth-conditional meaning. I also show that register cannot plausibly accounted for in terms of either presupposition or conventional implicature. Register is, rather, an instance of what I call pure use-conditional meaning. In the case of register, a difference in meaning does not correspond to a difference in the contents (...) speakers intend to convey. (shrink)
This book combines insights from philosophy and linguistics to develop a novel framework for theorizing about linguistic meaning and the role of context in interpretation. A key innovation is to introduce explicit representations of context — assignment variables — in the syntax and semantics of natural language. The proposed theory systematizes a spectrum of “shifting” phenomena in which the context relevant for interpreting certain expressions depends on features of the linguistic environment. Central applications include local and nonlocal contextual dependencies with (...) quantifiers, attitude ascriptions, conditionals, questions, and relativization. The result is an innovative, philosophically informed compositional semantics compatible with the truth-conditional paradigm. (shrink)
Natural languages are riddled with context-sensitivity. One and the same string of words can express many different meanings on occasion of use, and yet we understand one another effortlessly, on the fly. How do we do so? What fixes the meaning of context-sensitive expressions, and how are we able to recover the meaning so effortlessly? -/- This book offers a novel response: we can do so because we draw on a broad array of subtle linguistic conventions that determine the interpretation (...) of context-sensitive items. Contrary to the dominant tradition, which maintains that the meaning of context-sensitive language is underspecified by grammar and that interpretation relies on non-linguistic cues and speakers' intentions, this book argues that meaning is determined entirely by discourse conventions, rules of language that have largely been missed and the effects of which have been mistaken for extra-linguistic effects of an utterance situation on meaning. The linguistic account of context developed here sheds new light on the nature of linguistic content and the interaction between content and context. At the same time, it provides a novel model of context that should constrain and help evaluate debates across many subfields of philosophy where appeal to context has been common, often leading to surprising conclusions such as epistemology, ethics, value theory, metaphysics, metaethics, and logic. (shrink)
I plot accounts of slurs on a [semanticist – non-semanticist] spectrum, and then I give some original arguments in favor of semanticist approaches. Two core, related pro-semanticist considerations which animate this work are: first, that the pejorative dimension of a slur is non-cancellable; and, second, that ignorance of the pejorative dimension should be counted as ignorance of literal, linguistic meaning, as opposed to a mistake about conditions for appropriate usage. I bolster these considerations via cases in which slurs are embedded (...) within complex constructions, in which cases the pejorative dimension of a slur gets ensnared within the compositional semantic machinery. (shrink)
In this paper I try to show that semantics can explain word-to-world relations and that sentences can have meanings that determine truth-conditions. Critics like Chomsky typically maintain that only speakers denote, i.e., only speakers, by using words in one way or another, represent entities or events in the world. However, according to their view, individual acts of denotations are not explained just by virtue of speakers’ semantic knowledge. Against this view, I will hold that, in the typical cases considered, semantic (...) knowledge can account for the denotational uses of words of individual speakers. (shrink)
In this paper, I analyze the concept of ineffability: what does it mean to say that something cannot be said? I begin by distinguishing ineffability from paradox: if something cannot be said truly or without contradiction, this is not an instance of ineffability. Next, I distinguish two different meanings of ‘saying something’ which result from a fundamental ambiguity in the term ‘language’, viz. language as a system of symbols and language as a medium of communication. Accordingly, ‘ineffability’ is ambiguous, too, (...) and we should make a distinction between weak and strong ineffability. Weak ineffability is rooted in the deficiencies of a particular language while strong ineffability stems from the structure of a particular cognitive system and its capacities for conceptual mental representation. Mental contents are only sayable if we are able to conceptualize them and then create signs to represent them in communication. (shrink)
Humans communicate with different modalities. We offer an account of multi-modal meaning coordination, taking speech-gesture meaning coordination as a prototypical case. We argue that temporal synchrony (plus prosody) does not determine how to coordinate speech meaning and gesture meaning. Challenging cases are asynchrony and broadcasting cases, which are illustrated with empirical data. We propose that a process algebra account satisfies the desiderata. It models gesture and speech as independent but concurrent processes that can communicate flexibly with each other and exchange (...) the same information more than once. The account utilizes the ψ-calculus, allowing for agents, input-output-channels, concurrent processes, and data transport of typed λ-terms. A multi-modal meaning is produced integrating speech meaning and gesture meaning into one semantic package. Two cases of meaning coordination are handled in some detail: the asynchrony between gesture and speech, and the broadcasting of gesture meaning across several dialogue contributions. This account can be generalized to other cases of multi-modal meaning. (shrink)
This paper exposes a common mistake concerning the division of linguistic labor. I characterize the mistake as an overgeneralization from natural kind terms; this misleads philosophers about which terms are subject to the division of linguistic labor, what linguistic labor is, how linguistic labor is divided, and how the extensions of non-natural kind terms subject to the division of linguistic labor are determined. I illustrate these points by considering Sally Haslanger’s account of the division of linguistic labor for social kind (...) terms and raising an objection to it. Then, I draw on Tyler Burge’s work to characterize a conception of the division of linguistic labor that avoids the mistaken overgeneralization and grounds 1–4 above in social norms and practices. (shrink)
Higginbotham argued that certain linguistic items of English, when used in indirect discourse, necessarily trigger first-personal interpretations. They are: the emphatic reflexive pronoun and the controlled understood subject, represented as PRO. PRO is special, in this respect, due to its imposing obligatory control effects between the main clause and its subordinates ). Folescu & Higginbotham, in addition, argued that in Romanian, a language whose grammar doesn’t assign a prominent role to PRO, de se triggers are correlated with the subjunctive mood (...) of certain verbs. That paper, however, didn’t account for the grammatical diversity of the reports that display immunity to error through misidentification in Romanian: some of these reports are expressed by using de se triggers; others are not. Their IEM, moreover, is not systematically lexically controlled by the verbs, via their theta-roles; it is, rather, determined by the meaning of the verbs in question. Given the data from Romanian, I will argue, the phenomenon of IEM cannot be fully explained starting either from the syntactical or the lexical structure of a language. (shrink)
The relation between slurs and their neutral counterparts has been put into question recently by the fact that some slurs can be used to refer to subsets of the referential classes determined by their associated counterparts. This paper aims to reinforce this relation by offering a way of explaining referential restriction that distinguishes between two kinds of slurs: those performing a normalizing role upon (some) individuals inside a class (mostly, a gender) and those used to derogate a marginalized out- group.
We offer an analysis of future morphemes as epistemic operators. The main empirical motivation comes from the fact that future morphemes have systematic purely epistemic readings—not only in Greek and Italian, but also in Dutch, German, and English will. The existence of epistemic readings suggests that the future expressions quantify over epistemic, not metaphysical alternatives. We provide a unified analysis for epistemic and predictive readings as epistemic necessity, and the shift between the two is determined compositionally by the lower tense. (...) Our account thus acknowledges a systematic interaction between modality and tense—but the future itself is a pure modal, not a mixed temporal/modal operator. We show that the modal base of the future is nonveridical, i.e. it includes p and ¬p worlds, parallel to epistemic modals such as must, and present arguments that future morphemes are a category that stands in between epistemic modals and predicates of personal taste. We identify, finally, a subclass of epistemic futures which are ratificational, and argue that will is a member of this class. (shrink)
Surányi (2006) observed that Hungarian has a hybrid (strict + non-strict) negative concord system. This paper proposes a uniform analysis of that system within the general framework of Zeijlstra (2004, 2008) and, especially, Chierchia (2013), with the following new ingredients. Sentential negation NEM is the same full negation in the presence of both strict and non-strict concord items. Preverbal SENKI `n-one’ type negative concord items occupy the specifier position of either NEM `not' or SEM `nor'. The latter, SEM spells out (...) IS `too, even’ in the immediate scope of negation; it is a focus-sensitive head on the clausal spine. SEM can be seen as an overt counterpart of the phonetically null head that Chierchia dubs NEG; it is capable of invoking an abstract (disembodied) negation at the edge of its projection. (shrink)
I want to motivate an account of what it is for an object to have a property, which may as well be called a deflationary view about properties. Such a view follows from a conception of predication I ground in the work of Donald Davidson, some of which remains unpublished. I claim that if we take seriously Davidson’s account of predication, by maintaining that sentences are the primary linguistic unit, we can define properties in terms of predicates. The aim of (...) this paper is twofold. First, I argue that this account is present in Davidson’s systematic treatment of the problem of predication. Second, I claim that this account is serviceable and economical, as it can accommodate a wide scope of properties and abstract objects without appealing to entities such as truthmakers or joints in nature. (shrink)
Kotek et al. argue on the basis of novel experimental evidence that sentences like ‘Most of the dots are blue’ are ambiguous, i.e. have two distinct truth conditions. Kotek et al. furthermore suggest that when their results are taken together with those of earlier work by Lidz et al., the overall picture that emerges casts doubt on the conclusions that Lidz et al. drew from their earlier results. We disagree with this characterization of the relationship between the two studies. Our (...) main aim in this reply is to clarify the relationship as we see it. In our view, Kotek et al.’s central claims are simply logically independent of those of Lidz et al.: the former concern which truth condition a certain kind of sentence has, while the latter concern the procedures that speakers choose for the purposes of determining whether a particular truth condition is satisfied in various scenes. The appearance of a conflict between the two studies stems from inattention to the distinction between questions about truth conditions and questions about verification procedures. (shrink)
Celem artykułu jest wyróżnienie dwóch, funkcjonujących w języku potocznym sensów wyrażenia „widzieć” – obiektywnego i subiektywnego bez jednoczesnego przypisywania obserwatorom przekonań. Celem jest zatem ekstensjonalna eksplikacja. Pozwala to na opisywanie percepcji wzrokowej bez przesądzania o wyższych zdolnościach kognitywnych podmiotu percepcji. Wprowadzenie przekonań obserwatora pozwala następnie na wyrażenie większej ilości rozróżnień występujących w literaturze poświęconej filozoficznym zagadnieniom percepcji zmysłowej.
In the debate between contextualism and relativism about predicates of taste, the challenge from disagreement (the objection that contextualism cannot account for disagreement in ordinary exchanges involving such predicates) has played a central role. This paper investigates one way of answering the challenge consisting on appeal to certain, less focused on, uses of predicates of taste. It argues that the said thread is unsatisfactory, in that it downplays certain exchanges that constitute the core disagreement data. Additionally, several arguments to the (...) effect that the exchanges in question don’t amount to disagreement are considered and rejected. (shrink)
Is moral realism compatible with the existence of moral disagreements? Since moral realism requires that if two persons are in disagreement over some moral question at least one must be objectively mistaken, it seems difficult to uphold that there can be moral disagreements without fault. Alison Hills argued that moral realism can accommodate such disagreements. Her strategy is to argue that moral reasoners can be faultless in making an objectively false moral judgement if they followed the relevant epistemic norm, i.e. (...) follow your conscience, when making their judgement. I will argue that Hills' strategy does not work. The putative epistemic norm follow your conscience does not trump moral truth, because believing something wrong for the wrong reasons is worse than believing something right for the wrong reasons. (shrink)
Focusing on cases which involve binding into epistemic modals with definite descriptions and quantifiers, I raise some new problems for standard approaches to all of these expressions. The difficulties are resolved in a semantic framework that is dynamic in character. I close with a new class of problems about de re readings within the scope of modals.
In “The Semantics of Racial Slurs,” an article recently published in Linguistic and Philosophical Investigations, Hedger draws upon Kaplan’s distinction between descriptive and expressive content to argue that slurs are expressions with purely expressive content. Here I review the key considerations presented by Hedger in support of his purely expressive account of slurs and provide clear reasons for why it must ultimately be rejected. After reviewing the key cases Hedger offers for consideration in support of his view that slurs are (...) expressions with purely expressive content, this article provides a critical evaluation of these cases, pointing out at least 13 ways in which his purely expressive analysis of slurs fails. In considering the 13 ways in which the purely expressive analysis of slurs remains inadequate, this article concludes with the suggestion that an adequate account of slurs will ultimately involve not only an expressive aspect but a descriptive aspect also. (shrink)
Ethnic slurs have recently raised interest in philosophy of language. Consider (1) Yao is Chinese and (2) Yao is a chink. A theory of meaning should take into account the fact that sentence (2) has the property of containing a slur, a feature plausibly motivating an utterance of (2) rather than (1), and conveys contempt because it contains that word. According to multipropositionalism, two utterances can have the same official truth conditions and the same truth-value but differ in cognitive significance (...) (Korta and Perry, 2011). I contend that (1) and (2) have the same official content, and say the same thing, but differ in cognitive significance. I argue that slurs have linguistic meaning as type conveying that the designated group (Chinese for example) is despicable because it is that very group. Knowing the use of a slur is knowing the group it targets and that that group is despicable because it is that group. The idea that that group, Chinese for example, is despicable because of being Chinese is conventionally implicated. Specific prejudices slurs convey are not semantically carried, and cannot be identified by using semantic competence only. My view account for slurs in propositional attitudes, and for the fact that ‘Yao is not a chink, he is Chinese’ is not a contradiction. (shrink)
The article addresses two closely related questions: What are the criteria of adequacy of logical formalization of natural language arguments, and what gives logic the authority to decide which arguments are good and which are bad? Our point of departure is the criticism of the conception of logical formalization put forth, in a recent paper, by M. Baumgartner and T. Lampert. We argue that their account of formalization as a kind of semantic analysis brings about more problems than it solves. (...) We also argue that the criteria of adequate formalization need not be based on truth conditions associated with logical formulas; in our view, they are better based on structural (inferential) grounds. We then put forward our own version of the criteria. The upshot of the discussion that follows is that the quest for an adequate formalization in a suitable logical language is best conceived of as the search for a Goodmanian reflective equilibrium. (shrink)
The semantic literature takes degree operators like the comparative, but also measure phrases, the equative, the superlative and so on, to be quantifiers over degrees. This is well motivated by their semantic contribution, but leads one to expect far more scope interaction than is actually observed. This paper proposes an alternative-semantic analysis of certain degree constructions, in particular constructions with little and other negative antonyms. Restrictions on scope can then be explained as intervention effects.
This paper addresses the question of whether the preverbal even (VP-even) embedded in a nonfinite clause can take wide scope (e.g., Bill refused to even drink WATER). The paper presents novel evidence for wide scope VP-even that is independent of the presuppositions of even. The evidence is based on examples of antecedent-contained deletion (ACD), where embedded VP-even associates with a nominal constituent (or part of it) that raises out of the embedded clause via quantifier raising. Assuming that even must c-command (...) the focus that it associates with, the case at issue forces VP-even to have wide scope, and further shows that VP-even in NPI-licensing contexts is not necessarily an NPI. (shrink)
The analysis of atomic sentences and their subatomic components poses a special problem for proof-theoretic approaches to natural language semantics, as it is far from clear how their semantics could be explained by means of proofs rather than denotations. The paper develops a proof-theoretic semantics for a fragment of English within a type-theoretical formalism that combines subatomic systems for natural deduction  with constructive (or Martin-Löf) type theory [8, 9] by stating rules for the formation, introduction, elimination and equality of (...) atomic propositions understood as types (or sets) of subatomic proof-objects. The formalism is extended with dependent types to admit an interpretation of non-atomic sentences. The paper concludes with applications to natural language including internally nested proper names, anaphoric pronouns, simple identity sentences, and intensional transitive verbs. (shrink)
Some natural languages do not lexically distinguish between modals of possibility and modals of necessity. From the perspective of languages like English, modals in such languages appear to do double duty: they are used both where possibility modals are expected and where necessity modals are expected. The Nez Perce modal suffix o’qa offers an example of this behavior. I offer a simple account of the flexibility of the o’qa modal centered on the absence of scalar implicatures. O’qa is a possibility (...) modal that does not belong to a Horn scale; its use is never associated with a scalar implicature. Accordingly, in an upward entailing environment, φ-o’qa is appropriate whenever there are accessible φ-worlds, even if indeed all accessible worlds are φ-worlds. In a downward entailing environment, the flexibility of the o’qa modal is seen no more. Here, neither o’qa nor English possibility modals are associated with scalar implicatures, and the use of o’qa exactly parallels the use of English modals of possibility. -/- Given that o’qa is a possibility modal that does not contrast with a modal of necessity, just how do you talk about necessities in Nez Perce? Speakers translating into Nez Perce rely on a variety of techniques to paraphrase expressions of simple necessity away. Their strategies highlight an area where Nez Perce and English plausibly differ in the range of propositions they convey. The data cast doubt on any strong form of effability as a language universal. (shrink)
Minimalism proposes a semantics that does not account for speakers' intuitions about the truth conditions of a range of sentences or utterances. Thus, a challenge for this view is to offer an explanation of how its assignment of semantic contents to these sentences is grounded in their use. Such an ..
Abstracts The aim of the paper is to propose an alternative model to realist and non-cognitive explanations of the rule-guided use of thick ethical concepts and to examine the implications that may be drawn from this and similar cases for our general understanding of rule-following and the relation between criteria of application, truth and correctness. It addresses McDowell’s non-cognitivism critique and challenges his defence of the entanglement thesis for thick ethical concepts. Contrary to non-cognitivists, however, I propose to view the (...) relation between the two terms of the entanglement as resulting from the satisfaction of a previously applied moral function. This is what I call a “Three-Fold Model”. (shrink)
On the basis of arguments put forth by (Kripke, 1977a) and (Kripke, 1980), it is widely held that one can sometimes rationally accept propositions of the form "P and not-P" and also that there are necessary a posteriori truths. We will find that Kripke's arguments for these views appear probative only so long as one fails to distinguish between semantics and presemantics—between the literal meanings of sentences, on the one hand, and the information on the basis of which one identifies (...) those literal meanings, on the other. This same failure, it will be argued, underlies the popular thesis that intersubstituting co-referring terms sometimes turns true sentences into false ones and vice versa. Though seemingly plausible, this thesis has a number of counterintuitive consequences, among them that the occurrence of “snow” in “it is true that snow is white” doesn’t refer to snow. An understanding of the distinction between semantics and presemantics suggests a way to develop a semantic system that doesn’t have these consequences and that, moreover, reconciles our intuitions concerning cognitive content with some powerfully argued theses of contemporary philosophy of language. Some of this paper's main contentions are anticipated by Andrzej Boguslawski in his 1994 paper “Sentential Complementation and Truth.”. (shrink)
I address the claim by Valor and Martínez that Goldstein's cassationist approach to Liar-like paradoxes generates paradoxes it cannot solve. I argue that these authors miss an essential point in Goldstein's cassationist approach, namely the thesis that paradoxical sentences are not able to make the statement they seem to make.
The term ‘ellipsis’ can be used to refer to a variety of phenomena: syntactic, semantic, and pragmatic. In this article, I discuss the recent comprehensive survey by Stainton 2006 of these kinds of ellipsis with respect to the analysis of nonsententials and try to show that despite his trenchant criticisms and insightful proposal, some of the criticisms can be evaded and the insights incorporated into a semantic ellipsis analysis, making a ‘divide-and-conquer’ strategy to the properties of nonsententials feasible after all. (...) -/- Editor's comment: To find the contribution, please go to item 16 of the URL, which contains the full text. Professor Merchant has permitted this. (shrink)
In order to resolve problems about the normative aspects of representation without having to (1) provide a naturalized theory of intentional/semantic properties, (2) accept non-natural intentional/semantic properties into our worldview, or (3) eliminate intentionality, this article questions a basic assumption about the metaphysics of representation: that representation involves representation-objects. An alternative, nonreifying approach to the metaphysics of representation is introduced and developed in detail. The argumentative strategy is as follows. First, an adverbial view of linguistic representation is introduced. Two potential (...) objections are identified and considered. To respond to these objections, relationships between physical form and linguistic/representational form are examined. In the process, two ways of idealizing away from the heterogeneous details of actual language use are introduced: idealization toward homogeneity and idealization toward complete heterogeneity. I argue that an adverbial view of linguistic representation both allows for and requires that we idealize toward complete heterogeneity and that doing so has important implications for (1) our understanding of the relationship between physical form and representational form and (2) property attribution in general. These implications provide further indirect support for the alternative metaphysics of representation developed here. (shrink)
Category mistakes are sentences such as ‘Colourless green ideas sleep furiously’ or ‘The theory of relativity is eating breakfast’. Such sentences are highly anomalous, and this has led a large number of linguists and philosophers to conclude that they are meaningless (call this ‘the meaninglessness view’). In this paper I argue that the meaninglessness view is incorrect and category mistakes are meaningful. I provide four arguments against the meaninglessness view: in Sect. 2, an argument concerning compositionality with respect to category (...) mistakes; in Sect. 3 an argument concerning synonymy facts of category mistakes; in Sect. 4 concerning embeddings of category mistakes in propositional attitude ascriptions; and in Sect. 5 concerning the uses of category mistakes in metaphors. Having presented these arguments, in Sect. 6 I briefly discuss some of the positive motivations for accepting the meaninglessness view and argue that they are unconvincing. I conclude that the meaninglessness view ought to be rejected. (shrink)
We show that a set of prima facie plausible assumptions on the relation of meaning resemblance – one of which is a compositionality postulate – is inconsistent. On this basis we argue that either there is no theoretically useful notion of semantic resemblance at all, or the traditional conception of the compositionality of meaning has to be adapted. In the former case, arguments put forward by Nelson Goodman and Paul Churchland in favor of the concept of meaning resemblance are defeated. (...) In the other case, it must be possible to account for 'degrees of compositionality' or for other refinements of compositionality that are compatible with meaning resemblance. (shrink)
These days it is widely agreed that there is no such thing as absolute motion and rest; the motion of an object can only be characterized with respect to some chosen frame of reference.1 This is a fact of which many of us are well-aware, and yet a cursory consideration of the ways we ascribe motion to objects gives the impression that it is a fact we persistently ignore. We insist to the police officer that we came to a full (...) and complete stop at the stop sign, we fret that traffic is moving too slowly, we observe that the sun has dropped below the hills on the horizon, all without ever saying which frames of reference we have in mind. (shrink)
In some languages every statement must contain a specification of the type of evidence on which it is based: for example, whether the speaker saw it, or heard it, or inferred it from indirect evidence, or learnt it from someone else. This grammatical reference to information source is called 'evidentiality', and is one of the least described grammatical categories. Evidentiality systems differ in how complex they are: some distinguish just two terms (eyewitness and noneyewitness, or reported and everything else), while (...) others have six or even more terms. Evidentiality is a category in its own right, and not a subcategory of epistemic or some other modality, nor of tense-aspect. Every language has some way of referring to the source of information, but not every language has grammatical evidentiality. In English expressions such as I guess, they say, I hear that, the alleged are not obligatory and do not constitute a grammatical system. Similar expressions in other languages may provide historical sources for evidentials. True evidentials, by contrast, form a grammatical system. In the North Arawak language Tariana an expression such as "the dog bit the man" must be augmented by a grammatical suffix indicating whether the event was seen, or heard, or assumed, or reported. This book provides the first exhaustive cross-linguistic typological study of how languages deal with the marking of information source. Examples are drawn from over 500 languages from all over the world, several of them based on the author's original fieldwork. Professor Aikhenvald also considers the role evidentiality plays in human cognition, and the ways in which evidentiality influences human perception of the world.. This is an important book on an intriguing subject. It will interest anthropologists, cognitive psychologists and philosophers, as well as linguists. (shrink)
In the logical, philosophical and linguistic literature, a number of theoretical frameworks have been proposed for the meaning of questions (see Ginzburg (1995), Groenendijk & Stokhof (1997) for recent overviews). I will concentrate on two general approaches that figured prominently in linguistic semantics, which I will call the proposition set approach and the structured meaning approach (sometimes called the “propositional” and the “categorial” or “functional” approach). I will show that the proposition set approach runs into three problems: It does not (...) always predict the right focus structure in answers, it is unable to distinguish between polarity (yes/no) and a certain type of alternative questions, and it does not allow to formulate an important condition for a type of multiple constituent questions. On the other hand, I will show that the main argument brought forward against the structured meaning framework, namely that it does not give us an elegant way to account for embedded questions, does not withstand closer scrutiny. In this I will take up an issue raised in von Stechow (1990), namely, that the greater expressive power of the structured meaning approach might be necessary for the proper treatment of semantic phenomena like question formation and focusation. (shrink)
How can a speaker can explain that P without explaining the fact that P, or explain the fact that P without explaining that P, even when it is true (and so a fact) that P? Or in formal mode: what is the semantic contribution of 'explain' such that 'She explained that P' can be true, while 'She explained the fact that P' is false (or vice versa), even when 'P' is true? The proposed answer is that 'explained' is a semantically (...) monadic predicate, satisfied by events of explaining. But 'the fact that P' (a determiner phrase) and 'that P' (a complementizer phrase) get associated with different thematic roles, corresponding to the distinction between a thing explained and the content of a speech act. (shrink)
Assertoric sentences are sentences which admit of truth or falsity. Non-assertoric sentences, imperatives and interrogatives, have long been a source of difficulty for the view that a theory of truth for a natural language can serve as the core of a theory of meaning. The trouble for truth-theoretic semantics posed by non-assertoric sentences is that, prima facie, it does not make sense to say that imperatives, such as 'Cut your hair', or interrogatives such as 'What time is it?', are truth (...) or false. Thus, the vehicle for giving the meaning of a sentence by using an interpretive truth theory, the T-sentence, is apparently unavailable for non-assertoric sentences. This paper shows how to incorporate non-assertoric sentences into a theory of meaning that gives central place to an interpretive truth theory for the language, without, however, reducing the non-assertorics to assertorics, or treating their utterances as semantically equivalent to one or more utterances of assertoric sentences. Four proposals for how to incorporate non-assertoric sentences into a broadly truth-theoretic semantics are reviewed. The proposals fall into two classes, those that attempt to explain the meaning of non-assertoric sentences solely by appeal to truth conditions, and those that attempt to explain the meaning of non-assertroic sentences by appeal to compliance conditions, which can be treated as one variety of fulfillment conditions for sentences of which truth conditions are another variety. The paper argues that none of the extant approaches is successful, but develops a version of the generalized fulfillment approach which avoids the difficulties of previous approaches and still exhibits a truth theory as the central component of a compositional meaning theory for all sentences of natural language. (shrink)
Ways of Scope Taking is concerned with syntactic, semantic and computational aspects of scope. Its starting point is the well-known but often neglected fact that different types of quantifiers interact differently with each other and other operators. The theoretical examination of significant bodies of data, both old and novel, leads to two central claims. (1) Scope is a by-product of a set of distinct Logical Form processes; each quantifier participates in those that suit its particular features. (2) Scope interaction is (...) further constrained by the semantics of the interacting operators. The arguments are developed using Minimalist syntax, Generalized Quantify theory, Discourse Representation Theory, and algebraic semantics. The contributors (Beghelli, Ben-Shalom, Doetjes, Farkas, Gutiérrez Rexach, Honcoop, Stabler, Stowell, Szabolcsi and Zwarts) make tightly related theoretical assumptions and focus on related empirical phenomena, which include the direct and inverse scope of quantifiers, distributivity, negation, modal and intensional contexts, weak islands, event-related readings, interrogatives, wh/quantifier interactions, and Hungarian syntax. An introduction to the formal semantics background is provided. Audience: Linguists, philosophers, computational and psycholinguists; advanced undergraduates, graduate students and researchers in these fields. (shrink)
In The Dynamics of Meaning , Gennaro Chierchia tackles central issues in dynamic semantics and extends the general framework. Chapter 1 introduces the notion of dynamic semantics and discusses in detail the phenomena that have been used to motivate it, such as "donkey" sentences and adverbs of quantification. The second chapter explores in greater depth the interpretation of indefinites and issues related to presuppositions of uniqueness and the "E-type strategy." In Chapter 3, Chierchia extends the dynamic approach to the domain (...) of syntactic theory, considering a range of empirical problems that includes backwards anaphora, reconstruction effects, and weak crossover. The final chapter develops the formal system of dynamic semantics to deal with central issues of definites and presupposition. Chierchia shows that an approach based on a principled enrichment of the mechanisms dealing with meaning is to be preferred on empirical grounds over approaches that depend on an enrichment of the syntactic apparatus. Dynamics of Meaning illustrates how seemingly abstract stances on the nature of meaning can have significant and far-reaching linguistic consequences, leading to the detection of new facts and influencing our understanding of the syntax/semantics/pragmatics interface. (shrink)
This paper is about a topic in the semantics of interrogatives.1 In what follows a number of assumptions ﬁgure at the background which, though intuitively appealing, have not gone unchallenged, and it seems therefore only fair to draw the reader’s attention to them at the outset. The ﬁrst assumption concerns a very global intuition about the kind of semantic objects that we associate with interrogatives. The intuition is that there is an intimate relationship between interrogatives and their answers: an interrogative (...) determines what counts as an answer.2 Given a certain, independently motivated, view on what constitutes the meaning of an answer, this intuition, in return, determines what constitutes the meaning of an interrogative. For example, starting from the observation that answers are true or false in situations, we may be led to the view that answers express propositions, i.e., objects which determine a truth value in a situation. Given that much, our basic intuition says that interrogatives are to be associated with objects which determine propositions. Such objects will be referred to as ‘questions’ in what follows. Notice that all this is largely framework independent: we have made no assumptions yet about what situations, propositions, and questions are, we have only related them in a certain systematic way. In fact we will use a more or less standard, but certainly not uncontroversial, speciﬁcation in what follows: situations are identiﬁed with (total) possible worlds; propositions with sets of worlds; and questions with equivalence relations on the set of worlds. The second assumption that plays a role in what follows is of a more linguistic nature. Interrogatives typically occur in two ways: as independent expressions, and as complements of certain verbs. The assumption is that these two ways of occurring are systematically related, not just syntactically but also semantically.3 Notice that the exact nature of this relationship is underdeter.. (shrink)
Abstract Fodor defines epistemic boundedness as a condition wherein there are epistemi?cally significant constraints on the beliefs that a mind is capable of entertaining. He discusses a type of (epistemic) boundedness wherein a hypothesis cannot be entertained because it is inexpressible in terms of the mind's stock of concepts. In addition to this semantic boundedness, I describe a number of different sources of boundedness having to do with syntactic, abductive, and implementational limitations. I also discuss the similarities and differences between (...) individual and social limitations on our epistemic possibilities. (shrink)