Pictorial free perception

Linguistics and Philosophy 46 (4):747-798 (2023)
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Abstract

Pictorial free perception reports are sequences in comics or film of one unit that depicts an agent who is looking, and a following unit that depicts what they see. This paper proposes an analysis in possible worlds semantics and event semantics of such sequences. Free perception sequences are implicitly anaphoric, since the interpretation of the second unit refers to the agent depicted in the first. They are argued to be possibly non-extensional, because they can depict hallucination or mis-perception. The semantics proposed here employs an account of anaphora using discourse referents, a formalized possible worlds semantics for pictorial narratives, and, to model the epistemic consequences of perceptual events, the event alternative construction from dynamic epistemic logic. In intensional examples, the second unit depicting what is seen is analyzed as embedded. It is argued that a semantics for embedding where the attitudinal state of the depicted agent is required to entail the semantic content of the picture attributes too much information to the agent. This is addressed with a model of normal looking, and a semantics for the embedding construction that uses existential quantification over alternatives, rather than universal quantification.

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Mats Rooth
Cornell University

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