Interface transparency and the psychosemantics of most

Natural Language Semantics 19 (3):227-256 (2011)
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Abstract

This paper proposes an Interface Transparency Thesis concerning how linguistic meanings are related to the cognitive systems that are used to evaluate sentences for truth/falsity: a declarative sentence S is semantically associated with a canonical procedure for determining whether S is true; while this procedure need not be used as a verification strategy, competent speakers are biased towards strategies that directly reflect canonical specifications of truth conditions. Evidence in favor of this hypothesis comes from a psycholinguistic experiment examining adult judgments concerning ‘Most of the dots are blue’. This sentence is true if and only if the number of blue dots exceeds the number of nonblue dots. But this leaves unsettled, e.g., how the second cardinality is specified for purposes of understanding and/or verification: via the nonblue things, given a restriction to the dots, as in ‘|{x: Dot(x) & ~Blue(x)}|’; via the blue things, given the same restriction, and subtraction from the number of dots, as in ‘|{x: Dot(x)}| – |{x: Dot(x) & Blue(x)}|’; or in some other way. Psycholinguistic evidence and psychophysical modeling support the second hypothesis

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Author Profiles

Justin Halberda
Johns Hopkins University
Paul Pietroski
Rutgers University - New Brunswick