In this paper I offer an account of the meaning of must and can within the framework of possible worlds semantics. The paper consists of two parts: the first argues for a relative concept of modality underlying modal words like must and can in natural language. I give preliminary definitions of the meaning of these words which are formulated in terms of logical consequence and compatibility, respectively. The second part discusses one kind of insufficiency in the meaning definitions given in (...) the first part, which arise from the ex falso quodlibet paradox of logical consequence. In stepwise fashion, I make an attempt to avoid most of the consequences of this paradox for the meaning definitions of must and can. (shrink)
Situation semantics was developed as an alternative to possible worlds semantics. In situation semantics, linguistic expressions are evaluated with respect to partial, rather than complete, worlds. There is no consensus about what situations are, just as there is no consensus about what possible worlds or events are. According to some, situations are structured entities consisting of relations and individuals standing in those relations. According to others, situations are particulars. In spite of unresolved foundational issues, the partiality provided by situation semantics (...) has led to some genuinely new approaches to a variety of phenomena in natural language semantics. In the way of illustration, this article includes relatively detailed overviews of a few selected areas where situation semantics has been successful: implicit quantifier domain restrictions, donkey pronouns, and exhaustive interpretations. It moreover addresses the question of how Davidsonian event semantics can be embedded in a semantics based on situations. Other areas where a situation semantics perspective has led to progress include attitude ascriptions, questions, tense, aspect, nominalizations, implicit arguments, point of view, counterfactual conditionals, and discourse relations. (shrink)
The last section made it clear that an analysis which at first seems to fail is viable after all. It is viable if we let it depend on a partition function to be provided by the context of conversation. This analysis leaves certain traits of the partition function open. I have tried to show that this should be so. Specifying these traits as Pollock does leads to wrong predictions. And leaving them open endows counterfactuals with just the right amount of (...) variability and vagueness. (shrink)
What are facts, situations, or events? When Situation Semantics was born in the eighties, I objected because I could not swallow the idea that situations might be chunks of information. For me, they had to be particulars like sticks or bricks. I could not imagine otherwise. The first manuscript of “An Investigation of the Lumps of Thought” that I submitted to Linguistics and Philosophy had a footnote where I distanced myself from all those who took possible situations to be units (...) of information. In that context and at that time, this meant Jon Barwise and John Perry. (shrink)
I will assume (without explicitly argue for it here) that the verb’s external argument is not an argument of the verb root itself, but is introduced by a separate head in a neo-Davidsonian way. The content argument can be saturated by DPs denoting the kinds of things that can be believed or reported.
This paper pursues some of the consequences of the idea that there are (at least) two sources for distributive/cumulative interpretations in English. One source is lexical pluralization: All predicative stems are born as plurals, as Manfred Krifka and Fred Landman have argued. Lexical pluralization should be available in any language and should not depend on the particular make-up of its DPs. I suggest that the other source of cumulative/distributive interpretations in English is directly provided by plural DPs. DPs with plural (...) agreement features can ‘release’ those features to pluralize adjacent verbal projections. If there is a lexical source for distributive/cumulative interpretations, there should be instances of such interpretations with singular DPs. But there should also be cases of distributive/cumulative interpretations that require the presence of DPs with plural agreement morphology. (shrink)
They are expressives, too. There is a phonology. There is a syntax. There is a compositional semantics. There are interesting interactions to investigate. German, Greek, and Papago are known examples of discourse particle languages. Intonation has been said to have similar uses in other languages.
The adjectival passive construction that is traditionally called ‘Zustandspassiv’ (‘state passive’) in German seems to have the same syntactic and semantic properties as its English cousin, except that it is easier to identify. German state or adjectival passives select the auxiliary sein (‘be’), and are therefore clearly distinguished from verbal or ‘Vorgangs’- passives (‘process passives’), which use the auxiliary werden (‘get’, ‘become’). In spite of their appearance, German state passives do not form a homogenious class, however. There are two important (...) subclasses that behave differently with respect to the adverbial immer noch (‘still’), for example2. (shrink)
We present diverse evidence for the claim of Pullum and Rawlins (2007) that expressives behave differently from descriptives in constructions that enforce a particular kind of semantic identity between elements. Our data are drawn from a wide variety of languages and construction types, and they point uniformly to a basic linguistic distinction between descriptive content and expressive content (Kaplan 1999; Potts 2007).
This note is a reply to ‘On the Lumping Semantics of Counterfactuals’ by Makoto Kanazawa, Stefan Kaufmann and Stanley Peters. It shows first that the first triviality result obtained by Kanazawa, Kaufmann, and Peters is already ruled out by the constraints on admissible premise sets listed in Kratzer (1989). Second, and more importantly, it points out that the results obtained by Kanazawa, Kaufmann, and Peters are obsolete in view of the revised analysis of counterfactuals in Kratzer (1990, 2002).
Resultatives raise important questions for the syntax-semantics interface, and this is why they have occupied a prominent place in recent linguistic theorizing. What is it that makes this construction so interesting? Resultatives are submitted to a cluster of not obviously related constraints, and this fact calls out for explanation. There are tough constraints for the verb, for example.
Kratzer 1998 proposes that certain indefinite determiners (at least in some of their uses) might be variables for (Skolemized) choice functions that receive a value from the utterance context. What does it mean for a choice function variable to receive a value from the context of utterance? How can a context provide such a function? To sharpen intuitions, here is an example describing a custom from my home town Mindelheim. After every funeral, all the mourners gathered around the still open (...) grave say a prayer that starts with the words: “And now let us pray for the person among us who will die next.” Suppose an anthropologist attended one or more funerals in Mindelheim, and reports on what she found out in a lecture using (1), or the more general (2). (shrink)
The BPR assumes that we already know how sentences are partitioned into focused and backgrounded material, and this is quite legitimate, given the literature on the topic , von Stechow ). If the BPR was true, no more would have to be said about the meaning of focus. The behavior of whatever inferences are generated by backgrounding could be taken care of by theories dealing with the projection of presuppositions of the familiar kind, the presuppositions of definite descriptions, clefts, or (...) factives, for example. This is a non-trivial and interesting claim. (shrink)
In this article we will explore the consequences of adopting recent proposals by Chomsky, according to which the syntactic derivation proceeds in terms of phases. The notion of phase – through the associated notion of spellout – allows for an insightful theory of the fact that syntactic constituents receive default phrase stress not across the board, but as a function of yet-to-be-explicated conditions on their syntactic context. We will see that the phonological evi- dence requires us to modify somewhat the (...) theory of which functional categories actually deﬁne a phase. Patterns of default, syntax-determined, phrase stress are argued to result from a prosodic spellout requiring the highest phrase in the spellout domain to correspond to a major prosodic phrase in phonological representation, and carry major phrase stress. (shrink)
Both Kratzer 1981 (“Partition and Revision”) and Kratzer 1989 (“Lumps of Thought”) assume that the truth of counterfactuals depends on a parameter. The parameter provides a set of propositions that uniquely characterizes the actual world in Kratzer 1981, and a so-called “set of propositions relevant for the truth of counterfactuals” in Kratzer 1989. Both papers try to find empirical constraints for the relevant sets, but - crucially - without characterizing them uniquely. The vagueness and context-dependency of counterfactuals is assumed to (...) be in part due to the fact that the set of propositions that the truth of counterfactuals depends on is underdetermined. (shrink)
This squib begins with an argument emphasizing that the grammar of English makes a distinction between constituents that are focused and those that are merely new, hence not given. If the distinction is made via features, we need two features: one indicating focus and one indicating either given or new information. Which one of the two? Semantically, the choice doesn’t matter: whatever information is given is not new and the other way round. For the phonology, there is a difference, however. (...) If the prosody of all-new constituents is default prosody, but the prosody of given constituents is special, we would want to indicate givenness, rather than newness. (shrink)