The book presents a new logical framework to capture the meaning of sentences in conversation. It is based on a richer notion of meaning than traditional approaches, and allows for an integrated treatment of statements and questions. The first part of the book presents the framework in detail, while the second demonstrates its many benefits.
This paper is devoted to the formulation and investigation of a dynamic semantic interpretation of the language of ﬁrst-order predicate logic. The resulting system, which will be referred to as ‘dynamic predicate logic’, is intended as a ﬁrst step towards a compositional, non-representational theory of discourse semantics. In the last decade, various theories of discourse semantics have emerged within the paradigm of model-theoretic semantics. A common feature of these theories is a tendency to do away with the principle of compositionality, (...) a principle which, implicitly or explicitly, has dominated semantics since the days of Frege. Therefore the question naturally arises whether non-compositionality is in any way a necessary feature of discourse semantics. Since we subscribe to the interpretation of compositionality as constituting primarily a methodological principle, we consider this to be a methodological rather than an empirical question. As a consequence, the emphasis in the present paper lies on developing an alternative compositional semantics of discourse, which is empirically equivalent to its non-compositional brethren, but which diﬀers from them in a principled methodological way. Hence, no attempts are made to improve on existing theories empirically. Nevertheless, as we indicate in section 5, the development of a compositional alternative may in the end have empirical consequences, too. First of all, it can be argued that the dynamic view on interpretation developed in this paper suggests natural and relatively easy to formulate extensions which enable one to deal with a wider range of phenomena than can be dealt with in existing theories. Moreover, the various approaches to the model-theoretic semantics of discourse that have been developed during the last decade, have constituted a ‘fresh start’ in the sense that much of what had been accomplished before was ignored, at least for a start. Of course, this is a justiﬁed strategy if one feels one is trying to develop a radically diﬀerent approach to recalcitrant problems. However, there comes a time when such new approaches have to be compared with the older one, and when an assessment of the pros and cons of each has to be made. One of the main problems in semantics today, we feel, is that a semantic theory such as Montague grammar, and an approach like Kamp’s discourse representation theory, are hard to compare, let alone that it is possible to unify their insights and results.. (shrink)
This paper presents an analysis of wh-complements in Montague Grammar. We will be concerned primarily with semantics, though some remarks on syntax are made in Section 4. Questions and wh-comple ments in Montague Grammar have been studied in Hamblin (1976), Bennett (1979), Karttunen (1977) and Hauser (1978) among others. These proposals will not be discussed explicitly, but some differences with Karttunen's analysis will be pointed out along the way.
Of course, although this view on meaning was the prevailing one for almost a century, many of the people who initiated the enterprise of logical semantics, including people like Frege and Wittgenstein, had an open eye for all that it did not catch. However, the logical means which Frege, Wittgenstein, Russell, and the generation that succeeded them, had at their disposal were those of classical mathematical logic and set-theory, and these indeed are not very suited for an analysis of other (...) aspects of meaning than those which the slogan covers. A real change in view then had to await the emergence of other concepts, which in due course became available mainly under the influence of developments in computer science and cognate disciplines such as artificial intelligence. And this is one of the reasons why it took almost a century before any serious and successful challenge of the view that meaning equals truthconditions from within logical semantics could emerge. (shrink)
In many natural languages, there are clear syntactic and/or intonational differences between declarative sentences, which are primarily used to provide information, and interrogative sentences, which are primarily used to request information. Most logical frameworks restrict their attention to the former. Those that are concerned with both usually assume a logical language that makes a clear syntactic distinction between declaratives and interrogatives, and usually assign different types of semantic values to these two types of sentences. A different approach has been taken (...) in recent work on inquisitive semantics. This approach does not take the basic syntactic distinction between declaratives and interrogatives as its starting point, but rather a new notion of meaning that captures both informative and inquisitive content in an integrated way. The standard way to treat the logical connectives in this approach is to associate them with the basic algebraic operations on these new types of meanings. For instance, conjunction and disjunction are treated as meet and join operators, just as in classical logic. This gives rise to a hybrid system, where sentences can be both informative and inquisitive at the same time, and there is no clearcut division between declaratives and interrogatives. It may seem that these two general approaches in the existing literature are quite incompatible. The main aim of this paper is to show that this is not the case. We develop an inquisitive semantics for a logical language that has a clearcut division between declaratives and interrogatives. We show that this language coincides in expressive power with the hybrid language that is standardly assumed in inquisitive semantics, we establish a sound and complete axiomatization for the associated logic, and we consider a natural enrichment of the system with presuppositional interrogatives. (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)
In the present version of these lecture notes only a number of typos and a few glaring mistakes have been corrected. Thanks to Paul Dekker for his help in this respect. No attempt has been been made to update the original text or to incorporate new insights and approaches. For a more recent overview, see our ‘Questions’ in the Handbook of Logic and Language (edited by Johan van Benthem and Alice ter Meulen, Elsevier, 1997).
Discussions often end before the issues that started them have been resolved. For example, in the late sixties and early seventies, a hot topic in philosophical logic was the development of an adequate semantics for the language of modal predicate logic. However, the result of this discussion was not one single system that met with general agreement, but a collection of alternative systems, each defended most ably by its proponents.
The paper sketches the place of dynamic semantics within a broader picture of developments in philosophical and linguistic theories of meaning. Some basic concepts of dynamic semantics are illustrated by means of a detailed analysis of anaphoric deﬁnite and indeﬁnite descriptions, which are treated as contextually dependent quantiﬁcational expressions. It is shown how a dynamic view sheds new light on the contextual nature of interpretation, on the diﬀerence between monologue and dialogue, and on the interplay between direct and indirect information.
a la base de cet article a ´ et´ e pr´ esent´ ee ` a la cinqui` eme ‘Conference on Semantics and Linguistic Theory’ qui s’est tenue ` a Austin, Texas, en F´ evrier 1995, et va paraˆıtre dans les actes de celle-ci. Nous aimerions remercier les participants `.