Situated semantics can be regarded as an attempt at placing situational context (context of situation) at the center of all discussions of meaning. Situation theory is a theory of information content that takes context very seriously. Individuals, properties, relations, and spatiotemporal locations are basic constructs of situation theory. Individuals are conceived as invariants; having properties and standing in relations, they tend to persist in time and space. An anchoring function binds the location parameters to appropriate objects (...) present in the grounding situation. Anchoring plays a major role in the working of constraints that include nomic constraints, conventional constraints and conditional constraints. Situationsemantics develops a theory of meaning that is based on relations between situations. Situationsemantics provides a fundamental framework for realistic semantics. The ideas emerging from research into situationsemantics have been combined with linguistic work and have led to numerous useful proposals. (shrink)
An information-based approach to natural language semantics. Formulated by Jon Barwise and John Perry in their influential book Situations and Attitudes (1983), it is built upon the notion of a 'situation' --- a limited part of the real world that a cognitive agent can individuate and has access to. A situation represents a lump of information in terms of a collection of facts. It is through the actualist ontology of situations that the meaning of natural language utterances (...) can be elucidated. (shrink)
A principal goal of this book is to develop and apply the SituationSemantics framework. Jean Mark Gawron and Stanley Peters adopt a version of the theory in which meanings are built up via syntactically driven semantic composition rules. They provide a substantial treatment of English incorporating treatments of pronomial anaphora, quantification, donkey anaphora, and tense. The book focuses on the semantics of pronomial anaphora and quantification. The authors argue that the ambiguities of sentences with pronouns cannot (...) be adequately accounted for with a theory that represents anaphoric relations only syntactically; their relational framework uniformly deals with anaphoric relations as relations between utterances in context. They argue that there is no need for a syntactic representation of anaphoric relations, or for a theory that accounts for anaphoric ambiguities by resorting to two or more kinds of anaphora. Quantifier scope ambiguities are handled analogously to anaphoric ambiguities. This treatment integrates the Cooper Store mechanism with a theory of meaning that provides both a natural setting for it and a convincing account of what, semantically, is going on. Jean Mark Gawron is a researcher for Hewlett Packard Laboratories, Palo Alto. Stanley Peters is professor of linguistics and symbolic systems at Stanford University and is director of the Center for the Study of Language and Information. (shrink)
Situationsemantics was originally conceived as an alternative to extensional model theory and possible world semantics especially suited to the analysis of various problematic constructions, including naked-infinitive perception verbs (Barwise 1981) and belief-reports (Barwise and Perry 1981a, 1981b). In its earliest forms, the central ideas were.
The preceding theory represents, I believe, a large improvement over conceptual graph theories of analogy. In particular, it is possible for analogical reasoning to be flexible or ‘creative’ on this approach, an aspect of analogy that is not accounted for in conceptual graph theories. I also believe that searching by constraint violations is a more reasonable way to organize memory search than to look for properties of conceptual hierarchies. Proof of this last point, however, awaits an more detailed classification of (...) the constraints that figure in analogical reasoning. (shrink)
Spanish verbs display two past-tense forms, the pret´rito and the imperfecto. We offer an account of the semantics of these forms within a situationsemantics, addressing a number of theoretically interesting questions about how to realize a semantics for tense and events in that type of framework. We argue that each of these forms is unambiguous, and that the apparent variety of readings attested for them derives from interaction with other factors in the course of interpretation. (...) The meaning of the imperfecto is constrained to always reflect atelic aktionsart. In addition, it contains a modal element, and a contextually-given accessibility relation over situations constrains the interpretation of the modal in ways that give rise to all the attested readings. The pret´rito is indeterminate with respect to aktionsart, neither telic nor atelic. One or the other aktionsart may be forced by other factors in the clause in which the pret´rito occurs, as well as by pragmatic contrast with the possibility of using the imperfecto. (shrink)
Situationsemantics was developed as an alternative to possible worlds semantics. In situationsemantics, 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 situationsemantics 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 situationsemantics 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 situationsemantics perspective has led to progress include attitude ascriptions, questions, tense, aspect, nominalizations, implicit arguments, point of view, counterfactual conditionals, and discourse relations. (shrink)
Two approaches for defining common knowledge coexist in the literature: the infinite iteration definition and the circular or fixed point one. In particular, an original modelization of the fixed point definition was proposed by Barwise in the context of a non-well-founded set theory and the infinite iteration approach has been technically analyzed within multi-modal epistemic logic using neighbourhood semantics by Lismont. This paper exhibits a relation between these two ways of modelling common knowledge which seem at first quite different.
This paper presents a systematic semantic study of constructions with the noun 'case'. It argues that 'cases' are situations acting as truthmakers within a sentential or epistemic case space. It develops a truthmaker-based alternative semantics of 'case'-constructions, based on Fine's recent truthmaker semantics.
This paper argues that NPs with case as head noun stand for situations in their role as truthmakers within a sentential or epistemic case space. The paper develops a unified semantic analysis of case-constructions of the various sorts within a truthmaker-based version of alternative semantics.
This work adopts H. Kelsen’s concept of legal system, proposes a formal definition for such notion, and introduces an operational semantical framework for legal systems that are situated in agent societies. Agent societies are defined. Relevant formal properties of situated legal systems are discussed; the way they are exposed in the operational semantical framework is explained, and their truth formally proved. Also, for the sake of a better understanding of the legal-theoretic assumptions of the paper, recurring issues regarding Kelsen’s theory (...) of law are briefly reviewed. They are put in confrontation with the points of view of R. Dworkin, H. Hart, and J. Raz, and an attempt is made to clarify them from the perspective of the provided formalization. A brief case study in agent-based modeling and simulation of public policy processes is presented, as an illustration of the way of using situated legal systems, and the proposed operational semantical framework, in a practical application. (shrink)
This paper develops a framework for TAG (Tree Adjoining Grammar) semantics that brings together ideas from diﬀerent recent approaches. Then, within this framework, an analysis of scope is proposed that accounts for the diﬀerent scopal properties of quantiﬁers, adverbs, raising verbs and attitude verbs. Finally, including situation variables in the semantics, diﬀerent situation binding possibilities are derived for diﬀerent types of quantiﬁcational elements.
This paper develops the notion of a situated part structure and applies it to the semantics of the modifiers 'whole' and 'individual'. It argues that the ambiguity of 'whole' should be traced to two different conceptions of part structures of objects being at play: one according to which the parts of an objects are just the material parts and another, Aristotelian conception according to which the parts of an object include properties of form.
It is commonly argued that natural language has the expressive power of quantifying over intensional entities, such as times, worlds, or situations. A standard way of modelling this assumes that there are unpronounced but syntactically represented variables of the corresponding type. Not all that much as has been said, however, about the exact syntactic location of these variables. Meanwhile, recent work has highlighted a number of problems that arise because the interpretive options for situation pronouns seem to be subject (...) to various restrictions. This paper is primarily concerned with situation pronouns inside of determiner phrases, arguing that they are introduced as arguments of (certain) determiners. Verbal predicates, on the other hand, are assumed to not combine with a situation pronoun. The various restrictions on their interpretation are shown to fall out from the semantic system that is developed based on that view. Further support for such an account comes from situation semantic analyses of donkey sentences as well as data on the temporal interpretation of nominal predicates. Its ability to account for this full range of data in a unified manner is shown to set it apart from previous proposals. The paper closes with an outlook on further extensions, including an account of quantifier domain restriction based on situation pronouns. (shrink)
We outline a novel theory of natural language meaning, Rich Situated Semantics [RSS], on which the content of sentential utterances is semantically rich and informationally situated. In virtue of its situatedness, an utterance’s rich situated content varies with the informational situation of the cognitive agent interpreting the utterance. In virtue of its richness, this content contains information beyond the utterance’s lexically encoded information. The agent-dependence of rich situated content solves a number of problems in semantics and the (...) philosophy of language (cf. [14, 20, 25]). In particular, since RSS varies the granularity of utterance contents with the interpreting agent’s informational situation, it solves the problem of finding suitably fine- or coarse-grained objects for the content of propositional attitudes. In virtue of this variation, a layman will reason with more propositions than an expert. (shrink)
The present volume collects some of Barwise's papers written since then, those directly concerned with relations among logic, situation theory, and situationsemantics. Several papers appear here for the first time.
I argue that semantics is the study of the proprietary database of a centrally inaccessible and informationally encapsulated input–output system. This system’s role is to encode and decode partial and defeasible evidence of what speakers are saying. Since information about nonlinguistic context is therefore outside the purview of semantic processing, a sentence’s semantic value is not its content but a partial and defeasible constraint on what it can be used to say. I show how to translate this thesis into (...) a detailed compositional-semantic theory based on the influential framework of Heim and Kratzer. This approach situates semantics within an independently motivated account of human cognitive architecture and reveals the semantics–pragmatics interface to be grounded in the underlying interface between modular and central systems. (shrink)
In Situations and Individuals, Paul Elbourne argues that the natural language expressions that have been taken to refer to individuals — pronouns, proper names, and definite descriptions — have a common syntax and semantics, roughly that of definite descriptions as construed in the tradition of Frege. In the course of his argument, Elbourne shows that proper names have previously undetected donkey anaphoric readings.This is contrary to previous theorizing and, if true, would undermine what philosophers call the direct reference theory (...) (which holds that the sole contribution of a proper name to the truth conditions of a sentence is an individual) as well as the related doctrine that proper names are rigid designators. Elbourne begins by addressing donkey anaphora, relating other concerns about pronouns to the solution of this notorious problem. His subsequent argumentation provides a unified semantics for the donkey anaphoric and bound and referential uses of pronouns and discusses the prospect of unifying the syntax and semantics of pronouns with the syntax and semantics of normal definite descriptions. Elbourne's aim is not only to advance his proposal of a unified syntax and semantics but also to urge linguists and philosophers dealing with pronoun interpretation to consider a wider range of theories than they do at present, and to test the competing claims of description-based theories and dynamic semantics against the data. (shrink)