By Gillian Ramchand
The pioneering work of Davidson (1967) gave rise to a productive and exciting tradition within formal semantics and especially at the interface between syntax and semantics, whereby event variables were exploited as elements of the referential ontology in the expression of the semantics of natural language. The existence of such logical elements (events, or eventuality variables) cannot seriously now be doubted, in my opinion, although many aspects of the formal theory of syntax and semantics have changed in the nearly forty years since Davidson’s seminal article. The time has definitely come for a more critical and nuanced understanding of the use of eventuality variables, in the light of recent research in the field. Maienborn (this volume) is an important example of this kind of work. She takes a new look at the idea of eventuality variables and argues that the case has been overstated, that there are both empirical and conceptual reasons for denying the existence of events in the Davidsonian sense for a certain class of statives and copular predications. I wish to show in this article that Maienborn both goes too far and not far enough in deconstructing the traditional Davidsonian assumptions. Instead, I propose a davidson inspired method of representation which fits better with current syntactic understanding, but which is liberated from some of the assumptions and methodologies of earlier work – I call this ‘Post-Davidsonianism’. I will argue that once one makes the adjustments in the Davidsonian tradition to make the idea coherent, Maienborn’s arguments for introducing a new ontological type (‘Kimian states’) into the system disappear.
Appeared in Theoretical Linguistics 31 (2005), 359–373