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LINGUISTIX&LOGIK, Tony Marmo's blog
Tuesday, 17 August 2004

Topic: Cognition & Epistemology

Testing Infallible Hypotheses

It has been said that Always Right statements or theories are useless for Science. This refers to conjunctions like the hypothesis below:

(1) Either Socrates is human or he is not.

The evident problem with (1) is that it cannot be tested. Similarly, one may criticise an Oedipus complex theory that could explain every behaviour, such as:

a. Subject A killed a police officer because he had Oedipus complex.
b. Subject B did not kill a police officer because he had Oedipus complex too.

Now, I question how far can this sort of critique be a strong argument against some theories that deal with more complex situations. One example is a new theory that aims to propose an old puzzle in the field of Zoology: why are there large mammals in Africa but not in South American forests? Here I quote one important article from the Fapesp Magazine about recent developments:

[A new]Theory proposes that excessive rainfall altered the vegetation and eliminated large mammals in South America, but preserved them in Africa. (Link)

The theory advanced by de Vivo and Carmignotto proposes that the same explanation is valid for completely different cases:

a. Large mammals were extinct in South America by the excessive humidity factor.
b. Large mammals were preserved in Africa by the excessive humidity factor.

The justification for this is complex:

South America
It rained so excessively that the ancient areas of the savanna-cerrado ( wooded savanna, typical of Brazil) - the excellent habitat for medium and large mammals, generally situated intropical of moderate to low humidity - turned themselves extremely dense and closed, with lots of trees, and practically became extensions of their neighboring tropical rainforests.
(...)the largest animals, concentrated in the central-north portion of South America, did not find a nearby environment compatible with their style of life. There was no savanna for them.

In Africa, the majority of the mammals of large size, generally herbivores that lived in bands, managed to migrate to new zones of open vegetation, with few trees and some pasture. As a consequence of the climatic change, this type of vegetal formation appeared in areas that are today desserts, situated in the northern and southern extremities of the continent.

I hereby open the floor for anyone who wants to debate the issue.

Posted by Tony Marmo at 08:23 BST


The aspectual impact of French locative goal PPs

by Olivier Bonami

This paper presents an attempt to account for the aspectual class alternations induced by locative goal PPs in combination with motion verbs. It is noted that in French, two semantically distinct classes of prepositions (e.g. dans vs. jusqu'a ) give rise to telic eventuality descriptions in combination with basically atelic motion verbs. Moreover, the resulting sentences exhibit differing and peculiar aspectual properties. Thus the conventional analysis, which states that the PP provides a spatio-temporal boundary to the event described by the verb is at least insufficient.

The proposed analysis rests on the idea that goal PPs function as co-predicators (Gawron 1986). Sentences containing goal PPs are composite eventuality descriptions, the verb and the preposition describing different parts of a structured event. The peculiar aspectual properties of sentences containing goal PPs is related to their composite nature. A situation-theoretic formalization is proposed, which allows to view the aspectual impact of the goal PPs as a side effect of co-predication.

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Posted by Tony Marmo at 01:01 BST
Monday, 16 August 2004


Prepositional Aspect and the Algebra of Paths

by Joost Zwarts

The semantics of directional prepositions is investigated from the perspective of aspect. What distinguishes telic PPs (like to the house) from atelic PPs (like towards the house), taken as denoting sets of paths, is their algebraic structure:
atelic PPs are cumulative, closed under the operation of concatenation,
telic PPs are not.
Not only does this allow for a natural and compositional account of how
PPs contribute to the aspect of a sentence, but it also guides our understanding of the lexical semantics of prepositions in important ways. Semantically, prepositions turn out to be quite similar to nouns and verbs. Nominal distinctions (like singular and plural, mass and count) and verbal classes (like semelfactives and degree achievements) have their prepositional counterparts.

Source: Semantic Archive

Dowload link

Posted by Tony Marmo at 20:01 BST


On resumptive relatives and the theory of LF chains

by Valentina Bianchi

In various languages, resumptive relativization is a normal strategy alongside "gap" relativization. Recent research on resumptive relatives has concentrated mainly on the distribution of resumptive pronouns along the "NP Accessibility Hierarchy" proposed by Keenan & Comrie (1977). It has been pointed out that cross-linguistically, gap relativization tends to occur in the highest positions of the NP-accessibility hierarchy, whereas resumptive pronouns tend to be obligatory in the lower oblique positions (see Su??er 1998 for a recent general overview).
There are, however, some languages in which the two strategies seem to freely alternate at least in the direct object position. In this paper I will argue that the alternation between a gap and a resumptive pronoun is sensitive to a special factor, namely, the type of the relative clauses. I will adopt the three-way typology proposed by Grosu & Landman (1996), which distinguishes non-restrictive, restrictive, and "maximalizing" relatives. On the basis of this typology, I will propose an empirical generalization on the distribution of resumptive pronouns and I will try to derive it from an elaboration of Rizzi's (1997) theory of LF chains.

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Posted by Tony Marmo at 06:13 BST


Pseudo Weak Crossover in French relative clauses &
global economy

byBenjamin Spector

(1) Le/( ?)Aucun type que(1) son(1) p?re a frapp? t(1) a pleur?.

The/ No guy that
(1) his(1) father has beaten t(1) has cried.

(2) *Le/*Aucun type dont
(1) le p?re t(1) l(1)' a frapp? a pleur?.

The/No guy of-whom
(1) the father t(1) him(1) has beaten has cried.

Both (1) and (2) are WCO violations, since in both cases the trace does not c-command the pronoun; yet (1) is fine but (2) isn't. Note that (2) would be acceptable with another co-indexing.

(...)The hypothesis I will defend in this paper is similar in spirit to a proposal put forward in Ruys (1994): among the structures that could realize the logical form in question, the most economic one, in a sense to be defined, is preferred. More precisely, grammar generates a set of structures corresponding to a given logical form; a metric is defined over these structures, and the most economic structure is preferred to all others. A crucial point here is that this comparison process will apply only to structures that are otherwise wellformed, i.e. which, for instance, do not violate any known locality constraint. An immediate prediction that is made is that when one of the two potential candidates cannot be generated by the grammar, then there will be only one candidate, which will therefore be selected as the most economic one.

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Related post

Posted by Tony Marmo at 01:01 BST


A Paraconsistent Higher Order Logic

by J?rgen Villadsen

Classical logic predicts that everything (thus nothing useful at all) follows from inconsistency. A paraconsistent logic is a logic where an inconsistency does not lead to such an explosion, and since in practice consistency is difficult to achieve there are many potential applications of paraconsistent logics in knowledge-based systems, logical semantics of natural language, etc. Higher order logics have the advantages of being expressive and with several automated theorem provers available. Also the type system can be helpful. We present a concise description of a paraconsistent higher order logic with countable infinite indeterminacy, where each basic formula can get its own indeterminate truth value (or as we prefer: truth code). The meaning of the logical operators is new and rather different from traditional many-valued logics as well as from logics based on bilattices. The adequacy of the logic is examined by a case study in the domain of medicine. Thus we try to build a bridge between the HOL and MVL communities. A sequent calculus is proposed based on recent work by Muskens.

Posted by Tony Marmo at 01:01 BST
Sunday, 15 August 2004


The Classical and Maximin Versions of the Two-Envelope Paradox

by Bruce Langtry
Source: AJL

The Two-Envelope Paradox is classically presented as a problem in decision theory that turns on the use of probabilities in calculating expected utilities. I formulate a Maximin Version of the paradox, one that is decision-theoretic but omits considerations of probability. I investigate the source of the error in this new argument, and apply the insights thereby gained to the analysis of the classical version.

Posted by Tony Marmo at 01:01 BST
Updated: Sunday, 15 August 2004 07:24 BST


A discourse-based account of weak crossover effect

by Dora Alexopoulou

This paper discusses minimal pairs of constructions differing in the absence vs presence of an object clitic. In the absence of a clitic the data display weak crossover effect (wco) whereas coindexing is allowed once a clitic is inserted. The paper illustrates how syntactic constraints, Information Packaging and the `semantics' of the NPs involved interact to block or allow coindexing.

The data are from Greek, a free order language which marks subjects and objects morphologically, for nominative and accusative respectively. In addition, it allows object NPs to co-occur with accusative clitics in Clitic Doubling and Clitic Left Dislocation constructions
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Posted by Tony Marmo at 01:01 BST
Saturday, 14 August 2004


What does Paraconsistency do?

The case of belief revision

by Koji Tanaka

In this talk, I apply a paraconsistent logic to the Grove's sphere semantics, that is a model for the AGM theory of belief revision. Firstly, I examine the soundness of the paraconsistent sphere semantics with respect to the AGM postulates. Secondly, I discuss some differences between classical (AGM) and a paraconsistent approach. I then argue that the theory of belief revision that is based on paraconsistent logic is simple and elegant, and of universal use.
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Posted by Tony Marmo at 06:44 BST
Updated: Saturday, 14 August 2004 06:50 BST

Descriptions and Beyond

Kent Bach, Kai von Fintel, Francois Recanati and others have published a new book about Descriptions.

Of related interest:

A Corpus-Based Investigation of Definite Description Use

by M. Poesio and R. Vieira

This paper presents the results of a study of definite descriptions use in written texts aimed at assessing the feasibility of annotating corpora with information about definite description interpretation.
Download link

Posted by Tony Marmo at 01:01 BST
Updated: Saturday, 14 August 2004 07:10 BST


Assertion and Denial, Commitment and Entitlement, and Incompatibility

by Greg Restall

In this short paper, I compare and contrast the kind of symmetricalist treatment of negation favoured in different ways by Huw Price (in "Why `Not'?") and by me (in "Multiple Conclusions") with Robert Brandom's analysis of scorekeeping in terms of commitment, entitlement and incompatibility.

Both kinds of account provide a way to distinguish the inferential significance of " A" and "A is warranted" in terms of a subtler analysis of our practices: on the one hand, we assert as well as deny; on the other, by distingushing downstream commitments from upstream entitlements and the incompatibility definable in terms of these. In this note I will examine the connections between these different approaches.


Posted by Tony Marmo at 01:01 BST
Thursday, 12 August 2004
Giannakidou on A puzzle about the Present Perfect

Until and the Present Perfect

Anastasia Giannakidou wrote a paper about the (im-)possibility of sentences combining a present perfect and an UNTIL connective, like the ones below from Greek and English. In her words, Until and its Greek counterpart mexri produce odd results when they modify an eventuality in the present perfect:
(1) *I Ariadne exi zisi sto Parisi mexri tora.
Ariadne has lived in Paris until now.

(2) *I Ariadne exi xasi ta klidia tis mexri tora.
Ariadne has lost her keys until now.

(3) *Ariadne has lived in Paris until 1998.

This is a puzzle in the light of two common assumptions that predict no incompatibility between the use of an UNTIL term and a form of Present Perfect:
(i) perfect eventualities denote result states (McCoard 1978, Dowty 1979, Vlach 1983, Kamp and Reyle 1993),
(ii) UNTIL is a stative modifier

I sense no such incompatibilities when using any equivalent Portuguese tenses in the first case:

(4) Ariadne viveu/ tem vivido/vem vivendo em Paris ate agora.

But in the second case there is a distinction between using the real participle and an adjective form:

(5) *Ariadne tem perdido (participle) as chaves ate agora.
(6) Ariadne tem perdidas (adjective) as chaves ate agora.

Perhaps, these are extra evidences to the known fact that not all languages have Perfect Tenses like English has.

See also this other post about Roumyana Pancheva's paper on the present perfect tense puzzle.

Posted by Tony Marmo at 06:43 BST
Updated: Thursday, 12 August 2004 06:48 BST
Wednesday, 11 August 2004
On the (non-)surprising paradoxes
Here are two related posts:

Paradox vs. Surprise

By Jon Kvanvig
Source: Certain Doubts

A paradox is different from a result that is merely surprising, but what is the difference? This question touches on matters beyond epistemology, but it is applicable to the major epistemic paradoxes, including preface, lottery, surprise quiz, and knowability. It is the latter that prompts my question.

In the knowability paradox, we purportedly demonstrate that if all truths are knowable, then all truths are known. There is no question that the result is surprising, but what makes it paradoxical? Compare it with Godel?s incompleteness theorems, for example, which are also quite surprising, but not paradoxical. Or compare it to the ontological argument, where it is purportedly shown that if a certain description is possibly exemplified, then it is necessarily exemplified. This, too, is quite surprising, but I doubt it is paradoxical. So, what is the difference?

Perhaps the difference is psychological. Logical results are suprising when they go beyond what we presently believe to be true, and when they concern issues of significance to us. We notice the result which, prior to the proof, we doubted; after seeing the proof, we are convinced and thereby surprised. When the result is paradoxical, however, something additional happens. The proof threatens our intellectual commitments in some way, it threatens our firmly held opinions on matters that are significant to us. Admitting the soundness of a proof to the contrary thus engenders a bit of mental apoplexy: we know something has to give, but it?s hard to see what.

Is there a different account of the distinction? I?m not sure; if you have a different account, please share it. But if we suppose that this account is on track, one has to dig a bit to find a paradox in the knowability result. The result is a conditional: if every truth is knowable, then every truth is known. That?s not a denial of any deeply entrenched viewpoint I hold on issues that are significant to me. So why the fuss? I think there is something paradoxical in the neighborhood here, and I think it has important lessons. But since it depends on the psychological account of the difference between surprising and paradoxical derivations, I?ll hold off to see if there might be a better account of the difference.

The Swedish Drill

By: Leon Felkins

Swedish civil defense authorities announced that a civil defense drill would be held one day the following week, but the actual day would be a surprise.
However, we can prove by induction that the drill cannot be held. Clearly, they cannot wait until Friday, since everyone will know it will be held that day. But if it cannot be held on Friday, then by induction it cannot be held on Thursday, Wednesday, or indeed on any day.

What is wrong with this proof?

This problem has generated a vast literature (see here). Several solutions of the paradox have been proposed, but as with most paradoxes
there is no consensus on which solution is the "right" one.

The earliest writers (O'Connor, Cohen, Alexander) see the announcement as simply a statement whose utterance refutes itself. If I tell you that I will have a surprise birthday party for you and then tell you all the details, including the exact time and place, then I destroy the surprise, refuting my statement that the birthday will be a surprise.

Soon, however, it was noticed that the drill could occur (say on Wednesday), and still be a surprise. Thus the announcement is vindicated instead of being refuted. So a puzzle remains.

One school of thought (Scriven, Shaw, Medlin, Fitch, Windt) interprets the announcement that the drill is unexpected as saying that the date of the drill cannot be deduced in advanced. This begs the question, deduced from which premises? Examination of the inductive argument shows that one of the premises used is the announcement itself, and in particular the fact that the drill is unexpected. Thus the word "unexpected" is defined circularly. Shaw and Medlin claim that this circularity is illegitimate and is the source of the paradox. Fitch uses Godelian techniques to produce a fully rigorous self-referential announcement, and shows that the resulting proposition is self-contradictory. However, none of these authors explain how it can be that this illegitimate or self-contradictory announcement nevertheless appears to be vindicated when the drill occurs. In other words, what they have shown is that under one interpretation of "surprise" the announcement is faulty, but their interpretation does not capture the intuition that the drill really is a surprise when it occurs and thus they are open to the charge that they have not captured the essence of the paradox.

Another school of thought (Quine, Kaplan and Montague, Binkley, Harrison, Wright and Sudbury, McClelland, Chihara, Sorenson) interprets surprise in terms of knowing instead of deducing. Quine claims that the victims of the drill cannot assert that on the eve of the last day they will know that the drill will occur on the next day. This blocks the inductive argument from the start, but Quine is not very explicit in showing what exactly is wrong with our strong intuition that everybody will "know" on the eve of the last day that the drill will occur on the following day. Later writers formalize the paradox using modal logic (a logic that attempts to represent propositions about knowing and believing) and suggest that various axioms about knowing are at fault, e.g., the axiom that if one knows something, then one knows that one knows it (the KK axiom). Sorenson, however, formulates three ingenious variations of the paradox that are independent of these doubtful axioms, and suggests instead that the problem is that the announcement involves a blindspot:

a statement that is true but which cannot be known by certain individuals even if they are presented with the statement.

This idea was foreshadowed by O'Beirne and Binkley. Unfortunately, a full discussion of how this blocks the paradox is beyond the scope of this summary.

Finally, there are two other approaches that deserve mention. Cargile interprets the paradox as a game between ideally rational agents and finds fault with the notion that ideally rational agents will arrive at the same conclusion independently of the situation they find themselves in. Olin interprets the paradox as an issue about justified belief: on the eve of the last day one cannot be justified in believing BOTH that the drill will occur on the next day AND that the drill will be a surprise even if both statements turn out to be true; hence the argument cannot proceed and the drill can be a surprise even on the last day.

For those who wish to read some of the literature, good papers to start with are Bennett-Cargile and both papers of Sorenson. All of these provide overviews of previous work and point out some errors, and so it's helpful to read them before reading the original papers. For further reading on the "deducibility" side, Shaw, Medlin and Fitch are good representatives. Other papers that are definitely worth reading are Quine, Binkley, and Olin.

Posted by Tony Marmo at 01:01 BST
Updated: Sunday, 15 August 2004 08:40 BST


Paraconsistency Everywhere

By Greg Restall

Paraconsistent logics are, by definition, inconsistency tolerant:
In a paraconsistent logic, inconsistencies need not entail everything. However, there is more than one way a body of information can be inconsistent. In this paper I distinguish contradictions from other inconsistencies, and I show that several different logics are, in an important sense, 'paraconsistent' in virtue of being inconsistency tolerant without thereby being contradiction tolerant. For example, even though no inconsistencies are tolerated by intuitionistic propositional logic, some inconsistencies are tolerated by intuitionistic predicate logic. In this way, intuitionistic predicate logic is, in a mild sense, paraconsistent. So too are orthologic and quantum propositional logic and other formal systems. Given this fact, a widespread view that traditional paraconsistent logics are especially repugnant because they countenance inconsistencies is undercut. Many well-understood nonclassical logics countenance inconsistencies as well.

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Posted by Tony Marmo at 01:01 BST
Monday, 9 August 2004
Topic: Cognition & Epistemology

Isn't Tony multi-present? Why?

Children are interesting from both the epistemological and logical-philosophical points of view because they show how the mind works without a large stock of pre-conceived notions that a human gains as he grows old. For instance, I remember that years ago I liked to apply the following test to children who began to talk:

I asked them to check whether I was elsewhere or not, designating a certain place. They often went to the other place I indicated and called me several times. As they did not get any answers from me there, they came back and told me that I was not there.

As far as I suspect, this is an evidence that children have a natural highly logical way of thinking. In this case, as they had no a priori reason to assume that I am not a multi-present being, they would not think that I could not be at two different places at the same time.

Posted by Tony Marmo at 01:01 BST
Updated: Monday, 9 August 2004 08:28 BST

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