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LINGUISTIX&LOGIK, Tony Marmo's blog
Friday, 20 August 2004


Information State Update: Semantics or Pragmatics?

by Raquel Fern?ndez and Matthew Purver (2004)

We argue for an approach which treats the compositional semantic content of an utterance as including its basic dialogue update effects - those which can be derived entirely from its semantic and syntactic properties.

This allows us to capture the distinction between these integral semantic contextual effects and those pragmatic effects which can only be determined from the interaction between features of the utterance and the context itself.


Posted by Tony Marmo at 18:22 BST
Updated: Friday, 20 August 2004 18:24 BST



Kai von Fintel will teach a Course in Pragmatics this fall (spring in the Southern Hemesphere):

The summer is nearing its end. I just finished the first draft syllabus for my pragmatics course this fall. I hope to condense some of the introduction to basic concepts, primarily by reigning in my tendency to get caught up in digressions. This will give me time to cover some interesting topics under current investigation, which I am quite excited about. We'll see how it goes.

This is a dress rehearsal of sorts for the 6 week pragmatics course that I will be teaching during the LSA Summer Linguistics Institute 2005 next summer. I will only have twelve 90 minute sessions, so that version will have to be even more concentrated.

Source: Semantics-etc

Posted by Tony Marmo at 05:45 BST
Updated: Friday, 20 August 2004 05:53 BST
Thursday, 19 August 2004


Semantics in Context

by Jason Stanley
Source: lingBuzz/000024

(...)The explanation for our ability to report about the truth and falsity of what is said by an utterance of
Some philosophers are from New York

in various possible situations is as follows. Competent English speakers know the meanings of the words used, and understand how they are combined. Their grasp of the truth-conditions of the utterance of that sentence is due to their ability to combine the meanings of the words, relative to the context of utterance.
With this explanation in mind, consider an utterance of the sentence
Every philosopher is from New York,

made at a small philosophy conference. It is natural to take this utterance to say something that is true if and only if every philosopher at the conference is from New York. If we cleave to the model of understanding just described, we will seek to explain our understanding of the truth-conditions of this utterance by appeal to a process of combining the elements of the sentence "Every philosopher is from New York", using our understanding of the words used in the sentence. But of course, there appears to be no expression in the sentence "Every philosopher is from New York" that corresponds to the understood constituent expressed by "at this conference".
Similarly, suppose, pointing at a 5 foot tall seven year old child, I utter the sentence "He is tall." I am most naturally understood as saying something that is true if and only if the child in question is tall for a seven year old child. Preserving the model of understanding we began with, according to which our intuitions about the truth-conditions of an utterance are due to a process of combining meanings of the parts of the sentence uttered, would require us to find some constituent in the sentence that could be taken to supply the understood property of being a seven year old child. But again, it appears that the sentence "He is tall" contains no such constituent. So, we have a predicament. If we look at certain sentences, there seems to be a clear and elegant explanation of why we have the intuitions we do about the truth conditions of utterances of those sentences. But if we consider utterances of other sentences, the explanation appears to break down. The first response to this predicament is to attempt to preserve the clear and elegant explanation in the face of the apparently recalcitrant data. The second is to abandon the clear and elegant explanation of the source of our truth-conditional intuitions in favor of a different one.
My concern with the second response to the predicament is that the suggestions I am aware of for dealing with the additional complexity essentially end up abandoning the project of giving a systematic explanation of the source of our intuitions. They invariably involve appeal to unconstrained and non-explanatory notions or processes (cf. Stanley (2002a)). I have therefore been inclined to pursue the first of these options (cf. Stanley (2000)). My purpose in this paper is to continue the project of defending the clear and elegant explanation of the source of our intuitions about the truth-conditions of utterances. I will do so by considering some replies to previous arguments in favor of it. I will argue that proponents of abandoning the clear and elegant explanation have not yet made their case.

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Posted by Tony Marmo at 19:31 BST
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

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