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LINGUISTIX&LOGIK, Tony Marmo's blog
Tuesday, 28 September 2004


Context-dependence and quantifier domains

by Orin Percus
Source: Semantics Archive

These are my lecture notes (i.e. revised handouts) for the EGG 2004 class Covert Variables at LF, co-taught with Luisa Mart? (see. Their general concern is with the phenomenon of context-dependence. Frequently, when a speaker utters a sentence, the pronounced words and the way they are put together do not fully determine our intuitions of when what the speaker said would be true. We see this clearly when, on different occasions when the same sentence is uttered, we have different intuitions about what it would mean for the speaker to have said something true. The issue is how best to treat context-dependence within a theory of how sentences get interpreted. These notes specifically address a kind of context-dependence that surfaces in sentences with quantifiers: the pronounced words do not fully determine what the domain of quantification is.

The notes rely heavily on Jason Stanley and Zoltan Szab?'s 2000 Mind and Language article "On Quantifier Domain Restriction" and on Kai von Fintel's 1998 web-accessible notes on the same topic, and to some degree (Section 1 particularly) on Fran?ois Recanati's 2003 book Literal Meaning. They are NOTES, and not all examples are attributed to their proper sources, so please check with me before citing anything as mine. Also, please let me know of any serious mistakes that you find. I will try to revise the notes accordingly.


Posted by Tony Marmo at 22:27 BST
Updated: Wednesday, 29 September 2004 10:24 BST


See related previous post

Why Knowledge is Unnecessary for Understanding Language

Dean Pettit

It is a natural thought that understanding language consists in possessing knowledge-to understand a word is to know what it means. It is also natural to suppose that this knowledge is propositional knowledge-to know what a word means is to know that it means such-and-such. Thus it is prima facie plausible to suppose that understanding a bit of language consists in possessing propositional knowledge of its meaning. I refer to this as the epistemic view of understanding language. The theoretical appeal of this view for the philosophy of language is that it provides for an attractive account of the project of the theory of meaning. If understanding language consists in possessing propositional knowledge of the meanings of expressions, then a meaning theory amounts to a theory of what speakers know in virtue of understanding language. In this paper I argue that, despite its intuitive and theoretical appeal, the epistemic view is false. Propositional knowledge is not necessary for understanding language, not even tacit knowledge. Unlike knowledge, I argue, linguistic understanding does not fail in Gettier cases, does not require epistemic warrant and does not even require belief. The intuitions about knowledge that have been central to epistemology do not seem to hold for linguistic understanding. So unless epistemologists have been radically mistaken about what knowledge requires, knowledge is unnecessary for understanding language.

Download for Mind subscribers

Posted by Tony Marmo at 01:01 BST
Updated: Tuesday, 28 September 2004 01:22 BST


Three Types of Kes-Nominalization in Korean

by Min-Joo Kim
Source: Sematics Archive

In Korean, the Internally Headed Relative Clause Construction (IHRC), illustrated in (1), the Direct Perception Construction (DPC), illustrated in (2), and the factive Propositional Attitude Construction (PAC), illustrated in (3), appear to have an identical syntactic structure: the complements of the verbs consist of clausal material and the grammatical element kes (Kim 1984, Jhang 1994, Chung 1999, Chung and Kim 2003).
Though these constructions look alike, they differ fundamentally in their interpretations. In the IHRC, the complement denotes an entity, in the DPC it denotes an eventuality, and in the factive PAC it denotes a fact. These differences trace back to the semantics of the embedding predicates, which we can therefore isolate as a defining property of each construction. In this paper, I investigate how these three constructions are similar and how they are dissimilar. I seek to establish that the factive PAC differs sharply from the other two kes-constructions and that there is also a subtle difference between the two constructions as well. I propose that the three constructions behave differently because they describe different semantic relations: the factive PAC describes a part-whole relation between two sets of worlds, whereas the IHRC and the DPC describe relations between two sets of eventualities. But the IHRC and the DPC also differ in that while the former describes an intersection relation, the latter describes a partwhole relation between two sets of eventualities.


Posted by Tony Marmo at 01:01 BST
Updated: Saturday, 25 September 2004 06:24 BST
Monday, 27 September 2004

Topic: Cognition & Epistemology

Tracking the Real: Through Thick and Thin

by Stathis Psillos

In this paper, I examine Azzouni's tracking requirement and its use as a normative constraint on theories about objects which we take as real. I focus on what he calls 'thick epistemic access' and argue that there is a logical-conceptual sense in which thick access to the real presupposes thin access to it. Then, I move on to advance an alternative-Sellarsian-way to ontic commitment and show that (a) it is better than Azzouni's, and (b) it can accommodate thick epistemic access as a bonus. Finally, I try to defend the Quinean theoretical virtues against some of Azzouni's objections.

Download doc file

Posted by Tony Marmo at 01:01 BST
Updated: Saturday, 25 September 2004 17:04 BST

Given the sentence {1} below:
{1} During refections a llama dawdles less than an aardvark.

A user of English should be able to understand it, at least in part, even if he does not know what a llama or an aardvark is or what to dawdle and refection mean. Or shouldn't he?

See related post

Linguistic Understanding and Belief

Discussion of Dean Pettit's Why Knowledge is Unnecessary for Understanding Language, Mind 111

by Steven Gross

In a recent paper, Dean Pettit argues against the view that understanding a bit of language consists in the possession of propositional knowledge of its meaning--what he labels the epistemic view of linguistic understanding. His objection to the epistemic view is that it entails that it's necessary to understand a bit of language that one possess propositional knowledge of its meaning, but this necessity claim is false: for linguistic understanding, unlike knowledge, does not fail in Gettier cases, does not require epistemic warrant, and does not require belief; in supplying cases demonstrating this, one supplies cases of linguistic understanding without such knowledge. Pettit's arguments, if successful, thus establish the falsity of a variety of weaker claims in addition to that of the epistemic view. They would establish, for example, the falsity of necessity claims as weak as the weakest modality allowing the possibility of his cases. Further, the third argument--that linguistic understanding does not require belief that the bit of language means such-and-such--establishes, if successful, the falsity of parallel claims concerning belief. Given the case Pettit appeals to in his third argument, this would include the falsity of the claim that belief about an expression's meaning is nomologically necessary for a human speaker to possess linguistic understanding of it. Pettit's case thus poses a challenge to prominent empirical accounts of semantic competence that advert to states with such propositional content.


Posted by Tony Marmo at 01:01 BST
Updated: Tuesday, 28 September 2004 01:21 BST
Sunday, 26 September 2004


On the Notion of Substitution

Marcel Crabbe

We consider a concept of substitutive structure, called "logos", in order to study simple substitution, independently of formal or programming languages. We provide a definition of simultaneous substitution in an arbitrary logos and use it to prove a completeness theorem expressing that the equational properties of the usual substitution can be proved from the logos axioms only.


Posted by Tony Marmo at 01:01 BST
Updated: Saturday, 25 September 2004 07:25 BST


Logics of Imperfect Information

by Gabriel Sandu
Source CLE

The paper contains a survey of results and interpretations of incomplete information in predicate and modal logics.


Posted by Tony Marmo at 01:01 BST
Updated: Friday, 24 September 2004 03:57 BST
Saturday, 25 September 2004


Phase structure, Phrase structure,
and Quantification

by Jonny Butler
Source: Semantics Archive

I combine two areas of investigation in current syntactic literature:

(1) the structure of the clause contains layers of hierarchically ordered quantificational heads, situated above the temporal and verbal fields (Beghelli & Stowell 1997);
(2) the clause is built in phases -- subclausal building blocks with parallel properties.

I claim these two threads should be tied together, in that phases should be defined in terms of such quantificational layers. Precisely, I claim a phase consists of some property denoting head H, topped by some associated `little' head(s) h (as v over V) -- this, the phase domain -- surmounted by a CP layer -- the phase edge -- that encodes quantificational information to close off domain-internal variables. This derives a V phase, C > v > V (corresponding to the standard vP phase); a T phase, C > t > T, (the standard CP phase); also an N phase (DP/QP), C > n > N, where C = D. Treating phases in these terms derives the major facets of orthodox phase theory, but in a much more elegant, less stipulative way.

Cyclicity, for example, is captured as an expected property of the system, rather than by the stipulated Phase Impenetrability Condition of Chomsky (2000). Evidence for this reinterpretation of phase theory is adduced from:

(1) The interpretation of QPs, treated uniformly like Heim (1982) indefinites: so any QP introduces a restricted variable, subject to closure by intra-clausal quantificational heads analogous to Heim's 9-closure operator.
(2) The structure and interpretation of temporal predicates, T/Perf/Prog, treated as embedding situation-denoting phases as internal argument, and introducing a situation variable, closed off by their own CP, as external argument.
(3) The interpretation and scope behaviour of modality, defined as quantification over possible situations: syntactically expressed as CP-/edge-level quantificational
heads operating over domain-level situation variables.


Posted by Tony Marmo at 17:24 BST



by Hana Flip
Source: Semantics Archive

In this paper I explore the function of prefixes as verb-internal operators that have distinct semantic effects on the interpretation of nominal arguments. I will focus on the Russian prefix n a - used in its cumulative sense of approximately a {relatively/sufficiently/exceedingly} large quantity (of), and to a lesser extent on its converse, namely, the delimitative/attenuative po-. Such prefixes have one notable and neglected property: namely, they systematically require that nominal arguments targeted by them have a non-specific indefinite interpretation, regardless whether the verb they form is perfective or imperfective. I will argue that the semantics of such prefixes is to be assimilated to that of measure phrases and propose an additional novel role for them: namely, as morphological markers of a particular mode of composition that is available for semantically incomplete nominal arguments that have a non-specific indefinite interpretation. If this analysis is correct, then it precludes measure prefixes in Slavic languages from being analyzed as overt morphological exponents of the perfective operator, contrary to the majority of current analyses which take this to be the main or the only function of Slavic prefixes as a whole class. Instead, this analysis enforces the view on which measure prefixes function as modifiers of eventuality types expressed by `aspectless' verbal predicates.


Posted by Tony Marmo at 07:24 BST
Updated: Saturday, 25 September 2004 07:26 BST
Friday, 24 September 2004



by Min-Joo Kim
Source: Sematics Archive

This dissertation investigates how syntactic, semantic, and pragmatic factors interact to produce the Internally-Headed Relative Clause (IHRC) construction in Korean and Japanese. The IHRC construction differs from the more familiar Externally-Headed Relative Clause (EHRC) construction in several ways. First, unlike an EHRC, an IHRC?s content restricts the content of the matrix clause rather than that of the semantic head. Second, its interpretation is heavily influenced by the discourse context in ways not seen with the EHRC. Third, unlike the head of an EHRC, the head of an IHRC does not correspond to any overt syntactic phrase and hence needs to be determined by language users based on the relative clause?s content, the matrix predicate?s semantics, and the discourse context.

The literature offers an abundance of sensitive analyses of the IHRC construction, but it leaves two central questions unanswered: what determines the interpretation of the construction? And, if pragmatic principles play a role, how do they interact with the morphosyntax and the semantics? I answer these questions with an event-based semantic analysis. I show that the construction?s interpretation is determined partly by grammatical factors (e.g., the embedded clause?s aspect and the matrix predicate?s semantics) and partly by pragmatic factors (the discourse context and the discourse participants? world knowledge). In particular, I isolate two sources of the semantic variability of the construction.

First, the matrix clause contains a pronominal definite description, whose denotation contains a free relation variable. The value of this variable is determined by the embedded clause?s event structure, the matrix predicate?s semantics, and the discourse context.

Second, the relative operator that occurs in this construction connects the content of the embedded clause with that of the matrix clause, establishing either a temporal or a causal relation between them, depending on whether the embedded clause describes a temporary state or a permanent state.

This study establishes important connections between the semantics of a definite description and event structure, thereby solving a particularly challenging formal-linking problem, one that afflicts existing E-type pronoun analyses of the IHRC construction. In addition, it provides a constrained but flexible interpretive mechanism for the construction, eliminating the need for many of the extra-grammatical constraints that characterize existing treatments.


Posted by Tony Marmo at 22:52 BST
Updated: Friday, 24 September 2004 22:56 BST
Thursday, 23 September 2004


Combining possibility and knowledge

By Alexandre Costa-Leite
Source: CLE

This paper is an attempt to define a new modality with philosophical interest by combining the basic modal ingredients of possibility and knowledge. This combination is realized via product of modal frames so as to construct a knowability modality, which is a bidimensional constructor of arity one defined in a two-dimensional modal frame. A semantical interpretation for the operator is proposed, as well as an axiomatic system able to account for inferences related to this new modality. The resulting logic for knowability LK is shown to be sound and complete with respect to its class of modal-epistemic product models.


Posted by Tony Marmo at 01:01 BST
Updated: Thursday, 23 September 2004 05:12 BST


Context Dependence and Compositionality

Francis Jeffry Pelletier
Source: Language & Mind

Some utterances of sentences such as `Every student failed the midterm exam' and `There is no beer' are widely held to be true in a conversation despite the facts that not every student in the world failed the midterm exam and that there is, in fact, some beer somewhere. For instance, the speaker might be talking about some particular course, or about his refrigerator. Stanley and Szab?-- (in Mind and Language v. 15, 2000) consider many different approaches to how contextual information might give meaning to these `restricted quantifier domains', and find all of them but one wanting. The present paper argues that their considerations against one of these other theories, considerations that turn on notions of compositionality, are incorrect.


Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 BST
Updated: Wednesday, 22 September 2004 20:13 BST
Wednesday, 22 September 2004


Inconsistency without Contradiction

by Achille C. Varzi
Source: Notre Dame J. Formal Logic

Lewis has argued that impossible worlds are nonsense: if there were such worlds, one would have to distinguish between the truths about their contradictory goings-on and contradictory falsehoods about them; and this--Lewis argues--is preposterous. In this paper I examine a way of resisting this argument by giving up the assumption that `in so-and-so world' is a restricting modifier which passes through the truth-functional connectives. The outcome is a sort of subvaluational semantics which makes a contradiction 'A and not-A' false even when both 'A' and 'not-A' are true, just as supervaluational semantics makes a tautology 'A and not-A' true even when neither 'A' and 'not-A' are.


Posted by Tony Marmo at 01:01 BST
Updated: Wednesday, 22 September 2004 03:44 BST
Tuesday, 21 September 2004


Monotonicity in Opaque Verbs

by Thomas Ede Zimmermann
Source: Semantics Archive

In this paper I will defend a quantificational semantic analysis of the unspecific readings of opaque transitive verbs, i.e. verbs that induce a certain kind of ambiguity with respect to their direct object position:
(0a) I owe you a horse.
(0b) Ernest is looking for a lion.
(0c) Tom's horse resembles a unicorn.
(0d) John hired an assistent.

Unlike sentences with ordinary, transparent verbs and indefinite objects, each of (0a-d) allows for a reading that cannot be described in terms of existential quantification over the individuals in the extension of the respective noun. Rather, it seems as though the domain of quantification is shifted, as the following naive paraphrases (of the relevant readings) indicate:
(0'a) I owe you an arbitrary horse.
(0'b) Ernest is looking for an intentional lion.
(0'c) Tom's horse resembles a generic unicorn.
(0'd) John hired a would-be assistent.

Neither arbitrary horses, nor intentional lions, nor generic unicorns are animals, and would-be assistents do not have to be assistents. In fact, one may well wonder just what sort of objects the paraphrases in (0') are supposed to be about. Given their dubious ontological status, an analysis of (0) that can do without them ought to be preferrable to one along the lines of (0') - ceteris paribus. Such analyses have been developed, based on the observation that opaque verbs tend to express propositional attitudes (in a broad sense). Following them, instead of trying to make literal sense of (0'), it is more worthwhile to explore the (admittedly rough) paraphrases under (0") instead, thereby reducing the strangeness of (0) to an interaction of the lexical meaning of the opaque verb and the ordinary meaning of the indefinite as existentially quantifying over the extension of its head noun:
(0"a) I am obliged to see to it that it will be the case that I give you a horse.
(0"b) Jones is trying for it to be the case that Jones finds a lion.
(0"c) Given its outward appearance, Tom's horse could be a unicorn.
(0"d) Jones saw to it that someone would be an assistant.

And semantic analysis does not have to stop here.


Posted by Tony Marmo at 18:22 BST
Updated: Tuesday, 21 September 2004 18:23 BST
Monday, 20 September 2004

The debate goes on: how many truth-values are necessary in Logic?

Truth, Falsity and Borderline Cases

by Miroslava Andjelkovi & Timothy Williamson

According to the principle of bivalence, truth and falsity are jointly exhaustive and mutually exclusive options for a statement. It is either true or false, and not both, even in a borderline case.
That highly controversial claim is central to the epistemic theory of vagueness, which holds that borderline cases are distinguished by a special kind of obstacle to knowing the truth -value of the statement. But this paper is not a defence of the epistemic theory. If bivalence holds, it presumably does so as a consequence of what truth and falsity separately are.
One may therefore expect bivalence to be derivable from a combination of some principles characterizing truth and other principles characterizing falsity. Indeed, such derivations are easily found. Their form will of course depend on the initial characterizations of truth and falsity, and not all such characterizations will permit bivalence to be derived. In this paper we focus on the relation between its derivability and some principles about truth and falsity . We will use borderline cases for vague expressions as primary examples of an urgent challenge to bivalence.


For the debate of the issue, see Pelletier and Stainton?s paper On `The Denial of Bivalence is Absurd'.

Posted by Tony Marmo at 07:39 BST

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