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LINGUISTIX&LOGIK, Tony Marmo's blog
Tuesday, 9 November 2004


On the pragmatics of vagueness

By Robert Williams

I outline the notion of an ?equivalence puzzle? and discuss how pragmatic explanations can help resolve them. I focus particularly on an equivalence puzzle given by Cian Dorr, and discuss the application of pragmatic accounts favoured by Dorr and Weatherson to this case. I conclude that a modification of the kind of account that Weatherson suggests is the best candidate for dealing with the puzzle.


Posted by Tony Marmo at 07:58 GMT
Updated: Tuesday, 9 November 2004 08:04 GMT
Sunday, 7 November 2004



Professor Tallit of the University of Algiers in her article in the French language Moroccan newspaper Le Matin argues that the Roman Alphabet might have had a Berber origin. Here is an excerpt:

(...)Les signes g?om?triques formant l'alphabet latin et entrant dans l'alphabet ph?nicien n'appara?tront en Orient - domin? alors par l'?criture cun?iforme akkadienne - qu'? la suite d'invasions massives d?ferlant de l'Ouest m?diterran?en. Et c'est ? la suite de cette submersion que se cr?eront les alphabets phon?tiques en Ph?nicie, l'un cun?iforme et l'autre lin?aire.

Peut-on consid?rer alors les signes comme U V C X N W I E Z L M S T des poteries berb?res les plus anciennes, des gravures et peintures rupestres de l'Atlas, du Tassili, des m?galithes africains et europ?ens comme de simples graffiti sans importance ou formaient-ils d?j? des lignes d'?criture d?daign?es car ignor?es? Les th?ories sur l'?volution de l'?criture ?vacuent un peu trop rapidement le Libyque - ?criture nord-africaine antique, disparue de nos jours -, et le font d?river du ph?nicien. (...)

Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 GMT
Saturday, 6 November 2004


When does `everything' mean everything?

By Agustin Rayo

At least two different lines of resistance might be deployed against the view that it is possible to quantify over absolutely everything. According to the first, there is no such a thing as an all-inclusive domain. In contrast, the second line of resistance concedes - at least for the sake of argument - that there is such a thing as an all-inclusive domain, but insists that nothing in an agent's thoughts and practices could ever uniquely determine that her domain of quantification is all-inclusive. For whenever it is compatible with an agent's thoughts and practices that his domain of quantification is all-inclusive, it is also compatible with his thoughts and practices that his domain of quantification is less-than-all-inclusive. So the agent could never be said to determinately quantify over absolutely everything. In this paper, I will argue that, when the first line of resistance is set aside, there are reasons for thinking that determinate unrestricted quantification is possible. I will have nothing to say about the first line of resistance.


Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 GMT
Updated: Monday, 1 November 2004 07:28 GMT


Routes to Triviality

By Susan Rogerson and Greg Restall

It is well known that contraction-related principles trivialise naive class theory. It is less well known that many other principles unrelated to contraction also render the theory trivial. This paper provides a characterisation of a large class of formulas which do the job. This class includes all properly implication formulas known in the literature, and adds countably many more.

Follow this route to the paper

Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 GMT
Updated: Saturday, 6 November 2004 00:18 GMT
Friday, 5 November 2004


We Live Forwards but Understand Backwards: Linguistic Practices and Future Behavior

By Henry Jackman

Ascriptions of content are sensitive not only to our physical and social environment, but also to unforeseeable developments in the subsequent usage of our terms. This paper argues that the problems that may seem to come from endorsing such 'temporally sensitive' ascriptions either already follow from accepting the socially and historically sensitive ascriptions Burge and Kripke appeal to, or disappear when the view is developed in detail. If one accepts that one's society's past and current usage contributes to what one's terms mean, there is little reason not to let its future usage to do so as well.

Keywords: Philosophy of Language, Philosophy of Mind

Source: Ph Online

Wanna see it?

Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 GMT
Updated: Friday, 5 November 2004 17:38 GMT
Thursday, 4 November 2004



As always, I shall try to be as concise as possible. (1) below is a classic principle of Logic:

(1) T(S) iff F(~S)

Still, given that in classic logic (2) is valid:

(2) if F(B) then T(A)

By (1) and (2), and by substituting ~S for B and S for A in (2), it is not obvious that (3) is blocked:

(3) if ~S then S

Thus, a sentence like (4) should make sense in a human language:

(4)#If Marilyn Monroe did not pass out then she passed out.

But (4) is nonsensical in English or in other natural language. There are several manners to fix (4) in a natural language like English:

a. If it is false that Marilyn Monroe did not pass out then it is true that she passed out.
b. If it is false that Marilyn Monroe did not pass out then she passed out.

And there are other ways not to fix it:

(6) #If Marilyn Monroe did not pass out then it is true that she passed out.

(7) below is the main deflationist claim:

(7) Adding it is true that to a sentence S adds nothing to its content.

(7) can explain why there is no difference of status between (5a) and (b), and why (6) cannot be an option to (4).

On the other hand, given that (8) below is not valid:

(8) if T(B) then F(A)

One should not expect (9) to be ok:

(9) If it is that true Marilyn Monroe did not pass out then it is false that she passed out.

But (9) is sensible in a natural language like English. Of course, in such case one might argue that, unlike in an artificial language, English if... so constructions might be interpreted as if and only if statements in some cases like (10), in the context of a mother talking to her daughter:

(10) If you break another vase in the house, you will have no ice cream tonight.

Where the daughter does not expect to be punished in the event that no vase is broken in the house. But (4), (9) and (10) are precisely the kind of evidences used to argue that natural languages are not semantically closed, i.e., they do not abide by (1) in all instances.

But if one dispenses with (1) in the case of natural language semantics, how can one maintain (7) or explain the cases where the sensical/ non-sensical status is not altered by the addition of it is true that ...?

Before advancing any proposal of my own, I would like to hear your thoughts on this matter.

Posted by Tony Marmo at 03:14 GMT
Updated: Thursday, 4 November 2004 09:57 GMT
Wednesday, 3 November 2004


The Semantics of Belief Ascriptions

By Michael McKinsey

Since it was first proposed by Frege (1892), the view that cognitive attitude verbs express mental relations that hold between persons and propositions has dominated discussion of the semantics of such verbs. I will call this view "the relation theory". In the particular case of the verb `believes', for instance, the relation theory holds that a sentence of the form `S believes that p' says of the person referred to by S and the proposition expressed by the sentence p that the former bears the relation of believing to the latter. In this paper, I will present an array of evidence against the relation theory, some of it classical and some of it new, and I will argue that this evidence is quite overwhelming and cannot be explained away. I will also propose a new theory of the meaning and logical form of cognitive ascriptions that explains the available evidence. This new theory is based on the concept of linguistic meaning instead of the concept of a proposition, and it provides a compositional account of the meaning of cognitive ascriptions, even though it implies that the cognitive verbs, in their basic senses, do not express relations of any sort. I will conclude by showing that much of the evidence I give against the relation theory can also be applied to refute various recently proposed "contextual" views of cognitive ascriptions.

Related entry

The paper above presents a Russellian view on epistemic ascriptions. One of my favourite excerpts is the one where he quotes and begins to explain Berg's famous examples:
A particularly poignant example of this kind of exception to the Russellians' rule has been described by Jonathan Berg:
A viewer marvelling at Superman's ability to conceal his identity might remark to another viewer, "Look, there's Superman in his Clark Kent outfit; he's incredibly convincing! Everyone thinks he's a reporter--Jimmy Olson, Mr. White--why even that clever Lois Lane believes that Superman is a reporter." (Berg, 1988, p. 355; his emphasis.)

In this nice example, our intuition is that the sentence (12) is true:
(12) Lois believes that Superman is a reporter.

Moreover, of course, this use of (12) would not at all suggest or implicate the falsehood that Lois would accept the sentence `Superman is a reporter'.

Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 GMT
Updated: Wednesday, 3 November 2004 09:01 GMT
Tuesday, 2 November 2004


Language program faces possible cuts

By Charles Nguyen

Source: The UCSD Guardian online

The UCSD Heritage Language Program is in financial danger because of university budgetary issues and could be cut midway through the year, according to Robert Kluender, chair of the linguistics department.

"At this point, we don't have enough money to get through the year," he said. "Every year we have a bit of trouble, but this one is especially hard."

Posted by Tony Marmo at 09:51 GMT
Monday, 1 November 2004


Scope Dominance with Monotone Quantifiers over Finite Domains

By Gilad Ben-Avi & Yoad Winter

We characterize pairs of monotone generalized quantifiers Q1 and Q2 over finite domains that give rise to an entailment relation between their two relative scope construals. This relation between quantifiers, which is referred to as scope dominance, is used for identifying entailment relations between the two scopal interpretations of simple sentences of the form NP1-V-NP2. Simple numerical or set-theoretical considerations that follow from our main result are used for characterizing such relations. The variety of examples in which they hold are shown to go far beyond the familiar existential-universal type.

Get it

To appear in the Journal of Logic, Language and Information

Posted by Tony Marmo at 06:40 GMT
Updated: Monday, 1 November 2004 06:44 GMT

Topic: Syn-Sem Interface

Explaining the locality conditions of QR:
Consequences for the theory of phases

By Carlo Cecchetto

In this paper I offer an explanation for the fact that QR tends to be more local than other types of A-bar movement (i.e., in typical cases, QR cannot take place out of a finite clause). My explanation assumes (and offers evidence for) the Phase Impenetrability Condition (cf. Chomsky 2001a, b) and an Economy Condition that requires that each step of (possibly successive cyclic) QR be motivated (cf. Fox 1999). After showing why QR is local in typical cases, I consider new evidence, involving a counterpart of ACD in Italian, which indicates that QR takes place long distance, as other types of A-bar movement do, whenever each step is independently motivated. It follows that it can be maintained that the locality conditions on QR are not construction specific, as expected given the general format of the theory.

You may download an earlier draft version of this paper from Cecchetto's site. The final published version is available through the Natural Language Semantics Journal (Winter 2004, Volume 12, Issue 4).

Questions: Do we really need the Phase Impenetrability Condition? Isn't a multiple spell-out approach equally capable of covering the same material? I shall let the readers speak their minds.

Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 GMT
Updated: Tuesday, 2 November 2004 09:07 GMT
Sunday, 31 October 2004


The interpretation and meaning of concealed questions

By Lance Nathan

Syntactic and semantic selection of complements have long been considered idiosyncratic facts about verbs. For instance, among verbs that can take clausal questions as complements (John {knew/ asked/ cared/ wondered} what time it was), lexical items vary as to whether, semantically, they accept clausal propositions (John {knew/ *asked/ cared/ *wondered} that it was 3:00) and whether, syntactically, they accept question-denoting noun phrases, or "concealed questions" (John {knew/ asked/ *cared/ *wondered} the time). In this paper I argue that the distribution of concealed questions is not arbitrary and therefore the ability to embed them does not need to be specified as part of the lexical entry of the verb.

Let me see it

Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 BST
Updated: Sunday, 31 October 2004 09:54 BST
Saturday, 30 October 2004


Frege's Puzzle and the Presuppositions of Proper Names

By Eric Swanson

Frege's Puzzle has many facets. This paper is about one concerning assertion. Johnny Ramone is John Cummings. And yet an assertion of
(1) Johnny Ramone is in The Ramones.

may not convey any new information about Johnny Ramone to an addressee A, whereas an assertion of
(2) John Cummings is in The Ramones.

may well give A new information about Johnny Ramone. If proper names are directly referential, then on several ways of thinking about propositions the content of an assertion of (1) is the same as that of (2). For example, according to standard Russellianism about propositions (and abstracting away from tense) the proposition expressed by assertions of both (1) and (2) is the ordered pair consisting of Johnny Ramone and the property of being in The Ramones. Or, on the possible worlds view of propositions, (1) and (2) both express the proposition that is the
set of worlds in which Johnny Ramone is in The Ramones.
How is it, then, that assertions of (1) and (2) can differ in their informativeness? Philosophers once thought the answer was that `Johnny Ramone' and `John Cummings' differ in semantic value. But thanks to arguments by Kripke, Putnam, and others, it's now common to think instead that the following "Millian" principle is right:
dr: Irrespective of the point of evaluation, the semantic value of a proper name in a context is the thing the name denotes in that context.

If dr is true, then proper names do not have an associated description (or intension, or sense) that makes any contribution to their semantics. But then we're back to square one: How can (1) and (2) express the same proposition and yet tell us different things about Johnny Ramone?


Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 BST
Updated: Thursday, 28 October 2004 18:53 BST
Friday, 29 October 2004


Semantics for Deflationists

By Christopher Gauker

According to deflationists, [p]is true is in some sense equivalent to p. The problem that the semantic paradoxes pose for the deflationist is to explicate this equivalence without relying on a semantics grounded in the sort of real reference relations that a deflationist thinks do not exist. More generally, the deflationist is challenged to give an account of logical validity that does not force us to countenance such relations. (The usual model-theoretic definition seems to presuppose that there is some special interpretation, the intended interpretation, such that truth simpliciter is truth on that intended interpretation. So if the deflationist adopts this sort of definition, the deflationist will be challenged to identify the intended interpretation without positing real reference relations.)

Fortunately, a precise semantics compatible with the deflationist philosophy can be had as follows: First, we define a context as a certain sort of set constructed from a basis of literals (atomic sentences and negations of atomic sentences). This formal account of contexts has to be supplemented with an account of the conditions under which a structure satisfying the formal definition is the structure of that kind pertinent ot a given conversation. For each syntactic type of sentence, we define the conditions under which a sentence of that type is assertible relative to a context. In particular, we define the conditions under which sentences of the form "[p]is true" are assertible in a context, and we define the conditions under which sentences of the form "[p]is assertible in context G" are assertible in a context. Finally, logical validity is defined as preservation of assertibility in a context. It is demonstrated that this approach to semantics resists the semantics paradoxes.

(To appear in Deflationism and Paradox, ed. by JC Beall and Bradley Armour-Garb,Oxford University Press)


Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 BST
Updated: Friday, 29 October 2004 12:28 BST
Thursday, 28 October 2004


Is the Liar Sentence Both True and False?

By Hartry Field

The argument with which I began shows that if we want to disbelieve instances of excluded middle (in the sense of, believe their negations) then we should be dialetheists (not merely that we should accept paraconsistent logics for some purposes). And as Priest has often urged. the most familiar arguments against the coherence of dialetheism are seriously faulty, a result of a refusal to take the doctrine seriously.

To appear in Beall and Armour-Garb, eds., Deflationism and Paradox (Oxford University Press 2004)

See it

Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 BST
Updated: Thursday, 28 October 2004 04:27 BST
Wednesday, 27 October 2004


Grim on Vagueness

The text introduced hereinafter could easily be a paper on the semantics of any natural language, such as Latin, English, Spanish, Korean or French. As the reader can see by the specific topic, which is approached by Grim, issues respecting greater philosophical discussions often have to do with puzzles in Linguistics:

The buried quantifier:
an account of vagueness and the sorites

By Patrick Grim

Contrary to the great bulk of philosophical work on vagueness, the core of vagueness is not to be found in vague monadic predicates such as bald, tall, or old. The true source of vagueness - at least vagueness of the type that typically appears in the sorites - lies beneath these, in a mechanism using a buried quantifier operative over the comparatives balder, taller and older.

Or so I propose. Here the quantifier account is presented in its simplest form, with the limited claim that it offers a paradigmatic treatment for paradigmatic vague predicates in the sorites. Questions remain as to whether the account or something like it can be extended to all sorites vulnerable predicates, and qualifications and concessions in this regard are offered in ?9. What the approach promises, however, even in this limited form, is deeper understanding of vagueness through a deeper understanding of non-comparative adjectives derived from comparatives, a central explanation for a range of otherwise puzzling and disparate phenomena, and a new resolution for the sorites.

Source: Analysis Preprints

Go on

It is interesting to notice that in the Semantics of natural languages the question of whether there are covert quantifiers or operators is a top issue nowadays. Their proponents consider that they are necessary to explain many facts associated with the interpretation of sentences.

Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 BST
Updated: Tuesday, 26 October 2004 00:04 BST

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