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LINGUISTIX&LOGIK, Tony Marmo's blog
Sunday, 27 March 2005

Topic: Syn-Sem Interface

In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated. The semantics of middles and its crosslinguistic realization

By Marika Lekakou

This study explores the ways in which the semantics of personal middle constructions is encoded across languages. In Dutch, German and English, middles are syntactically unergative and the implicit Agent is syntactically inert. In Greek and French, middles are syntactically indistinguishable from generic passives: they exhibit a derived subject and a syntactically represented Agent. What unites the two types of middle is the interpretation they receive. The cross-linguistic variation invites the following question: what determines the choice of structure employed to convey the middle interpretation?

keywords: middles, genericity, aspect, reflexives, syntax, semantics


Posted by Tony Marmo at 16:30 GMT
Saturday, 26 March 2005

Topic: Interconnections

The Same and the Different

In the blog Prior Knowledge I have found this curious post:


This time a question. Is there anything more fundamental than identity? It seems to me that, at least from our epistemic situation, the most fundamental thing is identity; without identity then all that follows cannot not make any sense.

During a certain period, a movement called Philosophical Grammar proposed that the true form of all sentences were identity statements of the kind x=y. Thus (1) below would actually be (1'):

(1) Cain killed Abel.

(1') Cain is the killer of Abel.

Indeed, discourse analysis theories may be derived simply from the conversational paradigm the same versus the different. Accordingly, to analyse a conversation or discourse, one separates the different claims of each interlocutor into two classes: claims that say that certain things are the same, and claims that say that other things are different. But the question that will always follows is: then what?

Although the idea that identity statements underlie all sentences and discourse might probably be true, it has been the kind of observation that never allowed linguists (or grammarians) to do much besides that. And, to complicate things, modern linguists already knows that there is not a precise and sound way to prove that rather it is (1) that is the true form of (1').

On the other hand, the notion of truth seems to me the most fundamental notions of all, if there is one single thing that is the most fundamental of all. Thus, these are questions of a kind that cannot be answered, their fascinating nature notwithstanding.

Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 GMT
Tuesday, 22 March 2005

Topic: Ontology&possible worlds
A paper by Allan Hazlett that I find intriguing:

Two Arguments in Defence of Impossible Worlds

I give two reasons to adopt etsatz impossible worlds as useful members of our ontology. The first is that such worlds are useful for accounting for truth in impossible fictions (including fictions that present themselves as fictional). The second is that such worlds are useful for accounting for the truth and falsity of safety and sensitivity conditionals, which we want an account of to explain our knowledge of mathematics and other necessary truths. Along the way I discuss a few bad reasons people have offered for believing in impossible worlds, and conclude with some remarks to dispell the worry that believing in impossible worlds will lead one to reject classical logic.

A brief comment on a part of the issues involved in the discussion of the paper above:

In talking about many worlds, one may start out with a number of concepts or definitions that will be used to make the propositions to be considered. In my mind, there are two ways to understand what the initial concepts or definitions are.

The first way is that those concepts or definitions constitute a kind of basic vocabulary. In this case, what one does by making a list of concepts or defintions is just to limit or circumscribe language. And it is just the language used, not the worlds that one talks about.

Alternatively, one may understand a defintion or a concept as a logic proposition; and as such it is true or false in a certain world or sets of worlds. Thus, if one limits the scope of his/her inquiry, considering only the worlds where the proposition one calls 'concept C' is true, of course, one get worlds out of that domain. But that does not make the worlds out of one's domain impossible.

Nevertheless, I of course agree with Allan when he claims that the idea of impossible worlds is usefull. Its utility is not in question for me, what is in question is how one can demonstrate such notion.

See also a paper of related interest by Edwin D. Mares.

Posted by Tony Marmo at 14:46 GMT
Updated: Tuesday, 22 March 2005 14:50 GMT

Now Playing: REPOSTED
Topic: Interconnections


By Noam Chomsky

The biolinguistic perspective regards the language faculty as an ``organ of the body,'' along with other cognitive systems. Adopting it, we expect to find three factors that interact to determine (I-) languages attained: genetic endowment (the topic of Universal Grammar), experience, and principles that are language- or even organism-independent. Research has naturally focused on I-languages and UG, the problems of descriptive and explanatory adequacy. The Principles-and-Parameters approach opened the possibility for serious investigation of the third factor, and the attempt to account for properties of language in terms of general considerations of computational efficiency, eliminating some of the technology postulated as specific to language and providing more principled explanation of linguistic phenomena.

Keywords: minimalism, principled explanation, Extended Standard Theory, Principles-and-Parameters, internal/external Merge, singlecycle derivation, phase
Source: Linguistic Inquiry, winter 2005

Note: Expanded from talk at LSA conference, Jan. 9, 2004. Thanks to Cedric Boeckx, Robert Freidin, Lyle Jenkins, Howard Lasnik, and Luigi Rizzi, among others, for comments on an earlier draft. See an earlier version.

Brief comments
Chomsky's twenty-two page article is a state of the art declaration of great clarity and very comprehensive. Still, it carries many questions yet to be answered.
One of these questions is: if language is such a unique system, containing principles that are not present in other cognitive systems, as he repeatedly claims, then why concepts of Mathematics and Logic can be applied to its study, as in the case of other cognitive systems? I do believe in the uniqueness of language, but such belief does not entail that language and other cognitive system do not share similarities and that the fundamental formal principles are present in more than one system. For instance, the principle of Economy or, more precisely, Economy of Derivations, which Chomsky proposes in the Minimalist Programme, can be part of many other systems. I think he uniqueness of language rests on the fact that language performs a number of unique functions, which cannot be performed by any other cognitive systems. In orther words, if a cognitive system is able to perform the functions that a language plays or replace language, such system is or becomes a language too.

See also the entry on Fernando Pereira's paper.

Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 GMT
Updated: Tuesday, 22 March 2005 14:28 GMT
Saturday, 19 March 2005

Now Playing: REPOSTED


This is a brief note. If the readers check the literature, including the works I am reading that you see below, the term counterfactual has been used in at least two different ways to refer to different kinds of conditional constructions (in natural or artificial languages):

Firstly there are some authors who call counterfactuals conditionals of the kind if non-B then non-A when used in parallel with if A then B. In this sense, they consider conterfactual and contraposition synonyms.

However, there are other authors who use the term conterfactual in a different sense, which cannot be confused with contraposition. In this second sense, a counterfactual conditional is a conditional that is contrary to the facts in a given world. In natural languages, a sentence may be counterfactual in relation to the present or to the past, but not in relation to the future.

Such constructions have other special characteristics. One of them is that they do not allow contrapositions. E.g.:

I. Counterfactuals
(A) If the Earth was the centre of the Universe, then Galileo would not have opposed geo-centrism.

(B) If Galileo had not opposed geo-centrism, then Einstein would have opposed it.

II.Failure of Contraposition
> (A) If Galileo had opposed geo-centrism, then the Earth was not the centre of the Universe.

> (B) If Einstein had not opposed geo-centrism, Galileo would have opposed it.

There are other characteristics to be mentioned. Counterfactuals are not transitive. For instance, III below cannot be a conclusion extracted from (A) and (B) above:
III.Failure of syllogism
> If the Earth was the centre of the Universe, then Einstein would have opposed geo-centrism.

They do not admit strengthening of the antecedent either:

IV. Failure of Strengthening the Antecedent
#If Galileo had not opposed geo-centrism and there were abundant evidences that Earth was the centre of the Universe, then Einstein would have opposed such theory.

For the purposes of linguistic investigation I think it is more interesting to use the term counterfactual in this second sense. Those are constructions that really challenge Classic conceptions and the empirical related empirical data still seem to constitute an almost unchartered territory.

However, if the reader pays attention to the samples herein exposed, the issue has not been confined to the borders of Linguistic science. Rather it seems to be of great interest in several branches of human knowledge.

[*] Iatridou below discusses the morpho-syntactic details of counterfactuals. In the case of failure of contraposition the choice of tense does not seem to change the picture. E.g:

If Athens did not attack Persia, Persia would have attacked Athens.
>a. If Persia would not have attacked Athens, Athens attacked Persia.
>b. If Persia did not attack Athens, Athens would have attacked Persia.

But, of course, this is a topic whose details must be better checked.

Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 GMT
Updated: Monday, 21 March 2005 21:55 GMT
Friday, 18 March 2005


The (Non-)Transitivity of Knowledge reports

If some propositional attitudes are interpretable as negation of propositions, should veridical reports containing verbs like to know interpreted as the simple statement of the propositions? This question seems to make sense, since it has been observed that to know something entails that that thing is true. However, a claim like (1a) might mean that the propositional attitude contributes nothing to the meaning of the whole expression. Moreover, if (1a) is true, then (1b) should be the case:
(1) Hypothesis A
a. Γ (π)|=π
b. (Γ (π)|=π)&(π|=β) → Γ (π)|=β

Let us call one of the ideas that seems to underlie the intuition formalised in (1a) Hypothesis A? and re-write it as (2):
(2) Hypothesis A?
a. Γ (π)=π
b. ∴ Adding to know to a proposition σ adds nothing to its meaning.

Hypothesis A? would lead to think that the negation of Γ (π) is the negation of π itself:
(2?) ¬Γ (π)=¬π

Should (2?) hold, then statements of the type not know π and those of the type to know that π is the not case would mean the same. But the evident contrast between sentences (3a) and (b) below does not confirm such prediction:
(3) a. We know that Giselle is not a singer. ≠
b. We do not know that Giselle is a singer.

This contrast suggests that Γ (π) is not equal to π but rather that it means one epistemic agent has access to a truth π , while ¬Γ (π) does not mean that ¬π , but rather that an agent has not access to a truth π .
Still this finding only excludes hypothesis A?, while it would be possible to maintain hypothesis A. Additional evidences, on the contrary, suggest that to know is perhaps the most opaque of the attitudinal verbs, in the sense that sentences with to know somehow block transitivity. Consider this example:
(4) a. People can skate on the lake. |= Its water has frozen.
b. John knows that people can skate on the lake. |≠ Its water has frozen.

Being the entailment in (4a) valid, and if (1b) applies, then the addition of John knows? should not affect the entailment. But (4b) disconfirms such expectation: the mere fact that John knows that people can skate on the lake does not mean right at the same moment that the water of the lake is covered by a thick layer of ice.
Now consider this other hypothesis:
(5) Hypothesis B
(π |=β) → (Γ (π)|= Γ (β))

This second hypothesis is not true either, as shown by (6)
(6) a. Oedipus killed the man he met at the crossroads.
|= The oracle has been fulfilled.
b. Oedipus knows he killed the man he met at the crossroads.
|≠ Oedipus knows the oracle has been fulfilled.

So evidences point to the contrary conclusion, although an expression of the type to know π entails the truth of π , it somehow unmakes π |=β :
(7) Non-transitivity
(Γ (π)|=π)&(π |= β) → (Γ (π)|≠β)& (Γ (π) |≠ Γ (β))

The non-transitivity of veridical reports requires closer examination and more attention. For the sake of economy, such topic cannot and will not be herein investigated in more detail. Here it will suffice to say that the apparent non-transitivity of veridical reports is also an anti-trivialisation mechanism.

Posted by Tony Marmo at 12:29 GMT
Updated: Friday, 18 March 2005 12:36 GMT


Deferential Utterances

By Isidora Stojanovic, Philippe De Brabanter, Neftali Villanueva Fernandez and David Nicolas

Our aim in this paper is to clarify the distinctions and the relationships among several phenomena, each of which has certain characteristics of what is generally called "deference". We distinguish linguistic deference, which concerns the use of language and the meaning of the words we use, from epistemic deference, which concerns our reasons and evidence for making the claims we make. In our in-depth study of linguistic deference, we distinguish two subcategories: default deference (roughly, the ubiquitous fact, noted by externalists like Burge or Putnam, that the truth conditions of our utterances are determined with respect to the language parameter supplied by the context), and deliberate deference (roughly, the intentional, commu-nicative act of using a given expression the way it is used in some contextu-ally specified idiolect or dialect). We also discuss the phenomenon of im-perfect mastery, often associated with deference, and which we show to be independent both of linguistic deference and of epistemic deference. If our analysis is correct, then some recent debates on deference (e.g. between Recanati and Woodfield) can be shown to result from a failure to appreciate all the distinctions that we draw here.

Source: Jean Nicod Institute

Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 GMT
Updated: Sunday, 13 March 2005 23:58 GMT
Thursday, 17 March 2005


Semantic Minimalism and Non-Indexical Contextualism

By John MacFarlane

On this picture, the sentence Chiara is tall is not context-sensitive in the sense that it expresses different propositions at different contexts. But it is context-sensitive in the sense that the truth value of an utterance of it depends on features of the context—not just the world of the context, but the speaker’s intentions, the conversational common ground, and other such things. Accordingly, this brand of Semantic Minimalism might also be described as a Non-indexical Contextualism. This way of describing it brings out how close it is to Radical Contextualism. Too close, Cappelen and Lepore may feel! However, it is immune to their best arguments against Radical Contextualism, so if they are going to reject it, they need fresh reasons.

An advantage of the framework I have just sketched is that it offers a different (and perhaps deeper) diagnosis than Cappelen and Lepore’s of what goes wrong in Moderate Contextualists’ uses of Context Shifting Arguments. (Unlike Cappelen and Lepore’s diagnosis, this one does not require Speech Act Pluralism, though it is consistent with it.)

Posted by Tony Marmo at 13:41 GMT


Triggering from Alternative Sets and Projection of Pragmatic Presuppositions

By Dorit Abusch

This paper takes up the problem from Stalnaker (1974) of deriving the pragmatic presuppositions of verbs such as know, stop and win as conversational implicatures, without hypothesizing a semantic presupposition. I interpret data discussed by Karttunen (1969), Chierchia and McConnell-Ginet (1990), Simons (2001) and others as indicating that there is a distinct group of “soft” presupposition triggers whose pragmatic presuppositions, though systematic, are also context-dependent and easily suspendable. These are distinguished from “hard” presuppositions triggers like it-clefts and too which on the assumptions of this paper introduce semantic presuppositions. These distinctions are defended in sections 1 and 2. Sections 3 and 4 review and criticize proposals from Stalnaker (1974) and Simons (2001) for deriving the pragmatic presuppositions of soft triggers as conversational implicatures. Section 5 introduces the hypothesis that the pragmatic presuppositions of soft triggers come from alternatives to lexical meanings, such as the alternative lose to win. A pragmatic presupposition is derived as the default assumption that some alternative is true. In section 6, the default existential presupposition of intonational focus is attributed to the same process. Section 7 proposes a systematic pragmatic derivation of a conversational implicature, using a specific default axiom called G, and a general pragmatic process of enrichment reasoning. Sections 8, 9, and 10 address the projection problem for the pragmatic presuppositions of soft triggers. It is shown that projection data for these triggers is the same as what is seen for hard triggers, which would seem to favor an analysis using semantic presuppositions. The puzzle is resolved by replacing G with a default generalization L which refers to the local information states manipulated by compositional semantics in dynamic compositional theories. Section 9 also considers general issues of the interface between pragmatics and compositional semantics. Section 11 shows that the derivation using L also deals with projection data for focus.

Source: Semantics Archive

Posted by Tony Marmo at 13:31 GMT



Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 GMT
Updated: Thursday, 17 March 2005 16:19 GMT
Tuesday, 15 March 2005


Implying Existence

By Daniel Rothschild

This short paper tries to give a common explanation of two different semantic phenomena. One is the fact that certain uses of non-referring definite descriptions give an appearance of truth-value gaps while others uses do not. The other is that bare plurals in English sometimes have existential readings and sometimes have generic readings. I think the explanation involves the distinction between two kinds of predicates. One type of predicate places items within some realm of discourse (like the actual world), other predicates just attribute properties to objects that aren?t linked to any particular situation. This distinction reveals something about the relationship between predication and possible situations.

Source: Online Papers in Philosophy

Posted by Tony Marmo at 01:57 GMT
Updated: Tuesday, 15 March 2005 02:00 GMT
Saturday, 12 March 2005

Now Playing: REPOSTED

Supervaluationism and Paraconsistency

by Achille C. Varzi

Supervaluational semantics have been applied rather successfully to a variety of phenomena involving truth-value gaps, such as vagueness, lack of reference, sortal incorrectedness. On the other hand, they have not registered a comparable fortune (if any) in connection with truth-value gluts, i.e., more generally, with semantic phenomena involving overdeterminacy or inconsistency as opposed to indeterminacy and incompleteness. In this paper I review some basic routes that are available for this purpose. The outcome is a family of semantic systems in which (i) logical truths and falsehoods retain their classical status even in the presence gaps and gluts, although (ii) the general notions of satifiability and refutability are radically non-classical .

Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 GMT
Updated: Sunday, 13 March 2005 01:04 GMT


Paraconsistent logic from a modal viewpoint

By Jean-Yves Beziau

In this paper we study paraconsistent negation as a modal operator, considering the fact that the classical negation of necessity has a paraconsistent behavior. We examine this operator on the one hand in the modal logic S5 and on the other hand in some new four-valued modal logics.

Keywords: Modal logic; Paraconsistent logic; Negation; Square of opposition

Appeared at the Journal of Applied Logic.

Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 GMT
Updated: Sunday, 13 March 2005 01:05 GMT
Friday, 11 March 2005



Professor Cesar Lattes, one of the most important Physicists of the world, died on the 8th day of March this year, in the University Hospital of Campinas. He was 80 years old. His most famous contribution to Physics was his important participation in the discovery of the pi meson, in 1947.

Later he became the founder of the Department of Cosmic Rays and Chronology of the "Gleb Wataghin" Physics Institute, at the State University of Campinas, and helped to erect many laboratories throughout Brazil.

He died of a myocardial infarction, and left four daughters and nine grandchildren.

Posted by Tony Marmo at 16:43 GMT


An Axiomatic Characterization of Causal Counterfactuals

By David Galles & Judea Pearl

This paper studies the causal interpretation of counterfactual sentences using a modifiable structural equation model. It is shown that two properties of counterfactuals, namely, composition and effectiveness, are sound and complete relative to this interpretation, when recursive (i.e., feedback-less) models are considered. Composition and eectiveness also hold in Lewis's closest-world semantics, which implies that for recursive models the causal interpretation imposes no restrictions beyond those embodied in Lewis's framework. A third property, called reversibility, holds in nonrecursive causal models but not in Lewis's closest-world semantics, which implies that Lewis's axioms do not capture some properties of systems with feedback. Causal inferences based on counterfactual analysis are exemplied and compared to those based on graphical

Keywords: Causality, counterfactuals, interventions, structural equations, policy analysis, graphical models

Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 GMT
Updated: Friday, 11 March 2005 11:03 GMT

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