Click Here ">
« September 2005 »
1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30
You are not logged in. Log in
Entries by Topic
All topics  «
Cognition & Epistemology
Notes on Pirah?
Ontology&possible worlds
Syn-Sem Interface
Temporal Logic
Blog Tools
Edit your Blog
Build a Blog
RSS Feed
View Profile
Translate this
LINGUISTIX&LOGIK, Tony Marmo's blog
Sunday, 4 September 2005

Topic: Polemics

Adaptationism for Human Cognition: Strong, Spurious or Weak?

By Scott Atran

Strong adaptationists explore complex organic design as task-specific adaptations to ancestral environments. This strategy seems best when there is evidence of homology. Weak adaptationists don’t assume that complex organic (including cognitive and linguistic) functioning necessarily or primarily represents task-specific adaptation. This approach to cognition resembles physicists’ attempts to deductively explain the most facts with fewest hypotheses. For certain domain-specific competencies (folkbiology) strong adaptationism is useful but not necessary to research. With group-level belief systems (religion) strong adaptationism degenerates into spurious notions of social function and cultural selection. In other cases (language, especially universal grammar) weak adaptationism’s ‘minimalist’ approach seems productive.

Appeared in Mind and Language, February 2005 - Vol. 20 Issue 1 Page 1-139

Related to the Fitch, Hauser and Chomsky versus Jackendoff and Pinker Polemic

Posted by Tony Marmo at 07:45 BST
Updated: Sunday, 4 September 2005 07:47 BST

Topic: Polemics

The Fitch, Hauser and Chomsky versus Jackendoff and Pinker Polemic

The Faculty of Language: What's Special about it?

By Steven Pinker and Ray Jackendoff

We examine the question of which aspects of language are uniquely human and uniquely linguistic in light of recent suggestions by Hauser, Chomsky, and Fitch that the only such aspect is syntactic recursion, the rest of language being either specific to humans but not to language (e.g. words and concepts) or not specific to humans (e.g. speech perception). We find the hypothesis problematic. It ignores the many aspects of grammar that are not recursive, such as phonology, morphology, case, agreement, and many properties of words. It is inconsistent with the anatomy and neural control of the human vocal tract. And it is weakened by experiments suggesting that speech perception cannot be reduced to primate audition, that word learning cannot be reduced to fact learning, and that at least one gene involved in speech and language was evolutionarily selected in the human lineage but is not specific to recursion. The recursion-only claim, we suggest, is motivated by Chomsky's recent approach to syntax, the Minimalist Program, which de-emphasizes the same aspects of language. The approach, however, is sufficiently problematic that it cannot be used to support claims about evolution. We contest related arguments that language is not an adaptation, namely that it is "perfect," non-redundant, unusable in any partial form, and badly designed for communication. The hypothesis that language is a complex adaptation for communication which evolved piecemeal avoids all these problems.

Appeared in Cognition Volume 95, Issue 2 , March 2005

See also

Formal grammar and information theory: together again?
The Nature of the Language Faculty and its Implications for Evolution of Language
The Fodor-Pinker Debate
Non-genomic nativism

Posted by Tony Marmo at 02:02 BST
Updated: Sunday, 4 September 2005 02:33 BST

Now Playing: REPOSTED
Topic: Interconnections

Formal grammar and information theory: together again?

By Fernando Pereira

In the last forty years, research on models of spoken and written language has been split between two seemingly irreconcilable traditions: formal linguistics in the Chomsky tradition, and information theory in the Shannon tradition. Zellig Harris had advocated a close alliance between grammatical and information-theoretic principles in the analysis of natural language, and early formal-language theory provided another strong link between information theory and linguistics. Nevertheless, in most research on language and computation, grammatical and information theoretic approaches had moved far apart.
Today, after many years in the defensive, the information-theoretic approach has gained new strength and achieved practical successes in speech recognition, information retrieval, and, increasingly, in language analysis and machine translation. The exponential increase in the speed and storage capacity of computers is the proximate cause of these engineering successes, allowing the automatic estimation of the parameters of probabilistic models of language by counting occurrences of linguistic events in very large bodies of text and speech. However, I will also argue that information-theoretic and computational ideas are playing an increasing role in the scienti c understanding of language, and will help bring together formal-linguistic and information-theoretic perspectives.

Keywords: Formal linguistics; information theory; machine learning

See also the Baldwin Effect.
The Nature of the Language Faculty and its Implications for Evolution of Language
The Fodor-Pinker Debate
Non-genomic nativism

Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 BST
Updated: Sunday, 4 September 2005 01:47 BST

Topic: Polemics

The Fitch, Hauser and Chomsky versus Jackendoff and Pinker Polemic


By W. Tecumseh Fitch, Marc D. Hauser & Noam Chomsky

In this response to Pinker and Jackendoff's critique, we extend our previous framework for discussion of language evolution, clarifying certain distinctions and elaborating on a number of points. In the first half of the paper, we reiterate that profitable research into the biology and evolution of language requires fractionation of "language" into component mechanisms and interfaces, a non-trivial endeavor whose results are unlikely to map onto traditional disciplinary boundaries. Our terminological distinction between FLN and FLB is intended to help clarify misunderstandings and aid interdisciplinary rapprochement. By blurring this distinction, Pinker and Jackendoff mischaracterize our hypothesis, which concerns only FLN, not "language" as a whole. Many of their arguments and examples are thus irrelevant to this hypothesis. Their critique of the minimalist program is for the most part equally irrelevant, because very few of the arguments in our original paper were tied to this program; in an online appendix we detail the deep inaccuracies in their characterization of this program.
Concerning evolution, we believe that Pinker and Jackendoff's emphasis on the past adaptive history of the language faculty is misplaced. Such questions are unlikely to be resolved empirically due to a lack of relevant data, and invite speculation rather than research. Preoccupation with the issue has retarded progress in the field by diverting research away from empirical questions, many of which can be addressed with comparative data. Moreover, offering an adaptive hypothesis as an alternative to our hypothesis concerning mechanisms is a logical error, as questions of function are independent of those concerning mechanism. The second half of our paper consists of a detailed response to the specific data discussed by Pinker and Jackendoff. Although many of their examples are irrelevant to our original paper and arguments, we find several areas of substantive disagreement that could be resolved by future empirical research. We conclude that progress in understanding the evolution of language will require much more empirical research, grounded in modern comparative biology, more interdisciplinary collaboration, and much less of the adaptive storytelling and phylogenetic speculation that has traditionally characterized the field.

See also the Baldwin Effect.
Formal grammar and information theory: together again?
The Nature of the Language Faculty and its Implications for Evolution of Language
The Fodor-Pinker Debate
Non-genomic nativism

Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 BST
Updated: Sunday, 4 September 2005 02:17 BST
Saturday, 3 September 2005

Topic: Cognition & Epistemology

Inateness and Brain-Wring Optimization:

Non-genomic nativism

by Chistopher Cherniak

The study of minimization of neural connections reveals interrelations between the Innateness Hypothesis and theses associated with the Central Dogma of genetics. The discussion of innateness here shifts from the usual focus upon abstract cognitive structure instead to underlying brain hardware structure, to hardwired neuroanatomy.

Experimental work in computational neuroanatomy has uncovered distinctively efficient layout of wiring in nervous systems. When mechanisms are investigated by which such "best of all possible brains" design is attained, significant instances turn out to emerge "for free, directly from physics": Such generation of optimal brain structure appears to arise simply by exploiting basic physical processes, without need for intervention of genes. An idea that physics suffices here--of complex biological structure as self-organizing, generated without genomic activity--turns attention to the role of the genome in morphogenesis. The familiar "nature / nurture" alternatives for origins of basic internal mental structure are that it arises either from the genome or from invariants of the external environment. A third alternative is explored for the cases here, a non-genomic nativism.


See also the Baldwin Effect.
The Nature of the Language Faculty and its Implications for Evolution of Language
The Fodor-Pinker Debate
Formal grammar and information theory: together again?

Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 BST
Updated: Saturday, 3 September 2005 23:07 BST

Topic: Polemics

The Nature of the Language Faculty and its Implications for Evolution of Language

[Reply to Fitch, Hauser & Chomsky]
By Ray Jackendoff & Steven Pinker

In a continuation of the conversation with Fitch, Chomsky, and Hauser on the evolution of language, we examine their defense of the claim that the uniquely human, language-specific part of the language faculty (the "narrow language faculty") consists only of recursion, and that this part cannot be considered an adaptation to communication. We argue that their characterization of the narrow language faculty is problematic for many reasons, including its dichotomization of cognitive capacities into those that are utterly unique and those that are identical to nonlinguistic or nonhuman capacities, omitting capacities that may have been substantially modified during human evolution. We also question their dichotomy of the current utility versus original function of a trait, which omits traits that are adaptations for current use, and their dichotomy of humans and animals, which conflates similarity due to common function and similarity due to inheritance from a recent common ancestor.
We show that recursion, though absent from other animals' communications systems, is found in visual cognition, hence cannot be the sole evolutionary development that granted language to humans. Finally, we note that despite Fitch et al.'s denial, their view of language evolution is tied to Chomsky's conception of language itself, which identifies combinatorial productivity with a core of "narrow syntax." An alternative conception, in which combinatoriality is spread across words and constructions, has both empirical advantages and greater evolutionary plausibility.

To appear in Cognition

See also
Non-genomic nativism
The Fodor-Pinker Debate
Formal grammar and information theory: together again?

Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 BST
Updated: Saturday, 3 September 2005 23:00 BST
Wednesday, 31 August 2005

Topic: Interconnections


By Mihailo Antovic´

This paper provides an analysis of the importance of some present-day semantic theories for contemporary cognitive science. The question of the scope of cognitive science(s) is discussed, followed by a short overview of the study of linguistics in this multidisciplinary enterprise. Finally, three modern approaches to semantics within this framework are discussed (cognitive, truth-conditional and conceptual) and their advantages and disadvantages are briefly summarized. Conceptual semantics is singled out as a rather plausible approach to the study of meaning, even though it is often deemed of lesser importance by authoritative scholars. Some speculations as to the further development of semantics are hypothesized.

Key words: cognition, cognitive science, cognitive semantics, truth-conditional semantics, conceptual semantics

Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 BST
Updated: Wednesday, 31 August 2005 06:20 BST
Friday, 26 August 2005

Topic: Ontology&possible worlds
The paper below is interesting though, it has no abstract (that I could find) and was not signed by anyone. I presumed that the owner of the site is the one who wrote it, hence put his name on it. Please, correct me if my guess was wrong.


By B. Sidney Smith

Once intuitions are acknowledged as having evidential weight, there is hope of showing that universals exist and settling their modal status. Some philosophers take a direct approach. For example, from the intuition that humility is a virtue (Armstrong 1978), or the intuition that some things have a property in common (Lewis 1983), these philosophers infer directly that universals exist. But sophisticated nominalists are unimpressed, for this direct approach disregards coherent nonrealist interpretations of the language used to report these intuitions. For example, mathematical sentences with apparent commitment to abstract entities have been interpreted as disguised intensional-operator or adverbial sentences having no such commitment. So-called modal interpretations of mathematics fall into this family. Fictionalism inspires another kind of nonrealist approach. On this approach, an atomic sentence (e.g., ‘Apollo is a Greek god’) can be taken as true even though a singular term occurring within it is genuinely vacuous and has no ontological commitment. What makes the sentence true is that it is suitably “backed by” the beliefs and/or discourse of the speakers. Then, of course, there are non-objectual treatments of quantifiers, notably, various substitutional treatments (pronominal, proverbal, prosentential). If any such variety of nonrealist interpretation is acceptable, then intuitions reported within the associated idioms would lose their apparent ontological commitment to universals.
The prospect of such nonrealist interpretations have rendered the direct intuitive arguments for mathematical objects unpersuasive. If this is so in philosophy of mathematics, surely analogous non-realist moves could be made in metaphysics against universals. In view of this, I believe that the most promising way to establish the existence and modal status of universals is by means of a modal argument which focuses on the behavior of intensional abstracts—’that’-clauses and gerunds—in modal contexts. (For now I will assume that Meinongianism is mistaken; I will return to that topic in the final section.)

Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 BST
Updated: Friday, 26 August 2005 02:13 BST
Monday, 22 August 2005

Topic: Polemics

On Horwich' Way out

By Panu Raatikainen

Horwhich proposes that all there really is to truth follows from the equivalence schema:
The proposition that p is true iff p,

or using Horwich' notation‹p› is true ↔ p.
Horwich claims that all facts involving truth can be explained on the basis of the minimal theory.
However, it has been pointed out, e.g. by Gupta (1993), that the minimal theory is too weak to entail any general fact about truth, e.g. the fact that
Every proposition of the form 'p → p' is true[...]

Appeared in Analysis, July 2005 Vol. 65 No. 3

Posted by Tony Marmo at 18:28 BST
Updated: Monday, 22 August 2005 18:32 BST
Sunday, 21 August 2005

Topic: Interconnections


By Gillian Ramchand

The pioneering work of Davidson (1967) gave rise to a productive and exciting tradition within formal semantics and especially at the interface between syntax and semantics, whereby event variables were exploited as elements of the referential ontology in the expression of the semantics of natural language. The existence of such logical elements (events, or eventuality variables) cannot seriously now be doubted, in my opinion, although many aspects of the formal theory of syntax and semantics have changed in the nearly forty years since Davidson’s seminal article. The time has definitely come for a more critical and nuanced understanding of the use of eventuality variables, in the light of recent research in the field. Maienborn (this volume) is an important example of this kind of work. She takes a new look at the idea of eventuality variables and argues that the case has been overstated, that there are both empirical and conceptual reasons for denying the existence of events in the Davidsonian sense for a certain class of statives and copular predications. I wish to show in this article that Maienborn both goes too far and not far enough in deconstructing the traditional Davidsonian assumptions. Instead, I propose a davidson inspired method of representation which fits better with current syntactic understanding, but which is liberated from some of the assumptions and methodologies of earlier work – I call this ‘Post-Davidsonianism’. I will argue that once one makes the adjustments in the Davidsonian tradition to make the idea coherent, Maienborn’s arguments for introducing a new ontological type (‘Kimian states’) into the system disappear.

Source: LingBuzz

Appeared in Theoretical Linguistics 31 (2005), 359–373

Posted by Tony Marmo at 01:35 BST
Updated: Sunday, 21 August 2005 01:57 BST


Analysis has moved

Those must be old news, but any, here it goes:
The Journal Analysis can no longer be accessed via ingenta, as it used to. Now, you can go directly to its site, or browse it via Blackwell.

Posted by Tony Marmo at 01:10 BST
Friday, 19 August 2005

For an interesting discussion on a particular kind of modal logic, see:

A note on Kit Fine's Rigidity Axiom

Posted by Tony Marmo at 07:27 BST
Thursday, 18 August 2005

Topic: Polemics

The Excluded Middle:
Semantic Minimalism without Minimal Propositions

PPR commentary on Cappelen and Lepore, Insensitive Semantics

By Kent Bach

Insensitive Semantics is mainly a protracted assault on semantic Contextualism, both moderate and radical. Cappelen and Lepore argue that Moderate Contextualism leads inevitably to Radical Contextualism and in turn that Radical Contextualism is misguided. Assuming that the only alternative to Contextualism is their Semantic Minimalism, they think they’ve given an indirect argument for it. But they overlook a third view, one that splits the difference between the other two. Like Contextualism it rejects Propositionalism, the conservative dogma that every indexical-free declarative sentence expresses a proposition. Unlike Contextualism, it does not invoke context to fill semantic gaps and, indeed, denies that filling those gaps is a semantic matter. In rejecting Propositionalism, it is more radical, indeed, more minimalist than Cappelen and Lepore’s brand of Semantic Minimalism. It does not imagine that sentences that intuitively seem not to express propositions at least express “minimal propositions.” Radical Semantic Minimalism, or simply Radicalism, says that the sentences in question are semantically incomplete – their semantic contents are not propositions but merely “propositional radicals.”

Source: Online Papers in Philosophy

Posted by Tony Marmo at 16:48 BST
Updated: Thursday, 18 August 2005 16:51 BST
Monday, 15 August 2005

Topic: Interconnections

Typical Ambiguity: Trying to Have Your Cake and Eat it too.

By Solomon Feferman

Ambiguity is a property of syntactic expressions which is ubiquitous in all informal languages–natural, scientific and mathematical; the efficient use of language depends to an exceptional extent on this feature. Disambiguation is the process of separating out the possible meanings of ambiguous expressions. Ambiguity is typical if the process of disambiguation can be carried out in some systematic way. Russell made use of typical ambiguity in the theory of types in order to combine the assurance of its (apparent) consistency (“having the cake”) with the freedom of the informal untyped theory of classes and relations (“eating it too”). The paper begins with a brief tour of Russell’s uses of typical ambiguity, including his treatment of the statement Cls 2 Cls. This is generalized to a treatment in simple type theory of statements of the form A 2 B where A and B are class expressions for which A is prima facie of the same or higher type than B. In order to treat mathematically more interesting statements of self membership we then formulate a version of typical ambiguity for such statements in an extension of Zermelo-Fraenkel set theory. Specific attention is given to how the“naive” theory of categories can thereby be accounted for.

Appeared in the book One Hundred Years of Russell's Paradox (G. Link, ed.), Walter de Gruyter, Berlin (2004) 135-151

Posted by Tony Marmo at 07:01 BST
Updated: Monday, 15 August 2005 07:04 BST
Sunday, 14 August 2005

I have placed this paper online in a very raw version, because I really want any help anyone wants to offer me. Thanks.

Opacity and Paradoxes

The Paraconsistent Semantics of Natural Languages

By Tony Marmo

(Draft Version 06-alpha.2. Please, comments, suggestions and corrections are welcome)

The purpose of this work is to revisit opaque contexts from the perspective of natural languages. Opacity has been understood firstly as failure of the application of Leibniz’ substitution of identicals principle and later as accessibility relations holding between possible worlds. However, opacity in the semantics of natural languages ought to be simply characterised truth-functionally, in which case it results from devices that both avoid paradoxical interpretation of sentences and circumvent the principle of Pseudo-Scotus. Accordingly, what is herein proposed is a solution based on a kind of Paraconsistent Semantics for natural languages.

Keywords: Propositional Attitudes, Semantics, Philosophy of Language, Linguistics, Logic, Accessibility Relations, Belief Reports, Consistency, Human Languages Semantics, Intensional Liar, Leibniz’ Law, Moore’s Paradox, Opacity, Paraconsistency.
Update (Of related Interest): [1]; [2]

Source: LingBuzz, Semantics Archive, Online Papers in Philosophy

Posted by Tony Marmo at 02:41 BST

Newer | Latest | Older