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LINGUISTIX&LOGIK, Tony Marmo's blog
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


Indefinites and the Operators they Depend on:
From Japanese to Salish

by Angelika Kratzer
Source: The Semantics Archive

Irene Heim (1982) and Hans Kamp (1981) took up Partee's challenge and proposed theories that simultaneously accounted for the quantificational and discourse reference properties of indefinites. They argued that the quantificational behavior of indefinites was an illusion. It derived from overt or non-overt operators present in semantic representations, or alternatively, from the mechanics of the semantic interpretation procedure itself. According to Heim and Kamp, indefinites introduced mere variables with conditions attached to them into semantic representations. Much of the discussion that followed centered around the question whether indefinites did or did not have quantificational force. The dynamic theories of Groenendijk and Stokhof (1990) and Dekker (1993) maintained that they did, but argued for an unorthodox way of extending their binding domain.
Stephen Berman (1987) observed that within a situation semantics, a standard quantificational theory of indefinites did not conflict with their discourse reference properties, since donkey pronouns could now again be analyzed as disguised definite descriptions, as Robin Cooper (1979) had originally proposed. This idea was further developed in Heim's (1990) paper on E-type pronouns and donkey anaphora. At that point, it looked like a standard quantificational analysis of indefinites was right after all.


Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:11 BST
Updated: Monday, 20 September 2004 07:23 BST
Sunday, 19 September 2004


An abstract dynamic semantics for C

Michael Norrish

This report is a presentation of a formal semantics for the C programming language.
The semantics has been defined operationally in a structured semantics style and covers the bulk of the core of the language.
The semantics has been developed in a theorem prover (HOL), where some expected consequences of the language definition have been proved.


Posted by Tony Marmo at 07:25 BST
Updated: Sunday, 19 September 2004 07:34 BST
Saturday, 18 September 2004


On `The Denial of Bivalence is Absurd'

By Francis Jeffry Pelletier & Robert J. Stainton

Timothy Williamson, in various places, has put forward an argument that is supposed to show that denying bivalence is absurd. This paper is an examination of the logical force of this argument, which is found wanting.


Posted by Tony Marmo at 04:00 BST
Updated: Saturday, 18 September 2004 04:02 BST
Friday, 17 September 2004


Friends and colleagues:
Plurality, coordination, and the structure of DP

by Caroline Heycock & Roberto Zamparelli
Source: Semantics Archive

Starting from an analysis for the diverging crosslinguistic grammaticality of DP-internal
conjunctions such as this [man and woman] are in love, the article develops a theory of
the syntax/semantics interface within the DP and a novel proposal for the interpretation of
conjunction. The main claims are that plural/mass denotations are built in stages within
the DP, by the combined effect of number features and semantic operators associated with
functional heads; that languages differ as to whether the denotation of nouns is ltered for
singular or plural number, and that the word and crosslinguistically denotes SET PRODUCT,
an operation which, in different contexts, can mimic the behavior of intersection and union.


Posted by Tony Marmo at 01:38 BST
Updated: Friday, 17 September 2004 01:45 BST
Thursday, 16 September 2004


Ambiguity and Anaphora with Plurals in Discourse

Nicholas Asher & Linton Wang

We provide examples of plurals related to ambiguity and anaphora that pose problems
or are counterexamples for current approaches to plurals. We then propose a dynamic
semantics based on an extension of dynamic predicate logic (DPL+) to handle these
examples. On our theory, different readings of sentences or discourses containing plurals
don't arise from a postulated ambiguity of plural terms or predicates applying to
plural DPs, but follow rather from different types of dynamic transitions that manipulate
inputs and outputs from formulas or discourse constituents. Many aspects of
meaning can affect the type dynamic transitions: the lexical semantics of predicates to
the left and right of a transition, and number features of DPs and discourse constraints
like parallelism.


Posted by Tony Marmo at 01:01 BST
Updated: Thursday, 16 September 2004 05:26 BST
Wednesday, 15 September 2004


Two Japanese Adverbials and Expressive Content

by Eric McCready
Source: Semantics Archive

This paper considers the semantics and pragmatics of two Japanese adverbial expressions, yoku and yokumo, instances of which are shown in (1) and (2).

The purpose of the present paper is to describe the meaning, distribution, and felicity conditions of these adverbials, and to provide a formal account of them within a version of dynamic semantics.


Posted by Tony Marmo at 01:01 BST
Updated: Wednesday, 15 September 2004 00:17 BST

Topic: Cognition & Epistemology

Existence, Quantification and Time

By Bryan Frances

My view is a novel kind of presentism generated from a new way of looking at quantification and relations, a presentism that promises to combine the best features of rival theories while avoiding their faults.
My objective here is to set out the view in such a way that its status as a new and coherent theory is established.

In the first three sections I will attempt to describe the basics of the theory and defend it from two initial objections:
that it's incoherent, and that when understood in such a way
that it is coherent then it's just eternalism in disguise.
Sections 4 and 5 defend the theory from objections having to do with truthmaking and singular propositions.
Its defense as a view superior to others is provided briefly in ?6.


Posted by Tony Marmo at 01:01 BST
Updated: Wednesday, 15 September 2004 04:02 BST
Tuesday, 14 September 2004


On The Proper Treatment of Semantic Systematicity

By Robert F. Hadley

The past decade has witnessed the emergence of a novel stance on semantic representation, and its relationship to context sensitivity.
Connectionist-minded philosophers, including Clark and van Gelder, have espoused the merits of viewing hidden-layer, context-sensitive representations as possessing semantic content, where this content is partially revealed via the representations 'position in vector space. In recent work, Bod ?n and Niklasson have incorporated a variant of this view of semantics within their conception of semantic systematicity.
Moreover, Bod ?n and Niklasson contend that they have produced experimental results which not only satisfy a kind of context-based, semantic systematicity, but which, to the degree that reality permits, effectively deals with challenges posed by Fodor and Pylyshyn (1988), and Hadley (1994a). The latter challenge involved well-defined criteria for strong semantic systematicity. This paper examines the relevant claims and experiments of Bod ?n and Niklasson. It is argued that their case fatally involves two fallacies of equivocation; one concerning `semantic content 'and the other concerning `novel test sentences '. In addition, it is argued that their ultimate construal of context sensitive semantics contains serious confusions. These confusions are also found in certain publications dealing with ?latent semantic analysis ". Thus, criticisms presented here have relevance beyond the work of Bod ?n and Niklasson.

connectionism, latent semantic analysis, semantic content, strong, systematicity


Posted by Tony Marmo at 15:11 BST
Updated: Tuesday, 14 September 2004 15:17 BST


Outline of a Theory of Strongly Semantic Information

By Luciano Floridi

This paper outlines a quantitative theory of strongly semantic information (TSSI) based on truth-values rather than probability distributions. The main hypothesis supported in the paper is that the classic quantitative theory of weakly semantic information (TWSI), based on probability distributions, assumes that truth-values supervene on factual semantic information, yet this principle is too weak and generates a well-known semantic paradox, whereas TSSI, according to which factual semantic information encapsulates truth, can avoid the paradox and is more in line with the standard conception of what generally counts as semantic information. After a brief introduction, section two outlines the semantic paradox implied by TWSI, analysing it in terms of an initial conflict between two requisites of a quantitative theory of semantic information. In section three, three criteria of semantic information equivalence are used to provide a taxonomy of quantitative approaches to semantic information and introduce TSSI. In section four, some further desiderata that should be fulfilled by a quantitative TSSI are explained. From section five to section seven, TSSI is developed on the basis of a calculus of truth-values and semantic discrepancy with respect to a given situation. In section eight, it is shown how TSSI succeeds in solving the paradox. Section nine summarises the main results of the paper and indicates some future developments.

Bar-Hillel, Carnap, decision theory, Dretske, error analysis, Grice, information theory, semantic inaccuracy, semantic information, semantic paradox, semantic vacuity, situation logic


Posted by Tony Marmo at 01:01 BST
Updated: Tuesday, 14 September 2004 14:51 BST
Sunday, 12 September 2004


Underdetermination and Meaning Indeterminacy:

What is the Difference?

by Ian McDiarmid

Source: PhilSci Archive

The first part of this paper discusses Quine's views on underdetermination of theory by evidence, and the indeterminacy of translation, or meaning, in relation to certain physical theories. The underdetermination thesis says different theories can be supported by the same evidence, and the indeterminacy thesis says the same component of a theory that is underdetermined by evidence is also meaning indeterminate. A few examples of underdetermination and meaning indeterminacy are given in the text. In the second part of the paper, Quine's scientific realism is discussed briefly, along with some of the difficulties encountered when considering the `truth' of different empirically equivalent theories. It is concluded that the difference between underdetermination and indeterminacy, while significant, is not as great as Quine claims. It just means that after we have chosen a framework theory, from a number of empirically equivalent ones, we still have further choices along two different dimensions.


Posted by Tony Marmo at 01:01 BST
Updated: Tuesday, 14 September 2004 15:14 BST

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