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LINGUISTIX&LOGIK, Tony Marmo's blog
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
Tuesday, 26 October 2004


Some more curious inferences

By Jeffrey Ketland

Nominalism denies the existence of numbers, sets and functions. But a widely discussed problem concerns whether nominalism can account for the applicability of mathematics. This is the indispensability argument against nominalism, associated with Godel, Quine and Putnam. Above we examined examples of the application of mathematics to relationships of logical consequence. It seems to me that the `speed-up' phenomenon under discussion suggests a modified version of the indispensability argument, based now on unfeasibility considerations. Presumably the nominalist does not wish to deny the validity of the inferences I, I{2}, and I{3} under consideration. But there is no feasible direct verification for the above inferences, and the short mathematical derivations involve practically indispensable assumptions about numbers, sets and functions. So, how might a nominalist account for our knowledge that such inferences are valid? After all, the anecdotal evidence is that even nonmathematicians find I{2} and I{3} `obvious'.

Source: Analysis Preprints

See more

Setting aside the problems Ketland mentions above, Everett could try to write a Nominalist Semantics for Pirah?, for that would be consistent with Everett's recent works. Nevertheless, in such case any claim Everett made in the case of Pirah? would have to be valid for other natural languages, and, of course, his views would not easily convince those who do not accept nominalism.

Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 BST
Updated: Wednesday, 27 October 2004 00:00 BST
Monday, 25 October 2004


Vagueness and Blurry Sets

By Nicholas J. J. Smith

This paper presents a new theory of vagueness, which is designed to retain the virtues of the fuzzy theory, while avoiding the problem of higher-order vagueness. The theory presented here accommodates the idea that for any statement S1 to the effect that `Bob is bald 'is xtrue, for xin [0,1], there should be a further statement S2which tells us how true S1 is, and so on -that is, it accommodates higher-order vagueness -without resorting to the claim that the metalanguage in which the semantics of vagueness is presented is itself vague, and without requiring us to abandon the idea that the logic -as opposed to the semantics -of vague discourse is classical. I model the extension of a vague predicate Pas a blurry set, this being a function which assigns a degree of membership or degree function to each object o, where a degree function in turn assigns an element of [0,1] to each finite sequence of elements of [0,1]. The idea is that the assignment to the sequence [lang] 0.3,0.2 [rang] , for example, represents the degree to which it is true to say that it is 0.2 true that ois Pto degree 0.3. The philosophical merits of my theory are discussed in detail, and the theory is compared with other extensions and generalisations of fuzzy logic in the literature.

blurry sets, degree functions, degrees of truth, fuzzy logic, fuzzy sets, higher-order vagueness, logic, sorites paradox, truth, type nfuzzy logic, vagueness

Source: Journal of Philosophical Logic

Read it

Posted by Tony Marmo at 06:12 BST
Sunday, 24 October 2004


Formal semantics and intentional states

By Emma Borg

My aim in this note is to address the question of how a context of utterance can figure within a formal, specifically truth-conditional, semantic theory. In particular, I want to explore whether a formal semantic theory could, or should, take the intentional states of a speaker to be relevant in determining the literal meaning of an uttered sentence. The answer I'm going to suggest, contrary to the position of many contemporary formal theorists, is negative. The structure of this note is then as follows: first, I'll very briefly sketch three distinct forms of semantic theory. One, `strong formal semantics', will be seen to be immediately problematic, leaving us with two other options: use-based theories and what I'll term `moderate formal semantics'. If we opt for the latter position, the question arises of what kinds of appeals to a context of utterance are legitimate given a formal outlook. I'll suggest that this question arises in two distinct ways and explore the moderate formal semanticist's position in regard to both. However, the conclusion I will reach is that what is characteristic of formal semantics is that it makes only the most minimal semantic concessions to context.


Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 BST
Updated: Sunday, 24 October 2004 12:16 BST


Chunk and Permeate, a Paraconsistent Inference Strategy.
Part I: The Infinitesimal Calculus

By Bryson Brown & Graham Priest

In this paper we introduce a paraconsistent reasoning strategy, Chunk and Permeate. In this, information is broken up into chunks, and a limited amount of information is allowed to flow between chunks. We start by giving an abstract characterisation of the strategy. It is then applied to model the reasoning employed in the original infinitesimal calculus. The paper next establishes some results concerning the legitimacy of reasoning of this kind -specifically concerning the preservation of the consistency of each chunk -and concludes with some other possible applications and technical questions.

chunking, infinitesimal calculus, paraconsistent logic

Published version (For Subscribers of the Journal of Philosophical Logic)

Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 BST
Updated: Sunday, 24 October 2004 12:14 BST
Saturday, 23 October 2004

Topic: Cognition & Epistemology

Could a machine have a mind?

By Tennessee Leeuwenburg

Attempting to answer poses a frankly massive ontological problem - so great that I believe that could one solve the ontological issues, the answer to the question would be apparent. There is a definite history to understanding the philosophy of the mind, and many of the attempts to describe the mind will be outlined in this essay. However, there is only one logical launching point - the simple fact that humans have minds. It will be my eventualy position that a machine can indeed have a mind, but before this can be argued for, let alone established, the problem must first be understood.


Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 BST
Updated: Friday, 22 October 2004 18:30 BST
Friday, 22 October 2004

Coulda,Woulda, Shoulda

By Stephen Yablo

An enormous amount has been done with the metaphysical/conceptual distinction. Yet, and I think this is agreed by everyone, the distinction remains not terribly well understood. One reason it is not well understood is that the conceptual side of the distinction didn't receive at Kripke's hands the same sort of development as the metaphysical side.

This might have been intentional on Kripke's part. He might have thought the conceptual notion to be irremediably obscure, but important to mention lest it obscure our view of metaphysical necessity. Certainly this is the attitude that many take about the conceptual notion today. It could be argued that much of the contemporary skepticism about narrow content is at the same time skepticism about conceptual possibility. Narrow content, if it existed, would give sense to conceptual possibility: holding its narrow content fixed, S could have expressed a truth. If one rejects narrow content, one needs a different explanation, and none comes to mind. Going in the other direction, one might try to define S's narrow content as the set of worlds w whose obtaining conceptually necessitates that S. Lewis remarks somewhere that whoever claims not to understand something will take care not to understand anything else whereby it might be explained. If you don't understand narrow content, you will take care not to understand conceptual possibility either.

But,although many people have doubts about conceptual possibility,a number of other people are entirely gung ho about it. Some even treat it (and narrow content) as more, or anyway no less, fundamental than metaphysical possibility (and broad content).

Read more

Posted by Tony Marmo at 04:06 BST
Updated: Friday, 22 October 2004 04:08 BST

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