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LINGUISTIX&LOGIK, Tony Marmo's blog
Sunday, 14 November 2004


Compositionality Inductively, Co-inductively and Contextually

By Tim Fernando

To say that the meaning [[a]] of a term a is given by the meanings of a's parts and how these parts are combined is to state an equality
[[a]] = : : : [[b]] : : : for b a part of a (1)

with meaning [[.]] appearing on both sides. (1) is commonly construed as a prescription for computing the meaning of a based on the parts of a and their mode of combination. As equality is symmetric, however, we can also read (1) from right to left, as a constraint on the meaning [[b]] of a term b that brings in the wider context where b may occur, in accordance with what Dag Westerstahl has recently described as "one version of Frege's famous Context Principle"
the meaning of a term is the contribution it makes to the meanings of complex terms of which it is a constituent. (Westerst ahl, 2004, p.3)

That is, if reading (1) left-to-right suggests breaking a term apart (and delving inside it), then reading (1) right-to-left suggests merging it with other terms (and exploring its surroundings). These complementary perspectives on (1) underly inductive and co-inductive aspects of compositionality (respectively), contrasted below by
(i) reviewing the co-inductive approach to the Fregean covers of Hodges (2001) anticipated in Fernando (1997)

and by
(ii) inductively deriving a more recent theorem of (Westerst ahl, 2004) on the extensibility of compositional semantics closed under subterms.

Choosing between inductive and co-inductive approaches to (1) does not, by itself, determine the meaning function [[.]]. The ellipsis in (1) points to a broader notion of context capturing background assumptions that shape [[.]]. To square (1) with "dynamic" conceptions of meaning as context change (e.g. Heim,1983), we shall inject a certain notion of context c inside meanings, and not simply hang them outside [[.]] as subscripts, [[.]] = [[.]]c.


Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 GMT
Updated: Monday, 15 November 2004 21:37 GMT
Friday, 12 November 2004


Tarski's Conception of Logic

By Solomon Feferman

In its widest scope, Tarski thought the aims of logic should be the creation of a unified conceptual apparatus which would supply a common basis for the whole of human knowledge. Those were his very words in the Preface to the first English edition of the Introduction to Logic (1940). Toward that grand end, in the post-war years when the institutional and financial resources became available, with extraordinary persistence and determination Tarski campaigned vigorously on behalf of logic on several fronts from his increasingly powerful base at the University of California in Berkeley.(...)


Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 GMT
Updated: Thursday, 28 October 2004 18:52 BST


Adjectival Relatives

By Toshiyuki Ogihara

This article discusses what may be referred to as adjectival relatives in Japanese and related constructions in other languages (such as adjectival passives in English). The most intriguing characteristic of this construction is that the verb contained in it occurs in the past tense form, but its primary role is to describe a state that obtains at the local evaluation time, rather than the past event that produced this state. In fact, in some cases, the putative event that presumably produced the target state is non-existent, and the entire construction receives a purely stative interpretation. In other words, it is possible for an adjectival relative to describe a target state without having its triggering event. The proposal I put forth in the article states that what I refer to as an adjectival relative does not have a clausal structure. It rather has a verbal projection (technically a Tense Phrase, or TP). Mod (the modifier head) then combined with TP to yield a MP (modifier phrase), which denotes a property of states that appear to have resulted from an event the verb describes. In order to reach this conclusion, I adopt two additional ideas:
(i) Kratzer's (1996) idea that the so-called external argument of a verb is not really its argument at all;
(ii) direct causation does not have to be overtly represented in natural language syntax (Bittner 1999).

Having incorporated these two ideas, the proposal explains the relation between the state that the adjectival relative describes and the putative event as a modal one, thereby accounting for the non-existence of putative past events in some examples.

Read it

Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 GMT
Updated: Friday, 12 November 2004 00:15 GMT
Thursday, 11 November 2004

Topic: Syn-Sem Interface


Inspired by Kent Bach's The Top 10 Misconceptions about Implicature, I shall try to write a little bit about misconceptions in Syntax and, inasmuch as possible, semantics.

One common misconception is
One can determine to which category one lexical item belongs and which kind of structural configuration is obtained by meaning constraints.

Although meaning differences count in tests, this is not a sure path to detect structure or classify items.

First of all, there is one empirical problem that meaning does not determine structure. In making a compositional analysis, one has to assume a function relating structure and meaning. A function, not a bi-function. Accordingly, one maps structure onto meaning and not the other way round. This is due to the well known fact that the relation between structure and meaning is something of more than one to one.

Now examine the sentences below:
(1) a. Joe intentionally killed Bill.
b. Joe killed Bill with intention.
(2) Joe intended to kill Bill.

Although the three seem to be equivalent, there are important structural and semantic differences. (1a) and (b) are true iff Bill is really dead, while (2) may be true regardless of whether Bill really died. (It is possible to claim (2) in a larger sentential context like Joe intended to kill Bill, but failed or Joe intended to kill Bill, that is why Bill died). This difference is an evidence of the contribution made by the different categories involved. In (1a) intentionally is an adverb, while intended is a verb in (2).

On the other hand, the PP with intention is not an adverb, even if there is no meaning difference between (a) and (b). (to be continued...)

Posted by Tony Marmo at 20:49 GMT
Updated: Thursday, 11 November 2004 20:53 GMT


Axiomatizing Modal Theories of Subset Spaces
(An Example of the Power of Hybrid Logic)

By Bernhard Heinemann

This paper is about a synthesis of two quite different modal reasoning formalisms: the logic of subset spaces, and hybrid logic. Going beyond commonly considered languages we introduce names of objects involving sets and corresponding satisfaction operators. In this way we are able to completely axiomatize the theory of certain classes of subset spaces which are difficult to deal with purely modally. We also study effectivity properties of the resulting logical systems.

Get it

Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 GMT
Updated: Thursday, 11 November 2004 10:06 GMT
Wednesday, 10 November 2004


The Nature of Semantics: On Jackendoff's Arguments

By Steven Gross

Jackendoff defends a mentalist approach to semantics that investigates conceptual structures in the mind/brain and their interfaces with other structures, including specifically linguistic structures responsible for syntactic and phonological competence. He contrasts this approach with one that seeks to characterize the intentional relations between expressions and objects in the world. The latter, he argues, cannot be reconciled with mentalism. He objects in particular that intentionality cannot be naturalized and that the relevant notion of object is suspect. I critically discuss these objections, arguing in part that Jackendoff's position rests on questionable philosophical assumptions.

Go on

Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 GMT
Updated: Tuesday, 9 November 2004 21:02 GMT
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

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