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LINGUISTIX&LOGIK, Tony Marmo's blog
Monday, 18 April 2005

Topic: Cognition & Epistemology

Probability, Modality and Triviality

By Antony Eagle

Many philosophers accept the following three theses:
(1) that probability is a modal concept;
(2) that, if determinism is true, therewould still be objective modal facts; and
(3) that if determinism is true, there are no genuine objective probabilities (chances).

I argue that these 3 claims are inconsistent, and that their widespread acceptance is thus quite troubling. I suggest, as others have, that we should reject the last thesis: objective probability is perfectly compatible with determinism. Nevertheless we must still explain why this thesis seems attractive; I suggest that a subtle equivocation is to blame.

Source: Online Papers in Philosophy

Posted by Tony Marmo at 14:01 BST
Updated: Monday, 18 April 2005 14:03 BST


The Telicity Parameter Revisited

By Hana Filip

The goals of this paper are threefold:
First, to review some recent syntactic accounts of cross-linguistic differences in the expression of telicity in Slavic vs. Germanic languages.
Second, I will argue that the parametric variation in the encoding of telicity cannot be based on a unidirectional specifier head agreement between the verbal functional head linked to the telicity of the VP and the DO-DP in its specifier position, with languages exhibiting two clearly distinct modes of assigning telicity to the functional head. In the simplest terms, in Germanic languages, it is assigned by the DO-DP and in Slavic by the perfective/imperfective aspect of the lexical VP head. Rather, in a given telicity structure in both Slavic and Germanic languages, we actually observe mutual constraints and interactions between the head verb and one of its semantic arguments, namely, the incremental argument.
Third, the variation in the encoding of telicity cannot be limited just to syntactic
factors. Instead, it is semantic (and also pragmatic) factors that ultimately motivate

(i) the phenomena that the syntactic parametric approach tries to capture, and also
(ii) telicity phenomena that are a priori recluded by it, left out or unnoticed. In this connection, I will defend the familiar (though often orgotten) insights of Krifka's (1986 and elsewhere) and Dowty's (1991) mereological theory of telicity.

Source: Semantics Archive

Posted by Tony Marmo at 13:30 BST

Topic: Interconnections


What are we supposed to say when the answer to a question is the question itself? This seems to have been the very puzzle of the studies on human behaviour and nature.

Posted by Tony Marmo at 02:49 BST
Updated: Monday, 18 April 2005 13:21 BST
Friday, 15 April 2005

Topic: Cognition & Epistemology

What justifies that?

By Patrick Hawley

I clarify and defuse an argument for skepticism about justification with the aid of some results from recent linguistic theory. These considerations shed light on discussion about the structure of justification.

Take a look

Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 BST
Updated: Sunday, 13 March 2005 23:55 GMT
Wednesday, 13 April 2005


Minimalists about Truth can (and should) be Epistemicists, and it helps if they are revision theorists too

By Greg Restall

Minimalists about truth say that the important properties of the truth predicate are revealed in the class of T-biconditionals. Most minimalists demur from taking all of the T-biconditionals of the form 'p' is true if and only if p, to be true, because to do so leads to paradox. But exactly which biconditionals turn out to be true? I take a leaf out of the epistemic account of vagueness to show how the minimalist can avoid giving a comprehensive answer to that question. I also show that this response is entailed by taking minimalism seriously, and that objections to this position may be usefully aided and abetted by Gupta and Belnap’s revision theory of truth.

Posted by Tony Marmo at 15:45 BST


Unexpected Substitutions

Context: The facts below (seem to) show that if (OP1) and (OP2) hold, they do not suffice, for they can only to account for the cases of unsuccessful substitutions, and the successful cases remain unexplained:

(OP1)Opaque context (classic version)
A sentential context φ containing an occurrence of a term t is opaque, if the substitution of co-referential terms is an invalid mode of inference with respect to this occurrence. (See Mckinsey 1998, Quine 1956)

(OP2)Church’ Substitutability of Identicals
Things are identical if the name of one can be substituted for that of the other without loss of truth.

Failure in Transparent Contexts

The first argument against the strict association between substitutability and opacity is that even in certain transparent contexts, i.e., where no propositional attitude is reported, the application of the substitutability principle does yield odd results. This evidences that one thing is independent from the other.
Consider the famous Fregean examples: since Venus has is styled Venus, morning star and evening star, the three expressions should be perfectly inter-exchangeable in a transparent context. But, if one takes the sentence (1a) and substitutes the evening star for Venus, the result (2b) is odd:
(1)a. Venus appears in the morning.==>
b. #The evening star appears in the morning.

An interpretation of Frege’s work traditionally attributes the oddity of (1b) to the sense versus referent distinction. Regardless of how to characterise it in theoretic terms of a semantic framework, it is clear that what is in question is not whether (1b) can be inserted into a believe clause, but the very presence of the adjective evening that modifies star in contradiction to the predicate appears in the morning.
Indeed there are numerous analogous examples that show called impossible syllogisms in transparent contexts, involving what is herein:
(2)a. Lepidopterans (can) fly.
b. Caterpillars are Lepidopterans. ==>
c. ƒ Caterpillars (can) fly.

In (2) there is no obvious evidence of a (hidden) propositional operator. Rather, what happens to (2) reflects revision of information and the defeasibility property of natural languages. Accordingly (2) states a default rule for the class of Lepidopterans, the exception being the stage of their lives when they are caterpillars. In other words, (2) is susceptible of reviewing, as most statements in natural languages. This same reasoning can be applied to sentences containing proper nouns, like (3):
(3) a. Captain Marvel looses his super-strength and his capacity to fly when he says the magic word.
b. Billy Batson is Captain Marvel. ==>
c. ƒ Billy Batson looses his super-strength and his capacity to fly when he says the magic word.

Sentence (3c) is the wrong depiction of the Comics book mentioned, since Billy Batson actually gains super-strength and the capacity to fly when he says the magic word (and consequently transforms into Captain Marvel).
Of course, in comparison, (6) cannot be explained solely in relation to defeasibility, although one could think of a context where it its uttered as a consequence of someone’s astronomical discovery, which forced him to review his former beliefs respecting the stars. The oddity of (6) has to do with issues of consistency, wherefrom one concludes that there is at least another fundamental semantic property involved.
Anyway, the examples above suffice to show that restrictions on substitutions transcend the case of propositional attitude ascriptions.

Non-Uniformity of Results in Opaque Contexts

The second argument is against the idea that attitude ascriptions always block Leibniz’ substitutability. Indeed, the substitution tests do not uniformly yield false results in all opaque context. On the contrary, some substitutions might yield even true results. Let us give one initial example, where the same object is designated by different names. Yet none of the possible alternative names or expressions to designate the same object changes the truth of the statement:
(4) Every visitor to the Louvre intends to see the Mona Lisa/ La Gioconda/ da Vinci’s most famous painting.

Of course, there are some tricks to make unlikely substitutions work. For instance, a true sentence like even Jameson believes that Peter Parker is a mere photographer does not normally yield a true result, if, as in (5a), one substitutes Spiderman for Peter Parker. But in a context like (5b) the substitution preserves the truth:
(5) a. ƒ Even Jameson believes that Spiderman is a mere photographer.
b. T The disguise is so convincing that even Jameson believes that Spiderman is a mere photographer. (See Berg 1988, Mckinsey 1999)

Posted by Tony Marmo at 01:05 BST
Monday, 11 April 2005


Strict Identity with No Overlap

By Achille C. Varzi

It is natural to think that a standard, Kripke-style semantics for quantified modal logic (QML) is incompatible with the view that no individual can exist in more than one possible world, a view that seems to require a Lewis-style, counterpart-theoretic semantics instead. Strictly speaking, however, this thought is wrong-headed. A standard semantics regards a modal statement such as ?I might have been fat? as true only if I am in the extension of ?is fat? at some other possible world, whereas counterpart theory regards it as true only if a counterpart of mine is in the extension of ?is fat?. But just as the truth conditions of counterpart theory are in principle compatible with the possibility (rejected by Lewis) that some individuals qualify as their own other-wordly counterparts, the truth conditions of a standard semantics are in principle compatible with the possibility (dismissed by Kripke) that all individuals are world-bound. Here is how.
Source: Online Papers in Philosophy

Posted by Tony Marmo at 15:34 BST
Updated: Monday, 11 April 2005 15:35 BST



The occurence and the behaviour of co-referential nominals in sentences, under the labels of binding and control, have been classically treated as mainly syntactic phenomena, where the syntactic structure was licensed by teleological co-indexation considerations.

Binding and Control theories are the oldest and most resilient component of Generative thought that has survived to present day. The basic assumptions and core concepts of Classical Binding and Control theory have their origins in Langacker (1966), Rosenbaun (1967), Postal (1970), Jackendoff (1972) (Chapters 4 and 5), Chomsky (1973) and Lasnik (1976), who had tackled most of the main issues from a transformational perspective. Thereafter, this conceptual Binding theoretic nucleus has been re-formulated based on the theoretic refinement and enlargement of the application of Langacker's (1966) notion of command in Reinhart (1976) and Chomsky (1980, 1981 and 1982), together and in parallel with Bresnam (1982) and Manzini (1983). The format of Binding theory has remained almost unaltered since that time. Later proposals of reformulation, such as Reinhart and Reuland (1993), Reinhart (1999, 2000), Heim (2004) etc, have kept the essence of the model virtually intact.

One alternative that I consider at least captivating is Higginbotham's (1983) Linking theory. But, as far as I know, it has not been used by many.

If anyone reading this blog works with James Higginbotham's linking theory, please put a comment to let me know about your work. Thanks!

Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 BST
Updated: Monday, 11 April 2005 16:08 BST
Sunday, 10 April 2005


Polynomial Ring Calculus for Logical Inference

By Walter Carnielli

This paper proposes a new "all-purpose" algebraic proof method applicable to general truth-functional sentential logics and to some non-truth-functional logics. The method, based on reducing polynomials over finite fields, is particularly apt for finitely-many-valued logics (and for classical propositional logic PC ). It can be extended to certain non-finitely valued logics and non-truth-functional logics as well, provided they can be characterized by two-valued dyadic semantics. The resulting mechanizable proof method introduced here is of interest for automatic proof theory, and seems also to be appropriate for investigating questions on complexity.

Source: CLE

Posted by Tony Marmo at 20:14 BST
Updated: Sunday, 10 April 2005 20:16 BST
Tuesday, 29 March 2005

Now Playing: REPOSTED
Topic: Interconnections

How Does the Mind Work?
The Fodor-Pinker Debate

The current issue of Mind and Language contains an interesting open peer review cluster consisting of three articles:

1. So How Does the Mind Work? By Steven Pinker (Online publication date: 3-Feb-2005)

2. Reply to Steven Pinker 'So How Does The Mind Work?' By Jerry Fodor (Online publication date: 3-Feb-2005)
3. A Reply to Jerry Fodor on How the Mind Works By Steven Pinker (Online publication date: 3-Feb-2005)

Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 GMT
Updated: Tuesday, 29 March 2005 15:45 GMT
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

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