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LINGUISTIX&LOGIK, Tony Marmo's blog
Friday, 29 April 2005


Foundations of Attentional Semantics

By Giorgio Marchetti

Words are tools that pilot attention. As such, they can be analyzed in terms of the attentional changes they convey. In this article, the process by which words produce attentional changes in the subject hearing or reading them is examined. A very important step in this process is represented by the subject’s conscious experience of the meaning of words. The conscious experience of the meaning differs from the conscious experience of images and perceptions in that the former lacks the qualitative properties of the latter; moreover, while meanings refer to a whole class of objects or events, images and perceptions do not. The peculiar quality and the context- and object-independent character of this form of consciousness is determined by the kind of elements that constitute meanings: attentional operations. As shown by the psychological literature on attention, and by personal experience, attention can be variously piloted to perform several kinds of operations: it can be oriented, focused at variable levels of size and intensity, sustained for variable amounts of time, each single attentional operation can be variously combined with other attentional operations, forming an orderly, albeit complex, sequence of attentional operations, etc. Each meaning is composed of a specific sequence of attentional operations. This sequence represents the skeleton that supports and allows the conversion or actualization of the meaning into any of its sensible, perceptible instances. It is precisely the presence of the attentional operations that induces in the subjects the conscious experience of the meaning.
The subject learns the meanings of words by focusing its attention on the attentional operations that constitute them. The capacity, here labelled as a meta-attentional one, to isolate the attentional operation constituting the meaning does not entail a secondary process occurring at a different level from, but simultaneous with, the primary process to be analyzed. On the contrary, the analyzing process occurs at the same level - the conscious one - as the analyzed process, but a moment later: the subject becomes conscious of the attentional operations constituting the meaning simply by performing them.
Once the process that makes it possible for words to produce attentional changes is explained, and the kind of
components constituting meanings is identified, the foundations of Attentional Semantics are laid: the road to analyze the meaning of words in terms of attentional operations is open.

Keywords: attention, conscious experience, meaning, words, language, attentional operations, semantics
Source: Semantics Archive

Posted by Tony Marmo at 16:19 BST
Updated: Friday, 29 April 2005 16:20 BST
Tuesday, 26 April 2005


The Meta-Fibring Environment: Preservation of meta-properties by fibring

By Marcelo E. Coniglio

In this paper the categories Mcon and Seq of multiple-conclusion consequence relations and sequent calculi, respectively, are introduced. The main feature of these categories is the preservation, by morphisms, of meta-properties of the consequence relations. This feature is obtained by changing the usual concept of morphism between logics (that is, a signature morphism preserving deductions) by a stronger one (a signature morphism preserving meta-implications between deductions). This allow us to obtain better results by fibring objects in Mcon and in Seq than using the usual notion of morphism between deduction systems:
In fact, meta-fibring (that is, fibring in the proposed categories) avoids the phenomenon of fibring that we call anti-collapsing problem, as opposite to the well-known collapsing problem of fibring. Additionally, a general semantics for objects in Seq (and, in particular, for objects in Mcon) is proposed, obtaining a category of logic systems called Log. A general theorem of preservation of completeness by fibring in Log is also obtained.
Source: CLE

Posted by Tony Marmo at 21:42 BST
Updated: Tuesday, 26 April 2005 21:44 BST
Thursday, 21 April 2005

Topic: Syn-Sem Interface


In the following I shall show that there is not one single notion of phase in Chomsky (2001) and that each of the different formulations have diverse consequences.

The set of analyses and conclusions delineated in my paper (forthcoming) and Chomsky?s (1999) proposals converge to the notion that the phases of a derivation are propositional. Indeed, as Chomsky himself acknowledges, verbal phrases have full argument structure and CPs force indicators. However the same notion of phase in Chomsky (2001) is derived throughout other four different paths.

The first path to derive the notion of phase, which Chomsky has chosen, departs from the inclusiveness condition. He maintains his 1995 idea that the input of a derivation is an array of items taken from the lexicon (LA), but divides it into sub-arrays. Each phase is determined by a sub-array LA{ i } of LA, placed in the active memory. When the computation exhausts LA{ i }, forming the syntactic object K, L returns to LA, either extending K to K' or forming an independent structure M to be assimilated later to K or to some extension of K.

These premises seem to pervade Chomsky?s thoughts, but in discussing what categories demark the phases, i.e., how to label them, he presents a second view, which furthers the first vie. So, he argues that a sub-array LA{i} must be easily identifiable and so contain exactly one lexical item that will label the resulting phase. If one accepts that substantive categories are selected by functional categories, namely V by a light verb v and T by C, then one gets the following thesis:
MT(1) Phases are CP and vP, and a sub-array contains exactly one C or v.

The third alternative to circumscribe phases consists of finding and summoning facts that maintain and correlate PF and LF integrity more generally, what Chomsky claims to be independent support:
MT(2) CP and vP are reconstruction sites, and have a degree of phonetic independence.

The fourth way consists of adopting the idea that the main functional categories, which may have an EPP feature and so function as targets for movement, are phases, but there are divided accordingly to their strength:
MT(3) CP and vP are strong phases, all the others are weak.
Accordingly to the thesis embraced, the spell out operation will apply simply at a phase or at a strong phase level. The options might all seem very stipulative, put this way, but they all play a crucial role in Chomsky?s consistent argumentation in favour of the idea that only the phonological component proceeds in parallel, and not the syntactic and semantic ones. This is expressed in the minimalist thesis bellow:
MT(4) a. There is no overt-covert distinction with two independent cycles; rather, a single narrow-syntactic cycle;
b. The phonological cycle is not a third independent cycle, but proceeds essentially in parallel.

We have already explained the distinction between delete and erase in Section 1, which underlies the reasoning above: by making the deleted features disappear, convergence at LF is allowed. In order to reduce computational burden and allow the phonological component to slight earlier stages of the derivation, another stipulation, the phase impenetrability condition, is added:
(PIC) Only H and its edge are accessible to operations outside a strong phase HP.

The edge being either specs or elements adjoined to HP. Under PIC, operations apply at the accessible elements of HP within the smallest strong ZP phase containing HP and not beyond, and the phonological component spells out elements that move no further. But this means that spell out interprets H and its edge as parts of ZP in a structure like:
(1) [ZP Z... [HP _ | [H YP]]]

Which leads to Ev1, already mentioned.
Let us summarise the dilemmas resulting from these views:
D1 a. A phase is the product of derivational procedures that divide lexical arrays, obeying the inclusiveness condition.
b. A phase is a special functional selector category.

D2 a. The motivation to postulate the existence of phases is semantic: they are characterised as propositional and as reconstruction sites.
b. The motivation to postulate the existence of phases is phonological: they are characterised by the cyclic application of spell-out.

D3 a. Functional categories are divided into phases and non-phases.
b. All functional categories are phases. Phases are divided into weak and strong types.

Neither alternative in the third dilemma is actually good, for phase should be maintained as a derivational notion and not treated as categorial one, by which reason (D1b) must also be discarded. Perhaps (D2) can never be solved, but it permits us to sustain the view that the notion of phase rests upon the application of an operation.
Indeed it has already been argued for the elimination of PIC in the literature. For instance, Stjepanovic' and Takahashi (2003) claim that the effects of PIC can be derived from independently necessary computational mechanisms, such as multiple spell-out and pied-piping. But any arguments in this direction also provide the means to derive the notion of phase from the application of spell-out. If, on the other hand, spell-out is not the only correspondence operation that maps the Syntactic Structure onto a representational level, i.e., if spell-out has a sister reading operation that interacts with the semantic level, then the two operations may be ordered, the application of second operation culminating in the formation of a phase. The only argument for assuming that the second correspondence operation is reading is the empirical observation that the Phonetic Structure seems always to be delayed in relation to the Conceptual Structure.
So, we have the point that PIC is not necessary, for it can be a mere effect of the cyclic application of different operations, as well as a consequence of a version of Godel?s diagonal lemma. Nevertheless, (D2b) also reveals the weak point of the narrow syntax hypothesis: it does not explain why the phonological cycle should essentially proceed in parallel, as stated in MT(7), but the semantic one should not.
(D1a) is the truly principled alternative among all others.

Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 BST
Updated: Friday, 22 April 2005 01:44 BST
Wednesday, 20 April 2005

Topic: Interconnections

The Ken Hale Prize

Throughout his life Ken Hale has set an example of what competence means in the academic circle: a person of great skills using them to help others to construct positive things. He combined both ethics and expertise in his daily work.
Before his passage, he had asked that any donations in his memory be made to the Navajo Language Academy an organisation of Navajo scholars who he had trained.

I think that a Ken Hale Prize should be created for socially conscious linguists and/or scholars, and for those who have helped to promote and foster Linguistics, stimulating new linguists and the diffusion of the works of linguists.

Posted by Tony Marmo at 15:40 BST

Answer to Noel Hunt

In a reaction to my entry on Linking, Noel Hunt wrote me asking:
I was wondering if you could provide a bibliography for the references you cite in your short note.

Well, to all that may be concerned, the references, as far as I can recall, are:

From the transformational era

Langacker, R. (1966) On the Pronominalisation and the Chain of Command. In Reibel, D.A. & S.A. Schane (eds.), Modern Studies in English. Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.
Rosenbaun, Peter (1967) The grammar of English predicate complement constructions. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Postal, Paul M. (1970) On Co-referential Complement Subject Deletion. In Linguistic Inquiry volume 1, number 4.
Jackendoff, Ray (1972) Semantic Interpretation in Generative Grammar. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.
Chomsky, Noam (1973) Conditions on Transformations. In Anderson and Kiparksy (eds) 1973.
Lasnik, Howard (1976) Remarks on Co-reference. Linguistic Analysis 2, 1-22.

Post-transformational Generative Grammar (Principles and Parameters)

Reinhart, Tanya (1976) The Syntactic Structure of Anaphora. PhD dissertation, MIT, Cambrige Massachusetts.
Reinhart, Tanya (1981) Definite NP Anaphora and C-Command Domains. In Linguistic Inquiry volume 12, number 4.
Chomsky (1980) On Binding. Linguistic Inquiry, volume 11: pages 1-46.
Chomsky (1981) Lectures on Government and Binding (The Pisa Lectures). Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin and New York.
Chomsky (1986) Barriers. MIT Press, Cambrige MA.
Bresnan, Joan. 1982. Control and complementation. In Joan Bresnan (ed.) The mental representation of grammatical relations. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Manzini, Maria Rita (1983). On Control and Control Theory. In Linguistic Inquiry volume 14, number 3.

Linking Theory

Higginbotham, James (1980) Pronouns and Bound Variables. In Linguistic Inquiry volume 11, number 4.
Higginbotham, James (1983) Logical Form, Binding, and Nominals. In Linguistic Inquiry volume 14, number 3.

Later Proposals

Reinhart, Tanya (1999) Binding Theory. In Robert A. Wilson and Frank C. Keil, eds, The MIT Encyclopedia of the Cognitive Sciences, Cambridge Mass: MIT Press.
Heim, Irene (2004) Anaphora and Semantic Interpretation: A Reinterpretation of Reinhart's Approach. Ms.
Reinhart, Tanya (2000) Strategies of Anaphora Resolution. In Hans Bennis, M. Everaert and E. Reuland (eds) Interface Strategies. North Holland Amsterdam.

Posted by Tony Marmo at 06:28 BST
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

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