Click Here ">
« August 2005 »
1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30 31
You are not logged in. Log in
Entries by Topic
All topics
Cognition & Epistemology
Notes on Pirah?
Ontology&possible worlds
Syn-Sem Interface
Temporal Logic
Blog Tools
Edit your Blog
Build a Blog
RSS Feed
View Profile
Translate this
LINGUISTIX&LOGIK, Tony Marmo's blog
Monday, 1 August 2005


Uncertainty and the suppression of inferences

By Guy Politzer

The explanation of the suppression of Modus Ponens inferences within the framework of linguistic pragmatics and of plausible reasoning (i.e., deduction from uncertain premises) is defended.

First, this approach is expounded, and then it is shown that the results of the first experiment of Byrne, Espino and Santamaría (1999) support the uncertainty explanation but fail to support their counterexample explanation.

Second, two experiments are presented. In the first one, aimed to refute one objection regarding the conclusions observed, the additional conditional premise (if N, C) was replaced with a statement of uncertainty (it is not certain that N); the answers produced by the participants remained qualitatively and quantitatively similar in both conditions. In the second experiment, a fine-grained analysis of the responses and justifications to an evaluation task was performed. The results of both experiments strongly supported the uncertainty explanation.

Source: Jean Nicod, Online Papers in Philosophy

Posted by Tony Marmo at 19:37 BST
Updated: Monday, 1 August 2005 19:38 BST
Wednesday, 27 July 2005


Where do presuppositions come from

By Richard Zuber
Source: Semantics Archive

Posted by Tony Marmo at 20:53 BST
Sunday, 24 July 2005


Free Choice in Romanian

By Donka F. Farkas

This paper explores the determiner corner of the ‘any’ land in Romanian, taking Lee and Horn 1994 and Horn 2000a as tour guides. The immediate interest of the task lies in the fact that the work done in English by the over-employed determiner any is carried out in Romanian by a host of more specialized (and, one fears, lower paid) morphemes, which I review in the rest of this section. My aim is to introduce the details of the Romanian facts onto the scene and to show that an ‘indefinitist’ view that generalizes the scalar approach advocated in Horn’s work is useful in helping us understand the much more crowded Romanian field. The theory of any that serves as my starting point is summarized in Section 2. Section 3 proposes a generalization of the scalar view advocated by Horn in terms of an alternative-based approach in the spirit of Krifka 1995, Giannakidou 2001 and Kratzer and Shimoyama 2002, based on a novel way of defining alternatives. Section 4 looks at the consequences of the proposal, Section 5 considers ways of extending it, and Section 6 is a brief conclusion. The approach suggested here falls under what Horn calls quodlibetic theories. Its claim is that the unifying characteristic of both existentially and universally flavored free choice-like items is that they denote a maximal set of alternatives that verify the expression in which the item occurs. The scalar view is the important special case in which these alternatives form an implicational scale with respect to verifying the relevant expression.

To appear in a Festschrift for Larry Horn edited by Gregory Ward and Betty Birner
Source: Semantics etc.

Posted by Tony Marmo at 13:21 BST
Saturday, 23 July 2005


On Strawsonian contexts

By Varol Akman

P.F. Strawson proposed in the early seventies a threefold distinction regarding how context bears on the meaning of ‘what is said’ when a sentence is uttered. The proposal was somewhat tentative and, being aware of this aspect, Strawson himself raised various questions to make it more adequate. In this paper, we review Strawson’s scheme, note his concerns, and add some of our own. We also defend its essence and recommend it as an insightful entry point re the interplay of intended meaning and context.
Being endless, the burden of context is too difficult to bear. It is the sort of burden with which one should learn to live intelligently rather than expect to think away.
Ben-Ami Scharfstein (1989:185)

Keywords: context, disambiguation, illocutionary force, indexical, literary theory, meaning, reference, translation, ‘what is said’
Appeared in Pragmatics & Cognition 13:2 (2005), 363?382.

Posted by Tony Marmo at 14:42 BST
Updated: Saturday, 23 July 2005 14:50 BST
Friday, 22 July 2005


Russell's Theory of Definite Descriptions

By Stephen Schiffer

The theory of definite descriptions Bertrand Russell presented in On Denoting one hundred years ago was instrumental in defining the then newly emerging philosophy of language, but a more remarkable achievement is that this centenarian theory is the currently dominant theory of definite descriptions. But what, exactly, is this theory? The question needs to be asked because the theory Russell presented in 1905 is not acceptable in the form in which he then stated it, and while we have little trouble in deciding whether a theory of definite descriptions is sufficiently like the one Russell formulated to be worth calling Russellian, it happens that what question one thinks a semantic theory of definite descriptions needs to answer will depend on how one thinks certain foundational issues in the theory of meaning need to be resolved.

There is no consensus as to how those issues should be resolved. I elaborate on this a little in section I and in section II propose as a working hypothesis a conception of meaning for which I have argued elsewhere and in terms of whose architecture a Russellian theory of definite descriptions may be formulated. How the theory should be formulated in terms of that architecture is then the topic of section III. Section IV confronts my formulation of the Russellian theory with the apparent problem for it implied by certain referential uses of definite descriptions. There are at the most general level of abstraction two possible Russellian responses to this problem,
and one of them is the standard Russellian response to the referential-use problem. Section V critically discusses that response and argues for its rejection. Section VI critically discusses the other possible Russellian response and argues for its rejection, too. The final section, VII, gives a brief summary and discusses what the correct positive theory of definite descriptions might be, if it is not the Russellian theory.

Forthcoming in special edition of Mind, guest ed. Stephen Neale, celebrating 100th anniversary of On Denoting


Indefinite anaphoric expressions?

By Maria Luiza Cunha Lima & Edson Françozo

Definiteness is a central concern in semantics and philosophy of language since Russell (1905), for whom the difference between definite and indefinite expressions lies in the impossibility of referential use of indefinites. Since Strawson (1959) and Kripke (1977), however, indefinites are held to have referential uses as well. Given that both are now seen as referential, the difference between them became a matter of the given/new informational status of the referring expression in sentences or discourse ? in this connection, indefinite expressions are said to always indicate new referents. Therefore, one could never have indefinite anaphoric expressions. Yet, recent data (Schwartz 1999, Cunha Lima 2004) show that indefinite expressions are quite common in ordinary discourse. In the face of it, one can wonder what the role of indefinites is. We will discuss some proposals, stemming mainly from linguistic semantics, and will make the case for interpreting indefinites as type identifying devices. This, in turn, will point toward to the need of re-assessing the functions of articles in natural language.
(A PDF copy will be available soon)

Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 BST
Updated: Sunday, 14 August 2005 02:43 BST
Tuesday, 28 June 2005


On the Lumping Semantics of Counterfactuals

By Makoto Kanazawa, Stefan Kaufmann and Stanley Peters

Kratzer (1981) discussed a naïve premise semantics of counterfactual conditionals, pointed to an empirical inadequacy of this interpretation, and presented a modification— partition semantics— which Lewis (1981) proved equivalent to Pollock's (1976) version of his ordering semantics. Subsequently, Kratzer (1989) proposed lumping semantics, a different modification of premise semantics, and argued it remedies empirical failings of ordering semantics as well as of naïve premise semantics. We show that lumping semantics yields truth conditions for counterfactuals that are not only different from what she claims they are, but also inferior to those of the earlier versions of premise semantics.

See also the Journal of Semantics 2005 22(2):129-151

Constraining Premise Sets for Counterfactuals

By Angelika Kratzer

This note is a reply to "On the Lumping Semantics of Counterfactuals" by Makoto Kanazawa, Stefan Kaufmann, and Stanley Peters. It argues first that the first triviality result obtained by Kanazawa, Kaufmann, and Peters does not apply to the analysis of counterfactuals in Kratzer (1989). Second, and more importantly, it points out that the results obtained by Kanazawa, Kaufmann, and Peters are obsolete in view of the revised analysis of counterfactuals in Kratzer (1990, 2002).

Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 BST
Updated: Tuesday, 28 June 2005 08:39 BST
Friday, 24 June 2005


On the practice of indirect reports

by Alessandro Capone

In this paper, I shall deal with the practice of indirect speech reports. I shall argue that indirect speech reports are transformations of original speech events (or speech acts), subject to severe limitations, which it is my aim in this paper to spell out in detail. I shall study the interactions with the theory of pragmemes, of indexicals, and of modes of presentation. I end this paper suggesting, given appropriate evidence, that a key to the understanding of indirect reports is the exploration of analogies with the theory of speech acts and that analogies with the theory of propositional attitudes may be misleading.

Source: Semantics Archive

Posted by Tony Marmo at 23:19 BST
Tuesday, 21 June 2005


Standard and Non-Standard Quantifiers in Natural Language

By Edward L. Keenan

Since the early 1980s we have been witnessing an explosive growth in our knowledge of natural language quantifiers, specifically of their denotations as opposed to their form, distribution, or compositional interpretation. Our concern here is to unify and extend these results, highlighting generalizations of linguistic interest. We present first an inventory of semantically defined classes of quantifiers expressible in English, and then a list of linguistic generalizations stated in terms of these classes and their defining concepts. We close with two types of quantification that lie outside these classes and which invite further research as less is known about them.

Source: Online Papers in Philosophy

Posted by Tony Marmo at 03:03 BST
Thursday, 16 June 2005


Zero Tolerance for Pragmatics

By Christopher Gauker

The proposition expressed by a sentence is relative to a context. But what are the values of the context variables? Many theorists would include among these values aspects of the speaker's intention in speaking. My thesis is that, on the contrary, the values of the context variables never include the speaker's intention. My argument for this thesis turns on a consideration of the role that the concept of proposition expressed in context is supposed to play in a theory of linguistic communication and on a consideration of what a speaker and a hearer can reasonably expect of one another. Although I call this thesis zero tolerance for pragmatics, it is not an expression of intolerance for everything that might be called pragmatics.

Source: Online Papers in Philosophy

Posted by Tony Marmo at 07:48 BST
Updated: Thursday, 16 June 2005 07:59 BST
Friday, 10 June 2005


Questioning Contextualism

By Brian Weatherson

There are currently a dizzying variety of theories on the market holding that whether an utterance of the form S knows that p is true depends on pragmatic or contextual factors. Even if we allow that pragmatics matters, there are two questions to be answered. First, which kind of pragmatic factors matter? Broadly speaking, the debate here is about whether practical interests (the stakes involved) or intellectual interests (which propositions are being considered) are most important. Second, whose interests matter? Here there are three options: the interests of S matter, the interests of the person making the knowledge ascription matter, or the interests of the person evaluating the ascription matter.
This paper is about the second question. I’m going to present some data from the behaviour of questions about who knows what that show it is not the interests of the person making the knowledge ascription that matter. This means the view normally known as contextualism about knowledge-ascriptions is false. Since that term is a little contested, and for some suggests merely the view that someone’s context matters, I’ll introduce three different terms for the three answers to the second question.
• Environmentalism – The interests of S, i.e. her environment, matter.
• Indexicalism – The interests of the person making the knowledge ascription matter, so ‘know’ behaves like an indexical term.
• Relativism – The interests of the person evaluating the knowledge ascription matter, so knowledge ascriptions are not true or false simpliciter but only relative to an evaluator.

Posted by Tony Marmo at 05:40 BST
Updated: Friday, 10 June 2005 05:42 BST
Saturday, 4 June 2005

This post is also available here.

The Stanley-Rett Debate

Nominal Restriction

By Jason Stanley

Extra-linguistic context appears to have a profound effect on the determination of what is expressed by the use of linguistic expressions. For a bewildering range of very different linguistic constructions, adhering to relatively straightforward linguistic intuition about what is expressed leads us to the conclusion that facts about the nonlinguistic context play many different roles in determining what is said. Furthermore, that so many different constructions betray this sort of sensitivity to extra-linguistic context understandably leads to pessimism about rescuing the straightforward intuitions while preserving any sort of systematicity in the theory of meaning.
A presumption motivating the pessimistic inclination is that, if we accept the ordinary intuitions, what appears to be very different ways in which context affects semantic content in fact are different ways in which context affects linguistic content. Pessimism is a natural reaction to those who adopt this presumption, because if appearance is a good guide to the facts in this domain, then there are just too many ways in which context affects semantic content to preserve systematicity. One common and natural reaction to these facts is, therefore, to deny the semantic significance of the ordinary intuitions, thereby relegating the project of explaining the apparent effects of extra-linguistic context on semantic content to a domain of inquiry outside the theory of meaning proper. So doing removes the threat context poses to the systematicity of semantic explanation, but at the cost of reducing the interest of the semantic project.
In this paper, I explore a different reaction to the situation. My purpose is to undermine the presumption that what appear to be very different effects of context on semantic content are very different effects. My challenge is of necessity rather limited, since it is too implausible to trace all effects of extra-linguistic context on semantic content to the very same source. Rather, I will take, as a case study, three superficially very different effects of context on semantic content, and show that they are due to the very same mechanism, what I call Nominal Restriction. I thereby hope to provide convincing evidence of the promise of the project of reducing all apparent effects of context on semantic content to a small number of sources.

Published in Logical Form and Language, edited by Peters and Preyer, Oxford University Press (2002)

Context, Compositionality and Calamity

By Jessica Rett

This paper examines an attempt made in a series of articles (Stanley 2002, a.o.) to create a syntactic placeholder for contextual information. The initial shortcoming of Stanley’s proposal is that it does not easily integrate these placeholders with domain-restricting information syntactically encoded elsewhere in the utterance. Thus, Stanley erroneously predicts that a sentence in which quantifier restricting information encoded in (for example) a prepositional phrase conflicts with quantifier-restriction valued by context is internally incoherent.
I continue by exploring the space of possible solutions to this problem that are available to Stanley, demonstrating how each of these possible solutions results in its own interpretation problem and, ultimately, fails. In doing so, I argue that Stanley’s syntactic/semantic approach to context is ultimately untenable.

Source: Semantics Archive
To appear in Mind & Language

Of related interest:

Context Dependence and Compositionality

By Francis Jeffrey Pelletier

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 Szabo (in Mind & Language , 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.

Appeared in Mind & Language, April 2003, vol. 18, no. 2, pp. 148-161(14)

Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 BST
Updated: Saturday, 4 June 2005 12:55 BST
Tuesday, 24 May 2005


The Proper Treatment of Coreference Relations

By Louis-H. Desouvrey

A novel approach to coreference relations is proposed. It is shown that there are no coreference principles per se in the grammar. Rather three constraints independently needed account for this phenomenon: the Oligatory Contour Principle (OCP), the Avoid Ambiguity Constraint (AAC), and the Freedom Constraint. The OCP and the AAC deal with features lexical elements are specified for. Referring elements are indeed distinguished from each other by a relational feature, which represents what the element stands for in the real world. Given nonlinear phonological representations whereby each feature belongs to its own plane, R-features spread from a referential expression to an adjacent referring element, either a pronoun or an anaphor. The ban on line crossing in the representation, which constrains the spreading, accounts for the adjacency between anaphors and their antecedents. The complementarity in the distribution of anaphors and pronouns follows from the feature specification of these elements as well as the interaction of the OCP and the Ambiguity Constraint.

Keywords: coreference, constraints, domains, pronouns, anaphors, syntactic features.
Source: Semantics Archive

The three principles mentioned above are:
(1) Freedom Constraint (FC)
Referring elements must be free in their minimal domain.

(2) Obligatory Contour Principle (OCP)
Two elements bearing identical R-features are banned in the same syntactic domain.

(3) Avoid Ambiguity Constraint (AAC)
Morphological ambiguity must be avoided whenever possible.

Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 BST
Updated: Tuesday, 24 May 2005 14:37 BST
Sunday, 15 May 2005


Tense and Choice Functions

By Mean-Young Song

In this paper, I argue against the two major approaches to the semantics of tense: the quantificational approach and the referential approach. The difference between them lies in the fact that the former is in favor of the indefinite view of tense, whereas the latter the definite view of tense. Tenses are characterized by the variability in the sense that they can be interpreted as being indefinite in some context or definite in other context. The difficulty the two approaches are faced with is that neither takes an appropriate account of the variability of tense. To provide a proper semantic treatment of tense, I propose in this paper a treatment of tense which incorporates choice functions. The choice functions, which apply to a non-empty set of intervals, picks the most salient time the speaker might have in mind at the utterance time. This might assist in capturing the variability of tense.

Key words: tense, definite tense, indefinite tense, the quantification approach, the referential approach, choice functions, presuppositions, temporal predicates

Source: Semantics Archive

Posted by Tony Marmo at 08:10 BST
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
Monday, 18 April 2005


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

Newer | Latest | Older