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LINGUISTIX&LOGIK, Tony Marmo's blog
Saturday, 3 September 2005

Topic: Cognition & Epistemology

Inateness and Brain-Wring Optimization:

Non-genomic nativism

by Chistopher Cherniak

The study of minimization of neural connections reveals interrelations between the Innateness Hypothesis and theses associated with the Central Dogma of genetics. The discussion of innateness here shifts from the usual focus upon abstract cognitive structure instead to underlying brain hardware structure, to hardwired neuroanatomy.

Experimental work in computational neuroanatomy has uncovered distinctively efficient layout of wiring in nervous systems. When mechanisms are investigated by which such "best of all possible brains" design is attained, significant instances turn out to emerge "for free, directly from physics": Such generation of optimal brain structure appears to arise simply by exploiting basic physical processes, without need for intervention of genes. An idea that physics suffices here--of complex biological structure as self-organizing, generated without genomic activity--turns attention to the role of the genome in morphogenesis. The familiar "nature / nurture" alternatives for origins of basic internal mental structure are that it arises either from the genome or from invariants of the external environment. A third alternative is explored for the cases here, a non-genomic nativism.


See also the Baldwin Effect.
The Nature of the Language Faculty and its Implications for Evolution of Language
The Fodor-Pinker Debate
Formal grammar and information theory: together again?

Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 BST
Updated: Saturday, 3 September 2005 23:07 BST

Topic: Polemics

The Nature of the Language Faculty and its Implications for Evolution of Language

[Reply to Fitch, Hauser & Chomsky]
By Ray Jackendoff & Steven Pinker

In a continuation of the conversation with Fitch, Chomsky, and Hauser on the evolution of language, we examine their defense of the claim that the uniquely human, language-specific part of the language faculty (the "narrow language faculty") consists only of recursion, and that this part cannot be considered an adaptation to communication. We argue that their characterization of the narrow language faculty is problematic for many reasons, including its dichotomization of cognitive capacities into those that are utterly unique and those that are identical to nonlinguistic or nonhuman capacities, omitting capacities that may have been substantially modified during human evolution. We also question their dichotomy of the current utility versus original function of a trait, which omits traits that are adaptations for current use, and their dichotomy of humans and animals, which conflates similarity due to common function and similarity due to inheritance from a recent common ancestor.
We show that recursion, though absent from other animals' communications systems, is found in visual cognition, hence cannot be the sole evolutionary development that granted language to humans. Finally, we note that despite Fitch et al.'s denial, their view of language evolution is tied to Chomsky's conception of language itself, which identifies combinatorial productivity with a core of "narrow syntax." An alternative conception, in which combinatoriality is spread across words and constructions, has both empirical advantages and greater evolutionary plausibility.

To appear in Cognition

See also
Non-genomic nativism
The Fodor-Pinker Debate
Formal grammar and information theory: together again?

Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 BST
Updated: Saturday, 3 September 2005 23:00 BST
Wednesday, 31 August 2005

Topic: Interconnections


By Mihailo Antovic´

This paper provides an analysis of the importance of some present-day semantic theories for contemporary cognitive science. The question of the scope of cognitive science(s) is discussed, followed by a short overview of the study of linguistics in this multidisciplinary enterprise. Finally, three modern approaches to semantics within this framework are discussed (cognitive, truth-conditional and conceptual) and their advantages and disadvantages are briefly summarized. Conceptual semantics is singled out as a rather plausible approach to the study of meaning, even though it is often deemed of lesser importance by authoritative scholars. Some speculations as to the further development of semantics are hypothesized.

Key words: cognition, cognitive science, cognitive semantics, truth-conditional semantics, conceptual semantics

Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 BST
Updated: Wednesday, 31 August 2005 06:20 BST
Friday, 26 August 2005

Topic: Ontology&possible worlds
The paper below is interesting though, it has no abstract (that I could find) and was not signed by anyone. I presumed that the owner of the site is the one who wrote it, hence put his name on it. Please, correct me if my guess was wrong.


By B. Sidney Smith

Once intuitions are acknowledged as having evidential weight, there is hope of showing that universals exist and settling their modal status. Some philosophers take a direct approach. For example, from the intuition that humility is a virtue (Armstrong 1978), or the intuition that some things have a property in common (Lewis 1983), these philosophers infer directly that universals exist. But sophisticated nominalists are unimpressed, for this direct approach disregards coherent nonrealist interpretations of the language used to report these intuitions. For example, mathematical sentences with apparent commitment to abstract entities have been interpreted as disguised intensional-operator or adverbial sentences having no such commitment. So-called modal interpretations of mathematics fall into this family. Fictionalism inspires another kind of nonrealist approach. On this approach, an atomic sentence (e.g., ‘Apollo is a Greek god’) can be taken as true even though a singular term occurring within it is genuinely vacuous and has no ontological commitment. What makes the sentence true is that it is suitably “backed by” the beliefs and/or discourse of the speakers. Then, of course, there are non-objectual treatments of quantifiers, notably, various substitutional treatments (pronominal, proverbal, prosentential). If any such variety of nonrealist interpretation is acceptable, then intuitions reported within the associated idioms would lose their apparent ontological commitment to universals.
The prospect of such nonrealist interpretations have rendered the direct intuitive arguments for mathematical objects unpersuasive. If this is so in philosophy of mathematics, surely analogous non-realist moves could be made in metaphysics against universals. In view of this, I believe that the most promising way to establish the existence and modal status of universals is by means of a modal argument which focuses on the behavior of intensional abstracts—’that’-clauses and gerunds—in modal contexts. (For now I will assume that Meinongianism is mistaken; I will return to that topic in the final section.)

Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 BST
Updated: Friday, 26 August 2005 02:13 BST
Monday, 22 August 2005

Topic: Polemics

On Horwich' Way out

By Panu Raatikainen

Horwhich proposes that all there really is to truth follows from the equivalence schema:
The proposition that p is true iff p,

or using Horwich' notation‹p› is true ↔ p.
Horwich claims that all facts involving truth can be explained on the basis of the minimal theory.
However, it has been pointed out, e.g. by Gupta (1993), that the minimal theory is too weak to entail any general fact about truth, e.g. the fact that
Every proposition of the form 'p → p' is true[...]

Appeared in Analysis, July 2005 Vol. 65 No. 3

Posted by Tony Marmo at 18:28 BST
Updated: Monday, 22 August 2005 18:32 BST
Sunday, 21 August 2005

Topic: Interconnections


By Gillian Ramchand

The pioneering work of Davidson (1967) gave rise to a productive and exciting tradition within formal semantics and especially at the interface between syntax and semantics, whereby event variables were exploited as elements of the referential ontology in the expression of the semantics of natural language. The existence of such logical elements (events, or eventuality variables) cannot seriously now be doubted, in my opinion, although many aspects of the formal theory of syntax and semantics have changed in the nearly forty years since Davidson’s seminal article. The time has definitely come for a more critical and nuanced understanding of the use of eventuality variables, in the light of recent research in the field. Maienborn (this volume) is an important example of this kind of work. She takes a new look at the idea of eventuality variables and argues that the case has been overstated, that there are both empirical and conceptual reasons for denying the existence of events in the Davidsonian sense for a certain class of statives and copular predications. I wish to show in this article that Maienborn both goes too far and not far enough in deconstructing the traditional Davidsonian assumptions. Instead, I propose a davidson inspired method of representation which fits better with current syntactic understanding, but which is liberated from some of the assumptions and methodologies of earlier work – I call this ‘Post-Davidsonianism’. I will argue that once one makes the adjustments in the Davidsonian tradition to make the idea coherent, Maienborn’s arguments for introducing a new ontological type (‘Kimian states’) into the system disappear.

Source: LingBuzz

Appeared in Theoretical Linguistics 31 (2005), 359–373

Posted by Tony Marmo at 01:35 BST
Updated: Sunday, 21 August 2005 01:57 BST


Analysis has moved

Those must be old news, but any, here it goes:
The Journal Analysis can no longer be accessed via ingenta, as it used to. Now, you can go directly to its site, or browse it via Blackwell.

Posted by Tony Marmo at 01:10 BST
Friday, 19 August 2005

For an interesting discussion on a particular kind of modal logic, see:

A note on Kit Fine's Rigidity Axiom

Posted by Tony Marmo at 07:27 BST
Thursday, 18 August 2005

Topic: Polemics

The Excluded Middle:
Semantic Minimalism without Minimal Propositions

PPR commentary on Cappelen and Lepore, Insensitive Semantics

By Kent Bach

Insensitive Semantics is mainly a protracted assault on semantic Contextualism, both moderate and radical. Cappelen and Lepore argue that Moderate Contextualism leads inevitably to Radical Contextualism and in turn that Radical Contextualism is misguided. Assuming that the only alternative to Contextualism is their Semantic Minimalism, they think they’ve given an indirect argument for it. But they overlook a third view, one that splits the difference between the other two. Like Contextualism it rejects Propositionalism, the conservative dogma that every indexical-free declarative sentence expresses a proposition. Unlike Contextualism, it does not invoke context to fill semantic gaps and, indeed, denies that filling those gaps is a semantic matter. In rejecting Propositionalism, it is more radical, indeed, more minimalist than Cappelen and Lepore’s brand of Semantic Minimalism. It does not imagine that sentences that intuitively seem not to express propositions at least express “minimal propositions.” Radical Semantic Minimalism, or simply Radicalism, says that the sentences in question are semantically incomplete – their semantic contents are not propositions but merely “propositional radicals.”

Source: Online Papers in Philosophy

Posted by Tony Marmo at 16:48 BST
Updated: Thursday, 18 August 2005 16:51 BST
Monday, 15 August 2005

Topic: Interconnections

Typical Ambiguity: Trying to Have Your Cake and Eat it too.

By Solomon Feferman

Ambiguity is a property of syntactic expressions which is ubiquitous in all informal languages–natural, scientific and mathematical; the efficient use of language depends to an exceptional extent on this feature. Disambiguation is the process of separating out the possible meanings of ambiguous expressions. Ambiguity is typical if the process of disambiguation can be carried out in some systematic way. Russell made use of typical ambiguity in the theory of types in order to combine the assurance of its (apparent) consistency (“having the cake”) with the freedom of the informal untyped theory of classes and relations (“eating it too”). The paper begins with a brief tour of Russell’s uses of typical ambiguity, including his treatment of the statement Cls 2 Cls. This is generalized to a treatment in simple type theory of statements of the form A 2 B where A and B are class expressions for which A is prima facie of the same or higher type than B. In order to treat mathematically more interesting statements of self membership we then formulate a version of typical ambiguity for such statements in an extension of Zermelo-Fraenkel set theory. Specific attention is given to how the“naive” theory of categories can thereby be accounted for.

Appeared in the book One Hundred Years of Russell's Paradox (G. Link, ed.), Walter de Gruyter, Berlin (2004) 135-151

Posted by Tony Marmo at 07:01 BST
Updated: Monday, 15 August 2005 07:04 BST
Sunday, 14 August 2005

I have placed this paper online in a very raw version, because I really want any help anyone wants to offer me. Thanks.

Opacity and Paradoxes

The Paraconsistent Semantics of Natural Languages

By Tony Marmo

(Draft Version 06-alpha.2. Please, comments, suggestions and corrections are welcome)

The purpose of this work is to revisit opaque contexts from the perspective of natural languages. Opacity has been understood firstly as failure of the application of Leibniz’ substitution of identicals principle and later as accessibility relations holding between possible worlds. However, opacity in the semantics of natural languages ought to be simply characterised truth-functionally, in which case it results from devices that both avoid paradoxical interpretation of sentences and circumvent the principle of Pseudo-Scotus. Accordingly, what is herein proposed is a solution based on a kind of Paraconsistent Semantics for natural languages.

Keywords: Propositional Attitudes, Semantics, Philosophy of Language, Linguistics, Logic, Accessibility Relations, Belief Reports, Consistency, Human Languages Semantics, Intensional Liar, Leibniz’ Law, Moore’s Paradox, Opacity, Paraconsistency.
Update (Of related Interest): [1]; [2]

Source: LingBuzz, Semantics Archive, Online Papers in Philosophy

Posted by Tony Marmo at 02:41 BST
Friday, 12 August 2005


Respective Answers to Coordinated Questions

By Jean Mark Gawron & Andrew Kehler

Munn’s examples are instances of respective readings and not functional readings. Our analysis captures these readings, as well as those for a range of other filler-gap constructions, since RESP operators routinely intervene between constituent-based dependencies in the syntax and predicate-argument relations in the semantics. As a result we are able to account for cases that share essential characteristics with Munn’s examples but which are not candidates for a functional analysis. These same examples conspire to demonstrate that the identity constraint on ATB extraction cannot be maintained.

Source: Semantics Archive

Posted by Tony Marmo at 05:41 BST
Updated: Friday, 12 August 2005 05:43 BST
Thursday, 11 August 2005


Modalità e Multimodalità in English

Walter Carnielli and Claudio Pizzi are planning to re-write, i.e., to make a translation and an expanded adaptation of their book Modality and Multi-modality (original title Modalità e Multimodalità) into English. The new edition will probably be published next year.

Posted by Tony Marmo at 18:45 BST
Updated: Thursday, 11 August 2005 18:47 BST
Tuesday, 9 August 2005


Les Axiomes de Tarski

Jean-Yves Béziau

A la fin des années 1920, Tarski développe une théorie connue aujourd’hui sous le nom de théorie de l’opérateur des conséquence: il présente des axiomes pour un opérateur Cn qui à chaque ensemble d’objets X associe un autre ensemble d’objets Cn(X) de même nature, appelés conséquences de X. Il s’agit d’une théorie très abstraite puisque la nature des objets sur lesquels porte cet opérateur n’est pas spécifiée outre mesure.

Cette théorie en beaucoup de sens est extraordinaire et il semblerait que malgré le récent regain d’intérêt à son régard, sa valeur, sa signification et sa portée n’ont pas encore été pleinement comprises. En particulier on n’a pas encore réalisé combien cette théorie était en avance sur son temps, comment elle marque un tournant dans l’histoire de la logique moderne, en libérant la logique du carcan formaliste et en la projetant dans la sphère de la plus haute abstraction.

Le but de cet article n’est pas de présenter et de discuter de façon systématique l’origine et le développement de la théorie de l’opérateur de conséquence— il faudrait pour cela un volume suffisamment épais pour servir de banc— mais de discuter seulement d’un de ses aspects: ses axiomes. Dans d’autres articles nous avons déjà discuté ou nous discuterons d’autres aspects de cette théorie. Le présent article n’est donc qu’un parmi d’autres dont la somme pourrait finir par constituer le dit banc.

Posted by Tony Marmo at 16:57 BST
Updated: Tuesday, 9 August 2005 17:08 BST
Monday, 8 August 2005



Many-Valued and Kripke Semantics

By Jean-Yves Beziau

Today many people identify Kripke semantics with modal logic. Typically a book called “modal logic” nowadays is a book about Kripke semantics (cf. e.g. the recent book by [Blackburn et al (2001)]). But modal logic can be developed using other kinds of semantics and Kripke semantics can be used to deal with many different logics and it is totally absurd to call all of these logics “modal logics”. Kripke semantics are also often called “possible worlds semantics”, however this is quite misleading because the crucial feature of these semantics is not the concept of possible world but the relation of accessibility. Possible worlds can easily be eliminated from the definition of Kripke semantics and then the accessibility relation is defined directly between the bivaluations. For this reason it seems better to use the terminology “relational semantics”. Of course, if we want, we can call these bivaluations "possible worlds", this metaphor can be useful, but then why using this metaphor only in the case of relational semantics? In fact in the Tractatus Wittgenstein used the expression “truth-possibilities” for the classical bivaluations. Other concepts of the semantics of classical zero-order logic were expressed by him using a modal terminology: he said that a formula is necessary if it holds for all truth possibilities, impossible if it holds for none, and possible if it holds for some. But Wittgenstein was against the introduction of modal concepts inside the language as modal operators.
Many-valued and Kripke semantics may be philosophically controversial, anyway they are very useful and powerful technical tools which can be fruitfully used to give a mathematical account of basic philosophical notions, such as modalities. It seems to me that instead of focusing on the one hand on some little philosophical problems and on the other hand on some developments limited to one technique, one should promote a better interaction between philosophy and logic developing a wide range of techniques, as for example the combination of Kripke semantics (extended as to include Jaskowski semantics) and Many-Valued semantics (extended as to include non truth-functional many-valued semantics). My aim in this paper is to give a hint of how these techniques can be developed by presenting various examples.

Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 BST
Updated: Monday, 8 August 2005 05:32 BST

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