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Summary A linguistic phenomenon is labeled ‘semantic’ when it is appropriately characterized or explained by reference to the semantic properties of expressions – such as having a particular reference or truth conditions, or expressing a particular concept or proposition – and semantic relations between expressions – such as being co-referential or synonymous. Disputes in philosophy and linguistics frequently arise over whether a given phenomenon is genuinely semantic, or whether it is better explained in, say, syntactic or pragmatic terms. (This is true of many of the phenomena included here as subcategories, such as opacity, metaphor and various sorts of apparent context-dependence.) Such disputes partly reflect disagreements over the best way to explain the phenomenon in question; frequently, they also reflect foundational disagreements about what constitutes the subject matter of semantics.
Introductions The formal semantics textbooks Chierchia & McConnell-Ginet 2000 and Larson & Segal 1995 contain extensive introductory surveys of the phenomena that semantic theory typically aims to characterize or explain.
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  1. Manuel Bremer (2012). How Are Semantic Metarepresentations Built and Processed? Kriterion 26 (1):17.
    This paper looks at some aspects of semantic metarepresentation. It is mostly concerned with questions more formal, concerning the representation format in semantic metarepresentations, and the way they are processed. §1 distinguishes between metacognition and metarepresentation in a narrow and broad sense. §2 reminds the reader of some main areas where metarepresentations have to be used. The main part considers the ways that metarepresentations are built and processed. §3 introduces some general ideas how semantic metarepresentations are built and processed. §4 (...)
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  2. A. Clark & Ronald Lutz (eds.) (1992). Connectionism in Context. Springer-Verlag.
  3. Solomon Feferman (1985). Intensionality in Mathematics. Journal of Philosophical Logic 14 (1):41 - 55.
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  4. James H. Fetzer (1992). Connectionism and Cognition: Why Fodor and Pylyshyn Are Wrong. In A. Clark & Ronald Lutz (eds.), Connectionism in Context. Springer-Verlag. 305-319.
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  5. Jerry A. Fodor & Ernest LePore (1996). The Red Herring and the Pet Fish: Why Concepts Still Can't Be Prototypes. Cognition 58 (2):253-70.
    1 There is a Standard Objection to the idea that concepts might be prototypes (or exemplars, or stereotypes): Because they are productive, concepts must be compositional. Prototypes aren't compositional, so concepts can't be prototypes (see, e.g., Margolis, 1994).2 However, two recent papers (Osherson and Smith, 1988; Kamp and Partee, 1995) reconsider this consensus. They suggest that, although the Standard Objection is probably right in the long run, the cases where prototypes fail to exhibit compositionality are relatively exotic and involve phenomena (...)
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  6. P. M. S. Hacker (1998). Davidson on the Ontology and Logical Form of Belief. Philosophy 73 (1):81-96.
  7. Philip P. Hanson (ed.) (1990). Information, Language and Cognition. University of British Columbia Press.
  8. Daniel D. Hutto (1998). Nonconceptual Content and Objectivity. Electronic Journal of Analytic Philosophy (6).
    In recent times the question of whether or not there is such a thing as nonconceptual content has been the object of much serious attention. For analytical philosophers, the locus classicus of the view that there is such a phenomena is to be found in Evans remarks about perceptual experience in Varieties of Reference. John McDowell has taken issue with Evans over his claim that "conceptual capacities are first brought into operation only when one makes a judgement of experience, and (...)
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  9. Henry Jackman (1996). Semantic Norms and Temporal Externalism. Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh
    There has frequently been taken to be a tension, if not an incompatibility, between "externalist" theories of content (which allow the make-up of one's physical environment and the linguistic usage of one's community to contribute to the contents of one's thoughts and utterances) and the "methodologically individualist" intuition that whatever contributes to the content of one's thoughts and utterances must ultimately be grounded in facts about one's own attitudes and behavior. In this dissertation I argue that one can underwrite such (...)
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  10. Dale Jacquette (2000). Identity, Intensionality, and Moore's Paradox. Synthese 123 (2):279 - 292.
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  11. Eduoard Machery & L. Lederer, Simple Heuristics for Concept Combination.
    In M. Werning, W. Hinzen, and E. Machery (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Compositionality.
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  12. Emar Maier, Corien Bary & Janneke Huitink (eds.) (2005). Proceedings of Sinn Und Bedeutung 9. Nijmegen Centre for Semantics.
  13. G. Mannoury & D. Vuysje (1955). Semantic and Signific Aspects of Modern Theories of Communication. Synthese 9 (1):147 - 156.
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  14. Mohan P. Matthen (1989). Intensionality and Perception: A Reply to Rosenberg. Journal of Philosophy 86 (December):727-733.
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  15. Friederike Moltmann & Lucia Tovena (eds.) (forthcoming). Mass and Count in Linguistics, Philosophy, and Cognitive Science. John Benjamins.
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  16. Harold Morick (1971). Intentionality, Intensionality, and the Psychological. Analysis 32 (December):39-44.
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  17. Michael J. Pendlebury (2002). Opacity and Self-Consciousness. Southern Journal of Philosophy 40 (2):243-251.
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  18. F. Recanati (2002). The Fodorian Fallacy. Analysis 62 (4):285-89.
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  19. Alexander Rosenberg (1989). Intentionality, Intensionality and Representation. Behaviorism 17 (2):137-140.
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  20. Peter M. Simons (1995). Mind and Opacity. Dialectica 49 (2-4):131-46.
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  21. Paul Smolensky (1991). Connectionism, Constituency and the Language of Thought. In Barry M. Loewer & Georges Rey (eds.), Meaning in Mind: Fodor and His Critics. Blackwell.
  22. James E. Tomberlin (1984). Identity, Intensionality, and Intentionality. Synthese 61 (1):111 - 131.
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  23. Tim van Gelder (1991). Classical Questions, Radical Answers. In Terence E. Horgan & John L. Tienson (eds.), Connectionism and the Philosophy of Mind. Kluwer.
Ambiguity and Polysemy
  1. J. E. J. Altham (1971). Ambiguity and Predication. Mind 80 (318):253-257.
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  2. N. Asher (2001). Discourse Parallelism, Ellipsis, and Ambiguity. Journal of Semantics 18 (1):1-25.
    In this paper we combine a simple recovery mechanism for ellipsis with a general, discourse account of parallelism to account for a variety of phenomena concerning ellipsis, including Sag's wide scope puzzle and complex examples concerning sloppy identity. Our recovery mechanism requires an identity of logical structure between the recovered material and antecedent in the ellipsis. The recovered material and the antecedent are then interpreted independently in their respective contexts, subject only to the general discourse constraints on parallelism. These constraints (...)
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  3. Catherine Atherton (1993). The Stoics on Ambiguity. Cambridge University Press.
    Stoic work on ambiguity represents one of the most innovative, sophisticated, and rigorous contributions to philosophy and the study of language in western antiquity. This book is both the first comprehensive survey of the often difficult and scattered sources, and the first attempt to locate Stoic material in the rich array of contexts, ancient and modern, which alone can guarantee full appreciation of its subtlety, scope and complexity. The comparisons and contrasts which this book constructs will intrigue not just classical (...)
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  4. Jay David Atlas (2005). Logic, Meaning, and Conversation: Semantical Underdeterminacy, Implicature, and Their Interface. Oxford University Press.
    This fresh look at the philosophy of language focuses on the interface between a theory of literal meaning and pragmatics--a philosophical examination of the relationship between meaning and language use and its contexts. Here, Atlas develops the contrast between verbal ambiguity and verbal generality, works out a detailed theory of conversational inference using the work of Paul Grice on Implicature as a starting point, and gives an account of their interface as an example of the relationship between Chomsky's Internalist Semantics (...)
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  5. Jay David Atlas (1989). Philosophy Without Ambiguity: A Logico-Linguistic Essay. Oxford University Press.
    This book expounds and defends a new conception of the relation between truth and meaning. Atlas argues that the sense of a sense-general sentence radically underdetermines (independently of indexicality) its truth-conditional content. He applies this linguistic analysis to illuminate old and new philosophical problems of meaning, truth, falsity, negation, existence, presupposition, and implicature. In particular, he demonstrates how the concept of ambiguity has been misused and confused with other concepts of meaning, and how the interface between semantics and pragmatics has (...)
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  6. Kent Bach, Ambiguity.
    A word, phrase, or sentence is ambiguous if it has more than one meaning. The word 'light', for example, can mean not very heavy or not very dark. Words like 'light', 'note', 'bear' and 'over' are lexically ambiguous. They induce ambiguity in phrases or sentences in which they occur, such as 'light suit' and 'The duchess can't bear children'. However, phrases and sentences can be ambiguous even if none of their constituents is. The phrase 'porcelain egg container' is structurally ambiguous, (...)
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  7. S. Beck (2013). Lucinda Driving Too Fast Again—The Scalar Properties of Ambiguous Than-Clauses. Journal of Semantics 30 (1):1-63.
    This paper presents a systematic empirical investigation of so-called Rullmann Ambiguities (The helicopter was flying less high than a plane can fly). It is shown that many examples constructed after this pattern are in fact unambiguous, and that some but not all examples which replace less with ordinary more/-er are ambiguous. An analysis is proposed which takes into account the inferential properties of the degree predicate in the than-clause plus the way contextual information can be integrated into its meaning. The (...)
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  8. William K. Blackburn (1983). Ambiguity and Non-Specificity: A Reply to Jay David Atlas. [REVIEW] Linguistics and Philosophy 6 (4):479 - 498.
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  9. Susanne Bobzien (2007). Aristotle's De Interpretatione 8 is About Ambiguity. In D. Scott (ed.), Maieusis: Essays in Ancient Philosophy. Oxford University Press. 301.
    ABSTRACT: In this paper I show that, contrary to the prevalent view, in his De Interpretatione chapter 8, Aristotle is concerned with a kind of ambiguity, i.e. with homonymy; more precisely, with homonymy of linguistic expressions as it may occur in dialectical argument. The paper has two parts. In the first part, I argue that in the Sophistici Elenchi 175b39-176a5 Aristotle indubitably deals with homonymy in dialectical argument; that De Interpretatione 8 is a parallel to Sophistici Elenchi 175b39-176a5; that De (...)
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  10. Susanne Bobzien (2006). The Stoics on Fallacies of Equivocation. In D. Frede & B. Inwood (eds.), Language and Learning, Proceedings of the 9th Symposium Hellenisticum. Cambridge University Press.
    ABSTRACT: This paper discusses the Stoic treatment of fallacies that are based on lexical ambiguities. It provides a detailed analysis of the relevant passages, lays bare textual and interpretative difficulties, explores what the Stoic view on the matter implies for their theory of language, and compares their view with Aristotle’s. In the paper I aim to show that, for the Stoics, fallacies of ambiguity are complexes of propositions and sentences and thus straddle the realms of meaning (which is the domain (...)
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  11. Tim Fernando, Ambiguous Discourse in a Compositional Context.
    The processing of sequences of (English) sentences is analyzed compositionally through transitions that merge sentences, rather than decomposing them. Transitions that are in a precise sense inertial are related to disjunctive and non-deterministic approaches to ambiguity. Modal interpretations are investigated, inducing various equivalences on sequences.
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  12. Tim Fernando (1997). Ambiguity Under Changing Contexts. Linguistics and Philosophy 20 (6):575-606.
    Notions of disambiguation supporting a compositional interpretation ofvambiguous expressions and reflecting intuitions about how sentences combinevin discourse are investigated. Expressions are analyzed both inductively byvbreaking them apart, and co-inductively by embedding them within larger contexts.
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  13. Joseph S. Fulda (1991). The Logic of “Double Talk”: A Case Study in Diplomatic Deception. Journal of Literary Semantics 20 (1):53-55.
    Gives what we call "Asimov's Conjecture" that ambiguity can cause lying without lying, in that read one way a statement is tautologous, while read another way presents an iron-clad promise. Solves the conjecture on Asimov's own case by showing how the statement used (as diplomatic deception) is tautologous in propositional logic and an iron-clad promise in predicate logic (with a tense variable). The motivation for the experiment by Fulda & DeFontes (1989) and "Abstracts from Logical Form I/II (2006).".
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  14. Nina Gierasimczuk & Jakub Szymanik (2009). Branching Quantification V. Two-Way Quantification. Journal of Semantics 26 (4):329-366.
    Next SectionWe discuss the thesis formulated by Hintikka (1973) that certain natural language sentences require non-linear quantification to express their meaning. We investigate sentences with combinations of quantifiers similar to Hintikka's examples and propose a novel alternative reading expressible by linear formulae. This interpretation is based on linguistic and logical observations. We report on our experiments showing that people tend to interpret sentences similar to Hintikka sentence in a way consistent with our interpretation.
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  15. Brendan S. Gillon (1990). Ambiguity, Generality, and Indeterminacy: Tests and Definitions. [REVIEW] Synthese 85 (3):391 - 416.
    The problem addressed is that of finding a sound characterization of ambiguity. Two kinds of characterizations are distinguished: tests and definitions. Various definitions of ambiguity are critically examined and contrasted with definitions of generality and indeterminacy, concepts with which ambiguity is sometimes confused. One definition of ambiguity is defended as being more theoretically adequate than others which have been suggested by both philosophers and linguists. It is also shown how this definition of ambiguity obviates a problem thought to be posed (...)
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  16. Brendan S. Gillon (1990). Truth Theoretical Semantics and Ambiguity. Analysis 50 (3):178 - 182.
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  17. Graeme Hirst (1987). Semantic Interpretation and the Resolution of Ambiguity. Cambridge University Press.
    In this particularly well written volume Graeme Hirst presents a theoretically motivated foundation for semantic interpretation (conceptual analysis) by computer, and shows how this framework facilitates the resolution of both lexical and syntactic ambiguities.
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  18. Laurence R. Horn (1981). A Pragmatic Approach to Certain Ambiguities. Linguistics and Philosophy 4 (3):321 - 358.
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  19. Ruth M. Kempson & Annabel Cormack (1981). Ambiguity and Quantification. Linguistics and Philosophy 4 (2):259 - 309.
    In the opening sections of this paper, we defined ambiguity in terms of distinct sentences (for a single sentence-string) with, in particular, distinct sets of truth conditions for the corresponding negative sentence-string. Lexical vagueness was defined as equivalent to disjunction, for under conditions of the negation of a sentence-string containing such an expression, all the relevant more specific interpretations of the string had also to be negated. Yet in the case of mixed quantification sentences, the strengthened, more specific, interpretations of (...)
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  20. Gary H. Merrill (2009). Concepts and Synonymy in the UMLS Metathesaurus. Journal of Biomedical Discovery and Collaboration 4 (7).
    This paper advances a detailed exploration of the complex relationships among terms, concepts, and synonymy in the UMLS Metathesaurus, and proposes the study and understanding of the Metathesaurus from a model-theoretic perspective. Initial sections provide the background and motivation for such an approach, and a careful informal treatment of these notions is offered as a context and basis for the formal analysis. What emerges from this is a set of puzzles and confusions in the Metathesaurus and its literature pertaining to (...)
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  21. Reinhard Muskens (2000). Underspecified Semantics. In. In Klaus von Heusinger & Urs Egli (eds.), Reference and Anaphoric Relations. Kluwer. 311--338.
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  22. Anna Orlandini (2003). Logical, Semantic and Cultural Paradoxes. Argumentation 17 (1):65-86.
    The property common to three kinds of paradoxes (logical, semantic, and cultural) is the underlying presence of an exclusive disjunction: even when it is put to a check by the paradox, it is still invoked at the level of implicit discourse. Hence the argumentative strength of paradoxical propositions is derived. Logical paradoxes (insolubilia) always involve two contradictory, mutually exclusive, truths. One truth is always perceived to the detriment of the other, in accordance with a succession which is endlessly repetitive. A (...)
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  23. Francesco Paoli (2005). The Ambiguity of Quantifiers. Philosophical Studies 124 (3):313 - 330.
    In the tradition of substructural logics, it has been claimed for a long time that conjunction and inclusive disjunction are ambiguous:we should, in fact, distinguish between ‘lattice’ connectives (also called additive or extensional) and ‘group’ connectives (also called multiplicative or intensional). We argue that an analogous ambiguity affects the quantifiers. Moreover, we show how such a perspective could yield solutions for two well-known logical puzzles: McGee’s counterexample to modus ponens and the lottery paradox.
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  24. Richard Robinson (1941). Ambiguity. Mind 50 (198):140-155.
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  25. Wojciech Rostworowski (forthcoming). Roundabout Semantic Significance of the 'Attributive/Referential' Distinction. Kriterion - Journal of Philosophy 27 (1):30-40.
    In this paper, I argue that contrary to the approach widely taken in the literature, it is possible to retain Russell's theory of definite descriptions and grant some semantic significance to the distinction between the attributive and the referential use. The core of the argumentation is based on recognition of the so-called "roundabout" way in which the use of a definite description may be significant to the semantic features of the sentence: it is a case where the use of a (...)
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  26. Israel Scheffler (1979). Beyond the Letter: A Philosophical Inquiry Into Ambiguity, Vagueness, and Metaphor in Language. Routledge & Kegan Paul.
    Ambiguity, vagueness and metaphor are pervasive features of language, deserving of systematic study in their own right. Yet they have frequently been considered mere deviations from ideal language or obstacles to be avoided in the construction of scientific systems. First published in 1979, Beyond the Letter offers a consecutive study of these features from a philosphical point of view, providing analyses of each and treating their relations to one another. Addressed to the fundamental task of logical and semantic explanation, the (...)
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  27. Anders J. Schoubye (2012). Against the Argument From Convention. Linguistics and Philosophy 35 (6):515-532.
    In recent years, a new argument in favor of Donnellan’s (Philos Rev 77: 281–304, 1966) semantic distinction between attributive and referential descriptions has been proposed by Michael Devitt and Marga Reimer. This argument is based on two empirical premises concerning regularity of use and processing ease. This paper is an attempt to demonstrate (a) that these empirical observations are dubious and fail to license the conclusion of the argument and (b) that if the argument were sound, it would severely overgenerate. (...)
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