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Summary A semantics for a particular language L is a theory that maps each sentence of L onto its meaning, usually by having theorems of the appropriate form among its deductive consequences. It is standard (although controversial) to require an adequate semantics for L to be compositional – that is, to show how the meaning of each sentence of L is determined by the meanings of its basic lexical items and its syntactic structure. A central foundational question about semantics concerns its proper object of study: what features of an expression count as its semantic ones? One standard answer is that semantics should be “outward-looking” and concern itself with the word-world relational features of expressions, especially those that determine the truth-conditions of sentences. Another influential answer is that semantics should be “inward-looking” and concern itself with relationships between expressions and mental representations. Further important questions concern how linguistic meaning interacts with features of extra-linguistic context, how semantic and pragmatic phenomena are to be distinguished, and what role (if any) an adequate semantics for L should play in explaining the capacity of competent L-speakers to use and understand utterances in L.    
Key works See Davidson 1967, Soames 2009, Jackendoff 1990 and Higginbotham 1992 for important discussions of the proper object of study for semantics. Montague 1974 and Partee 1973 are crucial texts on the application of formal methods to the semantics of natural language. Devitt 2006 is a critical discussion on the role of semantic theory (and linguistics more generally) in explaining linguistic competence. Kaplan 1977 is a landmark treatment of context-sensitivity within semantic theory. Preyer & Peter 2007 and Szabó 2005 are valuable collections that discuss some of the controversies about the role of context in semantics and about how to distinguish semantics from pragmatics, respectively.
Introductions Good introductions to natural language semantics are Heim & Kratzer 1998, Larson & Segal 1995, and Chierchia & McConnell-Ginet 2000. Portner & Partee 2002 is a collection of important primary texts.
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Subcategories:History/traditions: Semantics
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  1. E. J. A. (1965). Descriptivism. [REVIEW] Review of Metaphysics 19 (1):153-153.
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  2. Jan M. G. Aarts (1979). Metaphor and Non-Metaphor: The Semantics of Adjective Noun Combinations. Niemeyer.
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  3. B. Abbott (2002). Discussion Note: Definiteness and Proper Names: Some Bad News for the Description Theory. Journal of Semantics 19 (2):191-201.
    This paper addresses some data put forward by Geurts (1997) in support of his metalinguistic or quotation theory of proper names, according to which a name N means ‘the individual named N’. The data illustrate ten linguistic behaviours claimed to be shared by proper names and definite descriptions. I argue that in some cases the behaviours have a common explanation which is based on a property independent of Geurts' analysis, and that in the remaining cases the behaviours are not actually (...)
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  4. Barbara Abbott, The Formal Approach to Meaning: Formal Semantics and its Recent Developments.
    Like Spanish moss on a live oak tree, the scientific study of meaning in language has expanded in the last 100 years, and continues to expand steadily. In this essay I want to chart some central themes in that expansion, including their histories and their important figures. Our attention will be directed toward what is called 'formal semantics', which is the adaptation to natural language of analytical techniques from logic.[1] The first, background, section of the paper will survey the changing (...)
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  5. Barbara Abbott, The Indefiniteness of Definiteness.
    This paper is about the difficulties involved in establishing criteria for definiteness. A number of possibilities are considered – traditional ones such as strength, uniqueness, and familiarity, as well as several which have been suggested in the wake of Montague’s analysis of NPs as generalized quantifiers. My tentative conclusion is that Russell’s uniqueness characteristic (suitably modified) holds up well against the others.
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  6. Barbara Abbott (2010). Reference. Oxford University Press.
    This book introduces the most important problems of reference and considers the solutions that have been proposed to explain them. Reference is at the centre of debate among linguists and philosophers and, as Barbara Abbott shows, this has been the case for centuries. She begins by examining the basic issue of how far reference is a two place (words-world) or a three place (speakers-words-world) relation. She then discusses the main aspects of the field and the issues associated with them, including (...)
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  7. Barbara Abbott (2002). Discussion Note. Journal of Semantics 19 (2):191-201.
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  8. Barbara Abbott (1997). Models, Truth and Semantics. Linguistics and Philosophy 20 (2):117-138.
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  9. E. Stanley Abbott (1917). The Dynamic Value of Content. Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Methods 14 (2):41-49.
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  10. Reuben Abel (1972). On "Form" in Art. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 32 (3):371-376.
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  11. Samu Abraham (2001). Selected Books and Articles by Ferenc Kiefer in Semantics and Pragmatics. In Robert M. Harrish & Istvan Kenesei (eds.), Perspectives on Semantics, Pragmatics, and Discourse. John Benjamins Publishing Company. 90.
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  12. S. Abramsky, D. Abusch, A. Akmajian, M. Aloni, A. Anderson, C. Anderson, P. Andrews, E. Anscombe, G. Anscombe & T. Aquinus (2005). Index of Names: Volume 28. Linguistics and Philosophy 28 (6):783-790.
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  13. M. Abrusan & B. Spector (2011). A Semantics for Degree Questions Based on Intervals: Negative Islands and Their Obviation. Journal of Semantics 28 (1):107-147.
    According to the standard analysis of degree questions (see, among others, Rullmann 1995; Beck & Rullmann 1996), the logical form of a degree question contains a variable that ranges over individual degrees and is bound by the degree question operator how. In contrast with this, we claim that the variable bound by the degree question operator how does not range over individual degrees but over intervals of degrees, by analogy with Schwarzschild and Wilkinson's (2002) proposal regarding the semantics of comparative (...)
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  14. Ahmad Abu-Akel & Alison L. Bailey (2001). Indexical and Symbolic Referencing: What Role Do They Play in Children's Success on Theory of Mind Tasks? Cognition 80 (3):263-281.
  15. Farrell Ackerman & John Moore (1999). Syntagmatic and Paradigmatic Dimensions of Causee Encodings. Linguistics and Philosophy 22 (1):1-44.
    There have been essentially two types of theoretical approaches to account for the grammatical relations associated with the causee argument of causative constructions. Ignoring the specifics of particular theories, there are transitivity based approaches in which the causee is a direct object when the embedded clause is intransitive, and an indirect object or oblique when the embedded clause is transitive. This pattern finds considerable cross-linguistic support. On the other hand, there are languages in which the causee exhibits alternative grammatical relations (...)
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  16. Robert Ackermann (1982). Context Dependent Knowledge. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 42 (3):425-433.
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  17. B. C. Adams, Ce Clifton & D. C. Mitchell (1991). Lexical Guidance in Sentence Parsing. Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society 29 (6):490-490.
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  18. Emest W. Adams (1987). On the Meaning of the Conditional. Philosophical Topics 15 (1):5-22.
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  19. Fred Adams & Kenneth Campbell (1999). Modality and Abstract Concepts. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 22 (4):610-610.
    Our concerns fall into three areas: (1) Barsalou fails to make clear what simulators are (vs. what they do); (2) activation of perceptual areas of the brain during thought does not distinguish between the activation's being constitutive of concepts or a mere causal consequence (Barsalou needs the former); and (3) Barsalou's attempt to explain how modal symbols handle abstraction fails.
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  20. Fred Adams, Robert Stecker & Gary Fuller (1993). The Floyd Puzzle: Reply to Yagisawa. Analysis 53 (1):36 - 40.
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  21. Frederick R. Adams & Kenneth Aizawa (1994). 'X' Means X: Fodor/Warfield Semantics. [REVIEW] Minds and Machines 4 (2):215-31.
    In an earlier paper, we argued that Fodorian Semantics has serious difficulties. However, we suggested possible ways that one might attempt to fix this. Ted Warfield suggests that our arguments can be deflected and he does this by making the very moves that we suggested. In our current paper, we respond to Warfield's attempts to revise and defend Fodorian Semantics against our arguments that such a semantic theory is both too strong and too weak. To get around our objections, Warfield (...)
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  22. Frederick R. Adams & Kenneth Aizawa (1993). Fodorian Semantics, Pathologies, and "Block's Problem". Minds and Machines 3 (1):97-104.
    In two recent books, Jerry Fodor has developed a set of sufficient conditions for an object “X” to non-naturally and non-derivatively mean X. In an earlier paper we presented three reasons for thinking Fodor's theory to be inadequate. One of these problems we have dubbed the “Pathologies Problem”. In response to queries concerning the relationship between the Pathologies Problem and what Fodor calls “Block's Problem”, we argue that, while Block's Problem does not threatenFodor's view, the Pathologies Problem does.
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  23. Frederick R. Adams & Kenneth Aizawa (1992). 'X' Means X: Semantics Fodor-Style. [REVIEW] Minds and Machines 2 (2):175-83.
    InPsychosemantics Jerry Fodor offered a list of sufficient conditions for a symbol “X” to mean something X. The conditions are designed to reduce meaning to purely non-intentional natural relations. They are also designed to solve what Fodor has dubbed the “disjunction problem”. More recently, inA Theory of Content and Other Essays, Fodor has modified his list of sufficient conditions for naturalized meaning in light of objections to his earlier list. We look at his new set of conditions and give his (...)
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  24. Frederick R. Adams, Robert A. Stecker & Gary Fuller (1992). The Semantics of Thought. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 73 (4):375-389.
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  25. T. Adeusz Ciecierski (2010). Varieties of Context-Dependence. In Piotr Stalmaszczyk (ed.), Philosophy of Language and Linguistics. Ontos Verlag.
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  26. Admin (2013). Now Published: Vol. V, No. 36, October 2013 – Book Symposium on François Recanati’s Mental Files, Edited by Fiora Salis. [REVIEW] Disputatio.
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  27. van Staden - South Africa (2003). Linguistic Markers of Recovery: Semantic, Syntactic and Pragmatic Changes in the Use of First Person Pronouns in the Course of Psychotherapy. In Bill Fulford, Katherine Morris, John Z. Sadler & Giovanni Stanghellini (eds.), Nature and Narrative: An Introduction to the New Philosophy of Psychiatry. Oup Oxford.
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  28. Joseph Agassi, Quanta in Context.
    The context of a scientific theory can be epistemological and methodological. Or it car be metaphysical, relating to the intellectual framework within which we cast it. Or it can be intertheoretical, both synchronically and diachronically. My concern here will be mainly diachronical -- the historical context of quantum theory, what is required of it vis -a-vis that context and how well it fulfills this requirement. But I shall come to this only at the later part of this essay. I shall (...)
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  29. Manuel Aguirre (1976). Factuality and Modality. Universitaire Instelling Antwerpen, Departementen Ger & Rom, Afd. Linguis̈tiek.
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  30. David D. Ahn (2005). Presupposition Incorporation in Adverbial Quantifier Domains. In Emar Maier, Corien Bary & Janneke Huitink (eds.), Proceedings of Sub9. 16--29.
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  31. Alexandra Aikhenvald (2004). Evidentiality. Oxford University Press.
    Of interest to any grammarian, the book discusses evidentiality, and the cognitive and sociolinguistic consequences of evidentiality in a language.
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  32. A. I͡U Aĭkhenvalʹd (2004). Evidentiality. Oxford University Press.
    In some languages every statement must contain a specification of the type of evidence on which it is based: for example, whether the speaker saw it, or heard it, or inferred it from indirect evidence, or learnt it from someone else. This grammatical reference to information source is called 'evidentiality', and is one of the least described grammatical categories. Evidentiality systems differ in how complex they are: some distinguish just two terms (eyewitness and noneyewitness, or reported and everything else), while (...)
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  33. Rose-Marie Alarcon (2010). Poetry and Music. Baudelaire Et Fauré : Du Sens Poetique au Sens Musical. In Pierre-Alexis Mevel & Helen Tattam (eds.), Language and its Contexts: Transposition and Transformation of Meaning? = le Langage Et Ses Contexts: Transposition Et Transformation du Sens? Peter Lang.
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  34. M. F. Alefirenko (2005). Spornye Problemy Semantiki. Gnōsis.
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  35. M. F. Alefirenko (2004). Problemy Frazeologicheskogo Znachenii͡a I Smysla: V Aspekte Mezhurovnevogo Vzaimodeĭstvii͡a I͡azykovykh Edinit͡s: Monografii͡a. Izdatelʹskiĭ Dom "Astrakhanskiĭ Universitet".
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  36. Peter Alexander (1956). Complementary Descriptions. Mind 65 (258):145-165.
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  37. Maes Alfons (1997). Referent Ontology and Centering in Discourse. Journal of Semantics 14 (3).
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  38. Syed S. Ali & Stuart C. Shapiro (1993). Natural Language Processing Using a Propositional Semantic Network with Structured Variables. Minds and Machines 3 (4):421-451.
    We describe a knowledge representation and inference formalism, based on an intensional propositional semantic network, in which variables are structures terms consisting of quantifier, type, and other information. This has three important consequences for natural language processing. First, this leads to an extended, more natural formalism whose use and representations are consistent with the use of variables in natural language in two ways: the structure of representations mirrors the structure of the language and allows re-use phenomena such as pronouns and (...)
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  39. Kathryn Allan & Justyna A. Robinson (eds.) (2011). Current Methods in Historical Semantics. De Gruyter Mouton.
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  40. Keith Allan (2001). Natural Language Semantics. Blackwell.
    This volume offers a general introduction to the field of semantics and provides coverage of the main perspectives.
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  41. Keith Allan (1986). Interpreting English Comparatives. Journal of Semantics 5 (1):1-50.
    This paper attempts to clarify the way in which we interpret English comparatives. It shows that recognition of a comparative depends primarily on the recognition of the comparative operator, cl. The cl has two constituents (1) a comparative marker which, because there are less than a dozen of them, makes cl readily recognizable; and (2) a scale marker. I argue that comparisons are made on a particular scale, and that scales have a supra end and a sub end; the scale (...)
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  42. Keith Allan (1986). Linguistic Meaning. Routledge & Kegan Paul.
    Chapter Beginning an account of linguistic meaning: speaker, hearer, context, and utterance Pity the poor analyst, who has to do the best he can with ...
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  43. Ramsay Allan (1992). Presuppositions and Wh-Clauses. Journal of Semantics 9 (3).
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  44. James F. Allen (1993). Bbvrlp> Fmraflbivhlbhhrnnehkei. Journal of Semantics 10.
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  45. Jens Allwood (1981). On the Distinctions Between Semantics and Pragmatics. In W. Klein & W. Levelt (eds.), Crossing the Boundaries in Linguistics. Reidel. 177--189.
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  46. Jens Allwood, Joakim Nivre & Elisabeth Ahlsén (1992). On the Semantics and Pragmatics of Linguistic Feedback. Journal of Semantics 9 (1):1-26.
    This paper is an exploration in the semantics and pragmatics of linguistic feedback, i. e. linguistic mechanisms which enable the participants in spoken interaction to exchange information about basic communicative functions, such as contact, perception, understanding, and attitudinal reactions to the communicated content. Special attention is given to the type of reaction conveyed by feedback utterances, the communicative status of the information conveyed (i. e. the level of awareness and intentionality of the communicating sender), and the context sensitivity of feedback (...)
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  47. Jan Almäng (2014). Tense as a Feature of Perceptual Content. Journal of Philosophy 111 (7):361-378.
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  48. J. Almog (1997). The Complexity of Marketplace Logic. Linguistics and Philosophy 20 (5):549-569.
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  49. Joseph Almog (2009). David Kaplan: The Man at Work. In Joseph Almog & Paolo Leonardi (eds.), The Philosophy of David Kaplan. Oxford University Press. 1.
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  50. Joseph Almog (1989). Logic and the World. Journal of Philosophical Logic 18 (2):197 - 220.
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