The formal approach to meaning: Formal semantics and its recent developments
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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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. The first, background, section of the paper will survey the changing attitudes of linguists toward semantics into the last third of the century. The second and third sections will examine current formal approaches to meaning. In the final section I will summarize some of the common assumptions of the approaches examined in the middle sections of the paper, sketch a few alternatives, and make some daring predictions
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