Semantic competence and truth-conditional semantics

Erkenntnis 28 (1):3 - 27 (1988)
Davidson approaches the notions of meaning and interpretation with the aim of characterizing semantic competence in the syntactically characterized natural language. The objective is to provide a truth-theory for a language, generating T-sentences expressed in the semantic metalanguage, so that each sentence of the object language receives an appropriate interpretation. Proceeding within the constraints of referential semantics, I will argue for the viability of reconstructing the notion of linguistic meaning within the Tarskian theory of reference. However, the view proposed here involves a revision of Davidson’s con-ception of the object of semantic investigation. Taking (idealized) language-theories as the proper object of semantic characterization, provides solutions to outstanding problems in Davidson’s views, better approximates the practice in standard model-theoretic semantics, and incorporates the elements of semantic competence sought for in tradi¬tional theories of lexical analysis. Sources of evidence beyond those emphasized by Davidson will be invoked in order to allow for the selection of interpre¬tive T-sentences. In the final section, possible Quinean objections will be considered.
Keywords Davidson  meaning  reference  radical translation
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