David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Ezio Di Nucci
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Synthese 174 (1):79--98 (2010)
Color adjectives have played a central role in work on language typology and variation, but there has been relatively little investigation of their meanings by researchers in formal semantics. This is surprising given the fact that color terms have been at the center of debates in the philosophy of language over foundational questions, in particular whether the idea of a compositional, truth-conditional theory of natural language semantics is even coherent. The challenge presented by color terms is articulated in detail in the work of Charles Travis. Travis argues that structurally isomorphic sentences containing color adjectives can shift truth value from context to context depending on how they are used and in the absence of effects of vagueness or ambiguity/polysemy, and concludes that a deterministic mapping from structures to truth conditions is impossible. The goal of this paper is to provide a linguistic perspective on this issue, which we believe defuses Travis’ challenge. We provide empirical arguments that color adjectives are in fact ambiguous between gradable and nongradable interpretations, and that this simple ambiguity, together with independently motivated options concerning scalar dimension within the gradable reading accounts for the Travis facts in a simpler, more constrained, and thus ultimately more successful fashion than recent contextualist analyses such as those in Szabó (Perspectives on semantics, pragmatics and discourse: A festschrift for Ferenc Kiefer, 2001) or Rothschild and Segal (Mind Lang, 2009).
|Keywords||philpapers: predicates and context-dependence|
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References found in this work BETA
W. V. Quine (1960). Word and Object. The MIT Press.
Brent Berlin & Paul Kay (1999). Basic Color Terms: Their Universality and Evolution. Center for the Study of Language and Inf.
Christopher Kennedy (2007). Vagueness and Grammar: The Semantics of Relative and Absolute Gradable Adjectives. [REVIEW] Linguistics and Philosophy 30 (1):1 - 45.
Daniel Rothschild & Gabriel Segal (2009). Indexical Predicates. Mind and Language 24 (4):467-493.
Charles Travis (1985). On What Is Strictly Speaking True. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 15 (2):187 - 229.
Citations of this work BETA
Teresa Marques (2014). Doxastic Disagreement. Erkenntnis 79 (1):121-142.
Nat Hansen & Emmanuel Chemla (2013). Experimenting on Contextualism. Mind and Language 28 (3):286-321.
Mario Gómez‐Torrente (2014). Perceptual Variation, Color Language, and Reference Fixing. An Objectivist Account. Noûs 49 (3):3-40.
Peter Lasersohn (2011). Context, Relevant Parts and (Lack of) Disagreement Over Taste. [REVIEW] Philosophical Studies 156 (3):433-439.
Nat Hansen (2012). J. L. Austin and Literal Meaning. European Journal of Philosophy 20 (4):617-632.
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Charles Travis (1997). Pragmatics. In Bob Hale & Crispin Wright (eds.), A Companion to the Philosophy of Language. Blackwell 87--107.
Berit Brogaard (2010). Perspectival Truth and Color Primitivism. In Cory D. Wright & Nikolaj J. L. L. Pedersen (eds.), New Waves in Truth. Palgrave Macmillan 1--34.
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