David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Word meaning confronts us, as acutely as anything in syntax, with what Chomsky has called Plato’s problem.1 We know far more about the meaning of almost any word than we could have learned just from our exposure to uses of it. Communication would be unbearably laborious if we did not share with other speakers the ability to generalize the meanings of words in the right ways. As Fodor (1981) notes in arguing for the innateness of lexical semantics, the most we might plausibly have learned about meaning of the verb paint is that it means something like “to cover with paint”. Even if we have only seen this done with a brush, we have no hesitation in applying the verb correctly to novel techniques of painting, such as rolling, spraying, or dipping. But when a vat of paint explodes in a paint factory, covering everyone with paint, or when Vel´.
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Phillip Wolff (2003). Direct Causation in the Linguistic Coding and Individuation of Causal Events. Cognition 88 (1):1-48.
David Barner, Laura Wagner & Jesse Snedeker (2008). Events and the Ontology of Individuals: Verbs as a Source of Individuating Mass and Count Nouns. Cognition 106 (2):805-832.
Mahesh Srinivasan & David Barner (2013). The Amelia Bedelia Effect: World Knowledge and the Goal Bias in Language Acquisition. Cognition 128 (3):431-450.
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