In an insightful and provocative paper, Jessica Rett (2006) claims that attempts to locate the (non-indexical, non-demonstrative) semantic contributions of context in syntax run into problems respecting compositionality. This is an especially biting problem for hidden indexical theorists such as Stanley (2000, 2002) who deploy hidden variables to provide a compositional theory of semantic interpretation. Fortunately for the hidden indexical theorists, her attack fails, albeit in interesting and subtle ways. The following paper is divided into four sections. Section I presents (...) a skeletal version of Rett’s argument. Those already familiar with Rett (2006) can skip ahead without shame. Section II offers a .. (shrink)
This paper considers the connections between semantic shiftiness (plasticity), epistemic safety and an epistemic theory of vagueness as presented and defended by Williamson (1996a, b, 1997a, b). Williamson explains ignorance of the precise intension of vague words as rooted in insensitivity to semantic shifts: one’s inability to detect small shifts in intension for a vague word results in a lack of knowledge of the word’s intension. Williamson’s explanation, however, falls short of accounting for ignorance of intension.
Some left-nested indicative conditionals are hard to interpret while others seem fine. Some proponents of the view that indicative conditionals have No Truth Values (NTV) use their view to explain why some left-nestings are hard to interpret: the embedded conditional does not express the truth conditions needed by the embedding conditional. Left-nestings that seem fine are then explained away as cases of ad hoc, pragmatic interpretation. We challenge this explanation. The standard reasons for NTV about indicative conditionals (triviality results, Gibbardian (...) standoffs, etc.) extend naturally to NTV about biconditionals. So NTVers about conditionals should also be NTVers about biconditionals. But biconditionals embed much more freely than conditionals. If NTV explains why some left-nested conditionals are hard to interpret, why do biconditionals embed successfully in the very contexts where conditionals do not embed? (shrink)
Attempts to characterize unarticulated constituents (henceforth: UCs) by means of quantification over the parts of a sentence and the constituents of the proposition it expresses come to grief in more complicated cases than are commonly considered. In particular, UC definitions are inadequate when we consider cases in which the same constituent appears more than once in a proposition that only has one word with the constituent as its semantic value. This article explores some consequences of trying to repair the formal (...) definitions. (shrink)
What is the proper way to draw the semantics-pragmatics distinction, and is what is said by a speaker ever enriched by pragmatics? An influential but controversial answer to the latter question is that the inputs to semantic interpretation contains representations of every contribution from context that is relevant to determining what is said, and that pragmatics never enriches the output of semantic interpretation. The proposal is bolstered by a controversial argument from syntactic binding designed to detect hidden syntactic structure. The (...) following contains an exposition and consideration of the argument. (shrink)
Donnellan (1966) makes a convincing case for two distinct uses ofdefinite descriptions. But does the difference between the usesreflects an ambiguity in the semantics of descriptions? This paperapplies a linguistic test for ambiguity to argue that the differencebetween the uses is not semantically significant.