Mass and plural expressions show some interesting similarities, suggesting they should be analyzed in a similar way. For example, both exhibit cumulative reference, as noted by Quine (1960: 91); that is, they license inferences like those in (1): (1) a. A is water and B is water; therefore A and B together are water. b. A are apples and B are apples; therefore A and B together are apples. Singular count nouns do not license the same kind of inference; (2) (...) is invalid: (2) A is an apple and B is an apple; therefore A and B together are an apple. (shrink)
What is the relation between models, as used in model-theoretic semantics, and the “world” which models represent? More specifically, let us consider the question of whether a single individual, event, time or other element in a model might be used to represent more than one individual, event, time or other object in the real world.
I argue that sentence contents should be assigned truth-values relative to parameters other than a possible world only if those parameters are fixed by the context of assessment rather than the context of use. Standard counterexamples, including tense, de se attitudes, and knowledge ascriptions, all admit of alternative analyses which do not make use of such parameters. Moreover, allowing such indices greatly complicates the task of defining disagreement, and forces an odd separation between what is true, and what someone has (...) truthfully said. If non-world indices are always fixed by the context of assessment, a characterization of semantic theories as ?relativist? in terms of assessment-sensitivity converges with a characterization in terms of sensitivity to non-world indices. More tentatively, I suggest that even a possible world index, when used in the assignment of truth-values to sentence contents, should be fixed by the context of assessment, not the context of use. This eliminates MacFarlane's category of ?non-indexical contextualism?, and results in a system in which parameters fixed by the context of use are used only in the assignment of contents to linguistic expressions, and parameters used in the assignment of truth-values to contents are uniformly fixed by the context of assessment. (shrink)
I argue that compositionality (in the sense of homomorphic interpretation) is compatible with radical and pervasive contextual effects on interpretation. Apparent problems with this claim lose their force if we are careful in distinguishing the question of how a grammar assigns interpretations from the question of how people figure out which interpretations the grammar assigns. I demonstrate, using a simple example, that this latter task must sometimes be done not by computing a derivation defined directly by the grammar, but through (...) the use of pragmatic background knowledge and extragrammatical reasoning, even when the grammar is designed to be fully compositional. The fact that people must sometimes use global pragmatic mechanisms to identify truth conditions therefore tells us nothing about whether the grammar assigns truth conditions compositionally. Compositional interpretation (or the lack thereof) is identifiable not by the mechanisms necessary to calculating truth conditions, but by the structural relation between the interpretation of a phrase in context and the interpretations of its parts in that same context. Even if this relation varies by context, an invariant grammar is possible if grammars can “invoke” pragmatic concepts; but this does not imply that grammatical theory must explain these concepts or incorporate a theory of pragmatics. (shrink)
Recent arguments for relativist semantic theories have centered on the phenomenon of “faultless disagreement.” This paper offers independent motivation for such theories, based on the interpretation of predicates of personal taste in certain attitude contexts and presuppositional constructions. It is argued that the correct interpretation falls out naturally from a relativist theory, but requires special stipulation in a theory which appeals instead to the use of hidden indexicals; and that a hidden indexical analysis presents problems for contemporary syntactic theory.
I compare Potts’ use of a ‘‘judge’’ parameter in semantic interpretation with the use of a similar parameter in Lasersohn (2005). The latter technique portrays the content of expressives as constant across speakers, while Pott’s technique does not. The idea that the content of expressives is a kind of presupposition is also brieﬂy defended, and a technical problem in the ‘‘dynamics’’ of Pott’s formalism is pointed out.
This paper argues that truth values of sentences containing predicates of “personal taste” such as fun or tasty must be relativized to individuals. This relativization is of truth value only, and does not involve a relativization of semantic content: If you say roller coasters are fun, and I say they are not, I am negating the same content which you assert, and directly contradicting you. Nonetheless, both our utterances can be true (relative to their separate contexts). A formal semantic theory (...) is presented which gives this result by introducing an individual index, analogous to the world and time indices commonly used, and by treating the pragmatic context as supplying a particular value for this index. The context supplies this value in the derivation of truth values from content, not in the derivation of content from character. Predicates of personal taste therefore display a kind of contextual variation in interpretation which is unlike the familiar variation exhibited by pronouns and other indexicals. (shrink)
It is a truism that people speak ‘loosely’——that is, that they often say things that we can recognize not to be true, but which come close enough to the truth for practical purposes. Certain expressions. such as those including ‘exactly’, ‘all’ and ‘perfectly’, appear to serve as signals of the intended degree of approximation to the truth. This article presents a novel formalism for representing the notion of approximation to the truth, and analyzes the meanings of these expressions in terms (...) of this formalism. Pragmatic loosencss of this kind should be distinguished from authentic truth-conditional vagueness. (shrink)
Argues that certain conditional clauses are irreducibly adnominal, so that 'if' cannot be treated purely as a sentential connective. A unified analysis of adnominal if-clauses and ordinary if-clauses is possible, however, if we assume a semantic theory in which sentences denote sets of events rather than truth values.
Argues that the intuition of a truth value gap in cases of presupposition failure depends on the discourse information state, and in particular whether sufficient information is in the common ground to preclude the truth of the sentence on independent grounds; formalizes this analysis in a semantics using data lattices.