We advocate and develop a states-based semantics for both nominal and adjectival confidence reports, as in "Ann is confident/has confidence that it's raining", and their comparatives "Ann is more confident/has more confidence that it's raining than that it's snowing". Other examples of adjectives that can report confidence include "sure" and "certain". Our account adapts Wellwood's account of adjectival comparatives in which the adjectives denote properties of states, and measure functions are introduced compositionally. We further explore the prospects of applying these (...) tools to the semantics of probability operators. We emphasize three desirable and novel features of our semantics: (i) probability claims only exploit qualitative resources unless there is explicit compositional pressure for quantitative resources; (ii) the semantics applies to both probabilistic adjectives (e.g., "likely") and probabilistic nouns (e.g., "probability"); (iii) the semantics can be combined with an account of belief reports that allows thinkers to have incoherent probabilistic beliefs (e.g. thinking that A & B is more likely than A) even while validating the relevant purely probabilistic claims (e.g. validating the claim that A & B is never more likely than A). Finally, we explore the interaction between confidence-reporting discourse (e.g., "I am confident that...") and belief-reports about probabilistic discourse (e.g.,"I think it's likely that.."). (shrink)
A language is a system of signs used for communication, and linguists are tasked with, among other things, uncovering the syntax and semantics of such systems. In this paper I explore to what extent pictures fit this characterization of a language and hence would fall within the domain of linguistics. I conclude that at the very least there are well-defined systems of depiction for which we can give a precise semantics, in a familiar possible worlds framework, although pictorial propositions are (...) not derived via the linguistically familiar lexicon and recursive composition rules, but via geometric projection. I then show how sequences of pictures, like sequences of utterances, can be used to form coherent discourses. I explore in some detail extensions of the formal discourse semantics of Segmented Discourse Representation Theory to deal with comics, i.e. storytelling through picture sequences. I focus specifically on the representation of events in comics, and the integration of both symbolic and iconic elements. (shrink)
There is a common assumption in the semantics of modal auxiliaries in natural language; in utterances of MOD φ , where MOD is a modal and φ is the prejacent, context determines the particular flavor of modality expressed by the modal. Such is the standard contextualist semantics of Kratzer and related proposals. This winds up being a problem, because there is a significant class of modals which have constraints on the admissible modal flavor that are not traceable to context. For (...) example, in MUST φ , subsentential properties of φ, like the aspectual class of the predicate in the prejacent, can affect the flavor of MUST. By encoding the above assumption into the semantics, such contextualist accounts fail to be able to explain, much less to predict, this pattern. Worse yet, attempts to exploit the resources of the theory in service of an explanation run afoul of important commitments of the view, like the hypothesis that modals have a uniform semantics. Given these circumstances, these data might seem like a justification for dispensing with the uniformity hypothesis. The present paper lays out the above problem in detail. Against the pessimistic view, I argue that the the contextualist account can in fact explain and predict these patterns while preserving the uniformity hypothesis. This requires adopting an amendment to the semantics of modals based on the work of Valentine Hacquard. Aside from maintaining the contextualist paradigm and preserving uniformity, the proposal also clarifies the role of context in the interpretation of modals. As it will turn out, the role of context ought to be circumscribed in its flavor-determining role for modals. (shrink)
A long-standing tension in semantic theory concerns the reconciliation of positive gradable adjective (GA) ascriptions and comparative GA ascriptions. Vagueness-based ap- proaches derive the comparative from the positive, and face non-trivial challenges with incommensurability and non-GA comparatives. Classic degree-based approaches effectively derive the positive from the comparative, out of sync with the direction of evidence from morphology, and create some difficulties in accounting for GA scale-mates with differing thresholds (e.g., cold ∼ warm ∼ hot). We propose a new reconciliation that (...) capitalizes on recent proposals analyzing GAs as predicates of states. On our account, GAs lexically involve both a threshold property and a background state structure. Positive occurrences of GAs make use of the threshold property, while comparative occurrences make use of degrees representing elements of the background structure. Our approach preserves the virtues of classic degree-based approaches while offering a natural account of scale-mates, and without appeal to covert morphemes like POS or related devices. As we show, it is possible to inject our solution back into the classic degree-based approach, but we find reasons to prefer our states-based account. (shrink)
Recent advances in the Super Linguistics of pictures have laid the Super Semantic foundation for modelling the phenomena of narrative sequencing and co-reference in pictorial and mixed linguistic-pictorial discourses. We take up the question of how one arrives at the pragmatic interpretations of such discourses. In particular, we offer an analysis of: (i) the discourse composition problem: how to represent the joint meaning of a multi-picture discourse, (ii) observed differences in narrative sequencing in prima facie equivalent linguistic vs pictorial discourses, (...) and (iii) the phenomenon of co-referencing across pictures. We extend Segmented Discourse Representation Theory to spell out a formal Super Pragmatics that applies to linguistic, pictorial and mixed discourses, while respecting the particular ‘genius’ of either medium and computing their distinctive pragmatic interpretations. (shrink)
A partir de una discusión de la gramática lógica de Davidson para oraciones de acción, propongo una caracterización funcional de la predicación y la referencia como estructuras semánticas. En contradicción con Davidson y apoyado por sugerencias de Strawson, Evans y Chomsky sostendré que la distinción entre oraciones de acción y otras oraciones no reside en la introducción de un nuevo tipo de objetos de referencia que permitan la aplicación de predicados especiales. Dichas oraciones, sostendré, son casos paradigmáticos de una nueva (...) clase de predicación aplicada a los objetos a los que nos referimos cotidianamente. De acuerdo con esta nueva concepción, los fenómenos de referencia y predicación están indisolublemente asociados con patrones de inferencia y no con valores semánticos obtenidos por aplicación de secuencias de satisfacción. (shrink)
We examine the Doubly Inflected Construction of Sicilian (DIC; Cardinaletti and Giusti 2001, 2003, Cruschina 2013), in which a motion verb V1 from a restricted set is followed by an event verb V2 and both verbs are inflected for the same person and tense features. The interpretation of DIC involves a complex event which behaves as a single, integrated event by linguistic tests. Based on data drawn from different sources, we argue that DIC is an asymmetrical serial verb construction (Aikhenvald (...) 2006). We propose an analysis of DIC in which V1 and V2 enter the semantic composition as lexical verbs, with V1 contributing a motion event and projecting a theme and a goal argument which are identified, respectively, with an agent and a location argument projected by V2. A morphosyntactic mechanism of feature-spread requires that the person and tense features be realized both on V1 and on V2, while, semantically, these features are interpreted only once, in a position from which they take scope over the complex predicate resulting from the combination of V1 and V2. The semantic analysis is based on an operation of event concatenation, defined over spatio-temporally contiguous events which share specific participants, and is implemented in a neo-Davidsonian framework (Parsons 1990). (shrink)
This book marks the first publication of celebrated philosopher Donald Davidson's 1970 Locke Lectures. In detailing his work on the theory of meaning, the role of a truth theory, the ontological commitments of a truth theory, and the notion of logical form, these lectures offer a rare insight into Davidson's thought at a key moment in his career.
This paper argues for the philosophical and semantic importance of attitudinal objects, entities such as judgments, claims, beliefs, demands, and desires, as an ontological category distinct from that of events and states and from that of propositions. The paper presents significant revisions and refinements of the notion of an attitudinal object as it was developed in my previous work.
NPs with intensional relative clauses such as 'the book John needs to write' pose a significant challenge for semantic theory. Such NPs act like referential terms, yet they do not stand for a particular actual object. This paper will develop a semantic analysis of such NPs on the basis of the notion of a variable object. The analysis avoids a range of difficulties that a more standard analysis based on the notion of an individual concept would face. Most importantly, unlike (...) the latter, the proposed analysis can be carried over NPs such as 'the number of people that fit into the bus', which describe tropes (particularized properties). (shrink)
Graham Priest proposed an argument for the conclusion that ‘nothing’ occurs as a singular term and not as a quantifier in a sentence like (1) ‘The cosmos came into existence out of nothing’. Priest's point is that, intuitively, (1) entails (C) ‘The cosmos came into existence at some time’, but this entailment relation is left unexplained if ‘nothing’ is treated as a quantifier. If Priest is right, the paradoxical notion of an object that is nothing plays a role in our (...) very understanding of reality. In this note, we argue that Priest's argument is unsound: the intuitive entailment relation between (1) and (C) does not offer convincing evidence that ‘nothing’ occurs as a term in (1). Moreover, we provide an explanation of why (1) is naturally taken to entail (C), which is both plausible and consistent with the standard, quantificational treatment of ‘nothing’. (shrink)
This paper develops an account of mood selection with attitude predicates in French. I start by examining the “contextual commitment” account of mood developed by Portner and Rubinstein Proceedings of SALT 22, CLC Publications, Ithaca, NY, pp 461–487, 2012). A key innovation of Portner and Rubinstein’s account is to treat mood selection as fundamentally depending on a relation between individuals’ attitudes and the predicate’s modal backgrounds. I raise challenges for P&R’s qualitative analysis of contextual commitment and explanations of mood selection. (...) There are indicative-selecting predicates that are felicitous in contexts where there isn’t contextual commitment ; and there are subjunctive-selecting predicates that involve no less contextual commitment than certain indicative-selecting verbs. I develop an alternative account of verbal mood. The general approach, which I call a state-of-mind approach, is to analyze mood in terms of whether the formal relation between the predicate’s modal backgrounds and an overall state of mind represents a relation of commitment. Indicative mood in French presupposes that the informational-evaluative state determined by the predicate’s modal backgrounds is included in the informational-evaluative state characterizing the event described by the predicate. The account provides an improved explanation of core mood-selection puzzles, including subjunctive-selection with emotive factives, indicative-selection with fiction verbs, indicative-selection with espérer ‘hope’ versus subjunctive-selection with vouloir ‘want’, and indicative-selection with commissives versus subjunctive-selection with directives. Subjunctive-selection with modal adjectives is briefly considered. The mood-selection properties of the predicates are derived from the proposed analysis of mood, independently attested features of the predicates’ semantics, and general principles of interpretation. (shrink)
This is the first in a pair of papers that aim to provide a comprehensive analysis of the semantic phenomenon of distributivity in natural language. This paper investigates and formalizes different sources of covert distributivity. Apart from lexical distributivity effects, which are modeled by meaning postulates, phrasal distributivity is captured via two covert operators: (i) a D operator distributing over atoms only (Link 1987), and (ii) a cover-based Part operator, which can also distribute over non-atomic pluralities under contextual licensing (Schwarzschild (...) 1996). The resulting theory surpasses accounts in which nonatomic distributivity is freely available, or not available at all; furthermore, it correctly predicts differences between lexical and phrasal nonatomic distributivity. D and Part are reformulated in Neo-Davidsonian algebraic event semantics, so that they apply to event predicates and make the sum event available for further modification by arguments and adjuncts. This paves the way for an account of the context-dependency of distributivity phenomena under for-adverbials, which improves on theories that predict indefinites to either always or never covary with for-adverbials. The paper and its companion include an explicit proposal for the compositional process in event semantics. (shrink)
By considering Davidson’s analysis of prepositions as defining individual events predicates, I argue against his semantics for action sentences and stress some logico-linguistic puzzles concerning both the interpretive pretension and the referential indifference of this proposal. Inspired by Evans as well as by Grice, I advance another interpretive semantics for those cases which does not take as assumption the individual character of events and argue for a constructivist approach to events in action discourse.
This paper defends a distinction between ‘abstract states’ and ‘concrete states’, following Maienborn (2005, 2007) in her account of the peculiar semantic behavior of stative verbs. The paper proposes an ontological account of the notion of an abstract state and discusses how it relates to the notion of a trope or particularized property, which has so far been neglected in the semantic literature on stative verbs.
This paper explores a novel analysis of adjectives in the comparative and the positive based on the notion of a trope, rather than the notion of a degree. Tropes are particularized properties, concrete manifestations of properties in individuals. The point of departure is that a sentence like ‘John is happier than Mary’ is intuitively equivalent to ‘John’s happiness exceeds Mary’s happiness’, a sentence that expresses a simple comparison between two tropes, John’s happiness and Mary’s happiness. The analysis received particular support (...) from various parallels between adjectival constructions and corresponding adjective nominalizations which make reference to tropes. (shrink)
We propose a formalization of a realist ontology using first order logic with identity and allowing quantification over terms representing both individuals and universals. In addition to identity, the ontology includes also relational predicates such as subtype, instantiation, parthood, location, and inherence. Inspired in part by Davidson’s treatment of events, the ontology includes also various relations linking events to their participants and to the times at which they occur.
Nominalizations are expressions that are particularly challenging philosophically in that they help form singular terms that seem to refer to abstract or derived objects often considered controversial. The three standard views about the semantics of nominalizations are  that they map mere meanings onto objects,  that they refer to implicit arguments, and  that they introduce new objects, in virtue of their compositional semantics. In the second case, nominalizations do not add anything new but pick up objects that would (...) be present anyway in the semantic structure of a corresponding sentence without a nominalization. In the first and third case, nominalizations in a sense ‘create’ new objects’, enriching the ontology on the basis of the meaning of expressions. I will argue that there is a fourth kind of nominalization which requires a quite different treatment. These are nominalizations that introduce ‘new’ objects, but only partially characterize them. Such nominalizations generally refer to events or tropes. I will explore an account according on which such nominalizations refer to truth makers. (shrink)
Most event-referring expressions are vague; it is utterly difficult, if not impossible, to specify the exact spatiotemporal location of an event from the words that we use to refer to it. We argue that in spite of certain prima facie obstacles, such vagueness can be given a purely semantic (broadly supervaluational) account.
This paper aims at discussing the usage by Davidson as to events of Quine's criterion of ontological commitment. According to Davidson, we are ontologically committed to the existence of events as individuals as we employ literally terms such as ‘Caesar’s death’, for instance. Davidson extends this analysis to actions as well, since actions are human events. One of the consequences of this view is that psychology deals with individual events in a non-lawful way. An alternative view is here proposed, based (...) on a complementary criterion, namely ontological density, according to which from the point of view of a given theory, we can always distinguish between events (or phenomena) and individuals (entities) among the overall occurrences described by the theory. Some consequences of this alternative view of psychology as a science dealing lawfully with general human events are also explored here. (shrink)
The idea that an adequate semantics of ordinary language calls for some theory of events has sparked considerable debate among linguists and philosophers. On the one hand, so many linguistic phenomena appear to be explained if (and, according to some authors, only if) we make room for logical forms in which reference to or quantification over events is explicitly featured. Examples include nominalization, adverbial modification, tense and aspect, plurals, and singular causal statements. On the other hand, a number of deep (...) philosophical questions arise as soon as we take events into consideration. Are events entities of a kind? What are their identity and individuation criteria? How does semantic theorizing depend on such metaphysical issues? The aim of this book is to address such issues in some depth, with emphasis precisely on the interplay between linguistic applications and philosophical implications. Contributors: N. Asher, P. M. Bertinetto, J. Brandl, D. Delfitto, R. Eckardt, J. Higginbotham, A. Lenci, T. Parsons, A. ter Meulen, H. Verkuyl. A comprehensive introductory essay (pp. 3-47) is included. (shrink)
A critical review of the main themes arising out of recent literature on the semantics of ordinary event talk. The material is organized in four sections: (i) the nature of events, with emphasis on the opposition between events as particulars and events as universals; (ii) identity and indeterminacy, with emphasis on the unifier/multiplier controversy; (iii) events and logical form, with emphasis on Davidson’s treatment of the form of action sentences; (iv) linguistic applications, with emphasis on issues concerning aspectual phenomena, the (...) telicity/atelicity distinction, the treatment of statives, and temporal quantification. (shrink)
Temporal reference in natural language is inherently context dependent: what counts as a moment in one context may be structurally analysed in another context, and vice versa. In this note we outline a way of accounting for this phenomenon within event-based semantics.
It is widely believed that existential quantifiers can bring about the semantic effects of a scope which is wider than their actual syntactic scope (See Fodor & Sag (1982), Cresti (1995), Kratzer (1995), Reinhart (1995) and Winter (1995), among many others.) On the other hand, it is assumed that the syntactic scope of universal quantifiers can be determined unequivocally by the semantics. This paper shows that this second assumption is wrong; universal quantifiers can also bring about scope illusions, though in (...) a very specific environment. In particular, we argue that in the environment of generic tense, universal quantifiers can show the semantic effects of a scope which is wider than the one that is actually realized at LF. Our argument has four steps. First, we show that in generic contexts, universal quantifiers escape standard “scope-islands” (Section 1). Second, we show how the effects of wide scope in generic contexts can be achieved without syntactic wide scope (Section 2.1). Third, we show that this result is actually forced on us, once we take seriously certain independent issues concerning the interpretation of generic tense (Sections 2.2 - 2.4). Finally, the semantics of generic tense and, in particular, its interaction with focus, will yield some intricate new predictions, which, as we show, are borne out (Sections 3 - 5). (shrink)
To what in reality do the logically simple sentences with empirical content correspond? Two extreme positions can be distinguished in this regard: 'Great Fact' theories, such as are defended by Davidson; and trope-theories, which see such sentences being made the simply by those events or states to which the relevant main verbs correspond. A position midway between these two extremes is defended, one according to which sentences of the given sort are made tme by what are called 'dependence structures', or (...) in other words by certain complex concrete portions of reality between the parts of which relations of dependence are defined. Principles governing such dependence-structures are laid down, principles of an ontologically motivated sort which serve as basis for a topological semantics conceived as an altemative to standard set-theoretic approaches to semantics of the Tarskian sort. These principles are then used to resolve certain puzzles generated by the (semantically motivated) theory of events put forward by Davidson. (shrink)
The article shows that the arugument of a verb can be projected in diffrent ways according to the meaning (agentive or not) of the predicate. An analysis is developed which suggests a modification of the projection principle according to which this principle is in part an interpretative principle, not a principle of the core grammmar.
In this paper, I argue that not only PPs and adverbs can act as predicates of the event argument of the verb, but certain NPs and certain clauses can, as well. I will give syntactic and semantic arguments that NPs that are cognate objects and clauses of (at least some) nonbridge verbs are optional predicates of the event argument of the verb. With respect to clauses, I will argue that for independent reasons the meaning of both independent and embedded sentences (...) can be construed as event-properties, namely as properties of intentional events. (shrink)