About this topic
Summary A semantics for a particular language L is a theory that maps each sentence of L onto its meaning, usually by having theorems of the appropriate form among its deductive consequences. It is standard (although controversial) to require an adequate semantics for L to be compositional – that is, to show how the meaning of each sentence of L is determined by the meanings of its basic lexical items and its syntactic structure. A central foundational question about semantics concerns its proper object of study: what features of an expression count as its semantic ones? One standard answer is that semantics should be “outward-looking” and concern itself with the word-world relational features of expressions, especially those that determine the truth-conditions of sentences. Another influential answer is that semantics should be “inward-looking” and concern itself with relationships between expressions and mental representations. Further important questions concern how linguistic meaning interacts with features of extra-linguistic context, how semantic and pragmatic phenomena are to be distinguished, and what role (if any) an adequate semantics for L should play in explaining the capacity of competent L-speakers to use and understand utterances in L.    
Key works See Davidson 1967, Soames 2009, Jackendoff 1990 and Higginbotham 1992 for important discussions of the proper object of study for semantics. Montague 1974 and Partee 1973 are crucial texts on the application of formal methods to the semantics of natural language. Devitt 2006 is a critical discussion on the role of semantic theory (and linguistics more generally) in explaining linguistic competence. Kaplan 1989 is a landmark treatment of context-sensitivity within semantic theory. Preyer & Peter 2007 and Szabó 2005 are valuable collections that discuss some of the controversies about the role of context in semantics and about how to distinguish semantics from pragmatics, respectively.
Introductions Good introductions to natural language semantics are Heim & Kratzer 1998, Larson & Segal 1995, and Chierchia & McConnell-Ginet 2000. Portner & Partee 2002 is a collection of important primary texts.
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Subcategories:History/traditions: Semantics

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  1. Kripkeans of the World, Unite!Farjana Islam & Giosuè Baggio - 2020 - Journal of Semantics 37 (2):297-309.
    This paper revisits a study by Machery et al., suggesting that, in experimental versions of Kripke’s fictional cases on the use of proper names, Westerners are more likely than East Asian participants to show intuitions compatible with Kripke’s causal-historical theory of reference. We conducted two experiments, recruting participants from Norway and Bangladesh, either in English or in the participants’ native languages, using modified cases and a new approach to data analysis. We replicated the results of Machery et al., but we (...)
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  2. A Causal Semantics of IS Generics.Robert van Rooij & Katrin Schulz - 2020 - Journal of Semantics 37 (2):269-295.
    The felicity, or acceptability, of IS generics, i.e. generic sentences with indefinite singulars, is considerably more restricted compared to BP generics, generics with bare plurals. The goal of this paper is to account for the limited felicity of IS generics compared to BP generics, on the one hand, while preserving the close similarity between the two types of generics, on the other. We do so by proposing a causal analysis of IS generics, and show that this corresponds closely with a (...)
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  3. Do Children Interpret ‘or’ Conjunctively?Dimitrios Skordos, Roman Feiman, Alan Bale & David Barner - 2020 - Journal of Semantics 37 (2):247-267.
    Preschoolers often struggle to compute scalar implicatures involving disjunction, in which they are required to strengthen an utterance by negating stronger alternatives, e.g. to infer that, ‘The girl has an apple or an orange’ likely means she does not have both. However, recent reports surprisingly find that a substantial subset of children interpret disjunction as conjunction, concluding instead that the girl must have both fruits. According to these studies, children arrive at conjunctive readings not because they have a non-adult-like semantics, (...)
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  4. Disjunction Triggers Exhaustivity Implicatures in 4- to 5-Year-Olds: Investigating the Role of Access to Alternatives.Nicole Gotzner, David Barner & Stephen Crain - 2020 - Journal of Semantics 37 (2):219-245.
    Children’s difficulty deriving scalar implicatures has been attributed to a variety of factors including processing limitations, an inability to access scalar alternatives, and pragmatic tolerance. The present research explores the nature of children’s difficulty by investigating a previously unexplored kind of inference—an exhaustivity implicature that is triggered by disjunction. We reasoned that if children are able to draw quantity implicatures but have difficulties accessing alternative lexical expressions from a scale, then they should perform better on exhaustivity implicatures than on scalar (...)
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  5. Function Alternations of the Mandarin Particle Dou: Distributor, Free Choice Licensor, and ‘Even’.Yimei Xiang - 2020 - Journal of Semantics 37 (2):171-217.
    Many languages have particles that possess multiple logical functions. Take the Mandarin particle dou for example. Varying by the item it is associated with and the prosodic pattern of the environment it appears in, dou can trigger a distributivity effect, license a pre-verbal free choice item, or evoke an even-like inference. Considering universal grammar a simple system, we need to figure out, for a multi-functional particle, which of its functions is primary, what parametric variations are responsible for the alternations in (...)
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  6. The Birth of Semantics.Richard Kimberly Heck & Robert May - forthcoming - Journal for the History of Analytical Philosophy.
    We attempt here to trace the evolution of Frege's thought about truth. What most frames the way we approach the problem is a recognition that hardly any of Frege's most familiar claims about truth appear in his earliest work. We argue that Frege's mature views about truth emerge from a fundamental re-thinking of the nature of logic instigated, in large part, with a sustained engagement with the work of George Boole and his followers, after the publication of Begriffsschrift and the (...)
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  7. L'agencement des valeurs dans l'environnement numérique : le cas de la chaîne « Doxa ».Guilherme Adorno - 2014 - IMPEC 1:3-17.
    L’objet théorique discours acquiert sa spécificité analytique dans la confrontation avec la matérialité du numérique dans ses propres conditions de production: cela ouvre à la recherche des formes textuelles des vlogs comme technologies de langage dans la composition de différentes matérialités signifiantes. Ce travail interroge le processus du mettre en circulation cette composition matériel du vlog, qui est investi du sens de la création et il est soutenu par le mode juridique d'administration, particulièrement par les droits d’auteur. Le procédé analytique (...)
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  8. Variation in Tense and Aspect, and the Temporal Interpretation of Complement Clauses.M. Ryan Bochnak, Vera Hohaus & Anne Mucha - 2019 - Journal of Semantics 36 (3):407-452.
    In this paper, we investigate the temporal interpretation of propositional attitude complement clauses in four typologically unrelated languages: Washo, Medumba, Hausa, and Samoan. Of these languages, Washo and Medumba are optional-tense languages, while Hausa and Samoan are tenseless. Just like in obligatory-tense languages, we observe variation among these languages when it comes to the availability of so-called simultaneous and backward-shifted readings of complement clauses. For our optional-tense languages, we argue that a Sequence of Tense parameter is active in these languages, (...)
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  9. Suppression in Interpreting Adjective Noun Combinations and the Nature of the Lexicon.Lotte Hogeweg - 2019 - Journal of Semantics 36 (4):721-751.
    A common assumption about our internal lexicon is that the meaning of words is underspecified and this underspecified representation is filled in based on the context in which the word occurs. In this paper I would like to explore a different hypothesis, that words are stored with overspecified representations which are ‘trimmed down’ by the context. This view seems to be in line with a well-known mechanism from psycholinguistics: suppression. Many studies have shown that conceptual properties of a word are (...)
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  10. Teaching and Learning Guide For: The Philosophy of Linguistics: Scientific Underpinnings and Methodological Disputes.Ryan Mark Nefdt - 2020 - Philosophy Compass 15 (1).
    This is a teaching guide companion to the main article published in Philosophy Compass. It offers insights into how one might go about designing a course in the philosophy of linguistics at advanced undergrad/graduate level. Readings and possible core questions are included.
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  11. A Description Logic Based Knowledge Representation Model for Concept Understanding.Farshad Badie - 2017 - In Jasper van den Herik, A. Rocha & J. Filipe (eds.), Agents and Artificial Intelligence. Cham, Switzerland: Springer.
    This research employs Description Logics in order to focus on logical description and analysis of the phenomenon of ‘concept understanding’. The article will deal with a formal-semantic model for figuring out the underlying logical assumptions of ‘concept understanding’ in knowledge representation systems. In other words, it attempts to describe a theoretical model for concept understanding and to reflect the phenomenon of ‘concept understanding’ in terminological knowledge representation systems. Finally, it will design an ontology that schemes the structure of concept understanding (...)
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  12. A Semantic Theory of Adverbs.Richmond Thomason & Robert Stalnaker - 1973 - Linguistic Inquiry 4 (2):195-220.
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  13. Plurality in Buriat and Structurally Constrained Alternatives.Lisa Bylinina & Alexander Podobryaev - forthcoming - Journal of Semantics.
    We offer a solution to a puzzle in the number interpretation of nominals in Buriat. Buriat has a two-way number opposition in morphology, but semantically, both forms may be number neutral. We show that even though the number neutrality of unmarked nominals is heavily restricted, it does not boil down to incorporation. Our proposal is that unmarked nominals can be either singular or numberless. In case they are singular, they are semantically strictly atomic, but when there are numberless they are (...)
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  14. Obligatory Irrelevance and the Computation of Ignorance Inferences.Brian Buccola & Andreas Haida - 2019 - Journal of Semantics 36 (4):583-616.
    In recent work, Fox has argued, on the basis of both empirical and conceptual considerations, that relevance is closed under speaker belief: if $\phi $ is relevant, then it’s also relevant whether the speaker believes $\phi $. We provide a formally explicit implementation of this idea and explore its theoretical consequences and empirical predictions. As Fox already observes, one consequence is that ignorance inferences can only be derived in grammar, via a covert belief operator of the sort proposed by Meyer. (...)
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  15. A Note on Connected Exceptives and Approximatives.Luka Crnič - forthcoming - Journal of Semantics.
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  16. Supersloppy Readings: Indexicals as Bound Descriptions.Isabelle Charnavel - 2019 - Journal of Semantics 36 (3):453-530.
    This article explores understudied dependent readings in ellipsis and focus constructions and their theoretical consequences. The main focus is on “supersloppy” readings of person indexicals in VP-ellipsis, in which you can be bound by I and vice versa. The empirical properties of these cases, tested in a large-scale systematically controlled questionnaire, show that I and you can be construed as e-type pronouns dependent on each other. This challenges the Kaplanian fixity theory of indexicals in a new way: not only can (...)
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  17. A Numeral Oddity.Luca Gasparri - 2019 - Journal of Semantics 36 (3):563-571.
    Natural language appears to allow the ascription of properties of numeral symbols to the denotation of number referring phrases. The paper describes the phenomenon and presents two alternative explanations for why it obtains. One combining an intuitive semantics for number referring phrases and a predicate-shifting mechanism, the other assigning number referring phrases a structured denotation consisting of two parts: a mathematical object (the number) and a contextually determined numeral symbol. Some preliminary observations in favor of the second analysis are offered.
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  18. Copredication, Counting, and Criteria of Individuation: A Response to Gotham.David Liebesman & Ofra Magidor - 2019 - Journal of Semantics 36 (3):549-561.
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  19. Connecting Content and Logical Words.Emmanuel Chemla, Brian Buccola & Isabelle Dautriche - 2019 - Journal of Semantics 36 (3):531-547.
    Content words are generally connected: there are no gaps in their denotations; no noun means ‘table or shoe’ or ‘animal or house’. We explore a formulation of connectedness which is applicable to content and logical words alike, and which compares well with the classic notion of monotonicity for quantifiers. On a first inspection, logical words satisfy this generalized version of the connectedness property at least as well as content words do — that is, both in terms of what may be (...)
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  20. Division of Labor in the Interpretation of Declaratives and Interrogatives.Donka F. Farkas & Floris Roelofsen - 2017 - Journal of Semantics:ffw012.
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  21. Embedded Scalars, Preferred Readings and Prosody: An Experimental Revisit.Michael Franke, Fabian Schlotterbeck & Petra Augurzky - 2016 - Journal of Semantics:ffw007.
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  22. Composing Criteria of Individuation in Copredication.Matthew Gotham - 2016 - Journal of Semantics:ffw008.
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  23. Training and Timing Local Scalar Enrichments Under Global Pragmatic Pressures.Emmanuel Chemla, Chris Cummins & Raj Singh - 2016 - Journal of Semantics:ffw006.
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  24. Presupposition Projection in Online Processing.Florian Schwarz & Sonja Tiemann - 2016 - Journal of Semantics:ffw005.
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  25. Embedded Exhaustification: Evidence fromAlmost.Oriana Kilbourn-Ceron - 2016 - Journal of Semantics:ffw002.
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  26. Evidentiality, Learning Events and Spatiotemporal Distance: The View From Bulgarian.Todor Koev - 2016 - Journal of Semantics:ffv014.
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  27. Generalized Free Choice and Missing Alternatives.Marie-Christine Meyer - 2015 - Journal of Semantics:ffv010.
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  28. Embedded Implicatures as Pragmatic Inferences Under Compositional Lexical Uncertainty.Christopher Potts, Daniel Lassiter, Roger Levy & Michael C. Frank - 2015 - Journal of Semantics:ffv012.
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  29. The Implications of Managing.Rebekah Baglini & Itamar Francez - 2016 - Journal of Semantics 33 (3):541-560.
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  30. ASL Loci: Variables or Features?Jeremy Kuhn - 2016 - Journal of Semantics 33 (3):449-491.
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  31. Homogeneity, Non-Maximality, Andall.Manuel Križ - 2016 - Journal of Semantics 33 (3):493-539.
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  32. Adverbial Modifiers in Adjectival Passives.Claudia Maienborn, Helga Gese & Britta Stolterfoht - 2016 - Journal of Semantics 33 (2):299-358.
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  33. Reanalyzing the Complement Coercion Effect Through a Generalized Lexical Semantics for Aspectual Verbs: Table 1.Maria Mercedes Piñango & Ashwini Deo - 2016 - Journal of Semantics 33 (2):359-408.
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  34. A DRT Analysis of Discourse Referents and Anaphora Resolution in Sign Language.Markus Steinbach & Edgar Onea - 2016 - Journal of Semantics 33 (3):409-448.
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  35. Children's Knowledge of Free Choice Inferences and Scalar Implicatures.Lyn Tieu, Jacopo Romoli, Peng Zhou & Stephen Crain - 2016 - Journal of Semantics 33 (2):269-298.
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  36. False but Slow: Evaluating Statements with Non-Referring Definites.Florian Schwarz - 2015 - Journal of Semantics:ffu019.
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  37. Ignorance and Inference: Do Problems with Gricean Epistemic Reasoning Explain Children’s Difficulty with Scalar Implicature?Lara Hochstein, Alan Bale, Danny Fox & David Barner - 2014 - Journal of Semantics:ffu015.
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  38. Scalar Diversity.Bob Van Tiel, Emiel Van Miltenburg, Natalia Zevakhina & Bart Geurts - 2014 - Journal of Semantics:ffu017.
    We present experimental evidence showing that there is considerable variation between the rates at which scalar expressions from different lexical scales give rise to upper-bounded construals. We investigated two factors that might explain the variation between scalar expressions: first, the availability of the lexical scales, which we measured on the basis of association strength, grammatical class, word frequencies and semantic relatedness, and, secondly, the distinctness of the scale mates, which we operationalized on the basis of semantic distance and boundedness. It (...)
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  39. Ignorance and Inference: Do Problems with Gricean Epistemic Reasoning Explain Children’s Difficulty with Scalar Implicature?Lara Hochstein, Alan Bale, Danny Fox & David Barner - 2016 - Journal of Semantics 33 (1):107-135.
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  40. In Situ Interpretation Without Type Mismatches.Edward L. Keenan - 2016 - Journal of Semantics 33 (1):87-106.
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  41. Two Puzzles Raised by Oddness in Conjunction.Giorgio Magri - 2014 - Journal of Semantics:ffu011.
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  42. Post Hoc Analysis Decisions Drive the Reported Reading Time Effects in Hackl, Koster-Hale & Varvoutis.Edward Gibson, Steven T. Piantadosi & Roger Levy - 2017 - Journal of Semantics 34 (3):539-546.
    Hackl, Koster-Hale & Varvoutis provide data that suggest that in a null context, antecedent-contained deletion relative clause structures modifying a quantified object noun phrase are easier to process than those modifying a definite object NP. HKV argue that this pattern of results supports a quantifier-raising analysis of both ACD structures and quantified NPs in object position: under the account they advocate, both ACD resolution and quantified NPs in object position require movement of the object NP to a higher syntactic position. (...)
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  43. Slurs and Stereotypes for Italian Americans: A Context-Sensitive Account of Derogation and Appropriation.Adam M. Croom - 2015 - Journal of Pragmatics 81:36-51.
    Recent research on the semantics and pragmatics of slurs has offered insight into several important facts concerning their meaning and use. However, prior work has unfortunately been restricted primarily to considerations of slurs that typically target females, homosexuals, and African Americans. This is problematic because such a narrowly focused attention to slurs in prior work has left theorizing of how slurs generally function relatively uninformed by facts of actual language use. As a result, theoretical accounts of slurs that have so (...)
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  44. Slurs and Lexical Presumption.William G. Lycan - 2015 - Language Sciences 52:3-11.
    Grice's cryptic notion of “conventional implicature” has been developed in a number of different ways. This paper deploys the simplest version, Lycan's (1984) notion of “lexical presumption,” and argues that slurs and other pejorative expressions have normal truth-conditional content plus the most obvious extra implicatures. The paper then addresses and rebuts objections to “conventional implicature” accounts that have been made in the literature, particularly those which focus on non-offensive uses of slurs.
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  45. A Note on Conservativity.Richard Zuber & Edward L. Keenan - forthcoming - Journal of Semantics.
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  46. Vagueness in Implicature: The Case of Modified Adjectives.Timothy Leffel, Alexandre Cremers, Nicole Gotzner & Jacopo Romoli - 2019 - Journal of Semantics 36 (2):317-348.
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  47. To Finish in German and Mainland Scandinavian: Telicity and Incrementality.Alexandra Anna Spalek & Kjell Johan Sæbø - 2019 - Journal of Semantics 36 (2):349-375.
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  48. Belief Sentences and Compositionality. Notional Part.Peter Pagin - 2019 - Journal of Semantics 36 (2):241-284.
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  49. An Experimental Investigation of the Scope of Object Comparative Quantifier Phrases.Kristen Syrett & Adrian Brasoveanu - 2019 - Journal of Semantics 36 (2):285-315.
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  50. From ‘Back’ to ‘Again’ in Dutch: The Structure of the ‘Re’ Domain.Joost Zwarts - 2019 - Journal of Semantics 36 (2):211-240.
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