On 'Average'

Mind 118 (471):583 - 646 (2009)

Authors
Jason Stanley
Yale University
Abstract
This article investigates the semantics of sentences that express numerical averages, focusing initially on cases such as 'The average American has 2.3 children'. Such sentences have been used both by linguists and philosophers to argue for a disjuncture between semantics and ontology. For example, Noam Chomsky and Norbert Hornstein have used them to provide evidence against the hypothesis that natural language semantics includes a reference relation holding between words and objects in the world, whereas metaphysicians such as Joseph Melia and Stephen Yablo have used them to provide evidence that apparent singular reference need not be taken as ontologically committing. We develop a fully general and independently justified compositional semantics in which such constructions are assigned truth conditions that are not ontologically problematic, and show that our analysis is superior to all extant rivals. Our analysis provides evidence that a good semantics yields a sensible ontology. It also reveals that natural language contains genuine singular terms that refer to numbers
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DOI 10.1093/mind/fzp094
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References found in this work BETA

Word and Object.Willard Van Orman Quine - 1960 - Les Etudes Philosophiques 17 (2):278-279.
Generalized Quantifiers and Natural Language.John Barwise & Robin Cooper - 1981 - Linguistics and Philosophy 4 (2):159--219.
Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language.Paul Horwich - 1982 - Philosophy of Science 51 (1):163-171.

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Citations of this work BETA

Semantics and Metasemantics in the Context of Generative Grammar.Seth Yalcin - 2014 - In Alexis Burgess & Brett Sherman (eds.), Metasemantics: New Essays on the Foundations of Meaning. Oxford University Press. pp. 17-54.
The Semantics and Ontology of The Average American.Collins John - 2017 - Journal of Semantics 34 (3):373-405.

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