Erkenntnis 82 (3):673-692 (2017)

Authors
Toby Napoletano
University of California, Merced
Abstract
In his “Meaning and Formal Semantics in Generative Grammar” (Erkenntnis 2015, 61–87), Stephen Schiffer argues that truth-conditional semantics is a poor fit with generative linguistics. In particular, he thinks that it fails to explain speakers’ abilities to understand the sentences of their language. In its place, he recommends his “Best Bet Theory”—a theory which aims to directly explain speakers’ abilities to mean things by their utterances and know what others mean by their utterances. I argue that Schiffer does not provide good reason to prefer the Best Bet Theory over truth-conditional semantics in the context of generative linguistics. First, his negative arguments against the truth-conditional approach are unpersuasive, and second, the Best Bet Theory involves an explanatory circularity which makes it unfit for linguistic theorizing. I conclude that the Best Bet Theory is thus not even a viable competitor to truth-conditional semantics in generative linguistics.
Keywords truth-conditional semantics  linguistics  Stephen Schiffer
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DOI 10.1007/s10670-016-9838-2
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