Context-Free Semantics

In Ernie LePore & David Sosa (eds.), Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Language, Volume 1. Oxford University Press. pp. 208-239 (2019)

Authors
Paolo Santorio
University of Maryland, College Park
Abstract
On a traditional view, the semantics of natural language makes essential use of a context parameter, i.e. a set of coordinates that represents the situation of speech. In classical semantic frameworks, this parameter plays two key roles: first, context contributes to determining the content of utterance; second, it is crucial for defining logical consequence. I point out that recent empirical proposals about context shift in natural language (in particular, context-shifting semantics in the style of Anand and Nevins 2004) are incompatible with the traditional view of context. At the same time, there is increasing cross-linguistic support for this brand of context shift. Hence I suggest that context has no place in semantic theory proper. We should revert back to so-called multiple-indexing frameworks that were developed by Montague and others, and relegate context to the postsemantic stage.
Keywords context and index  context shift  monsters  indexical shift  compositional semantics
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Demonstratives: An Essay on the Semantics, Logic, Metaphysics and Epistemology of Demonstratives and Other Indexicals.David Kaplan - 1989 - In Joseph Almog, John Perry & Howard Wettstein (eds.), Themes From Kaplan. Oxford University Press. pp. 481-563.
Making Sense of Relative Truth.John MacFarlane - 2005 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 105 (3):321–339.

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