An Integrated Interpretation of Montague Grammar

Abstract

This is what I hope is an illuminating, and to a certain degree, novel exposition of Montague Grammar. It is against many standard interpretations, and perhaps even against things Montague himself says at times. However, it makes more sense of how his various commitments fit together in a systematic way. Why, for instance, is it called "Montague Grammar" rather than "Montague Semantics," and what role does his commitment to Fregeanism plays in his conception of language? It is clear that he is committed to the idea that function application is the fundamental mode of semantic composition, and that he is committed to an intensional framework. However, intensions have, since Carnap, been understood as nearly conceptually equivalent to functions from possible worlds to sets of individuals. But, in truth, possible worlds semantics is just dressed up extensional semantics. There are just more objects to go around to serve as inputs for functions, whatever we think of their ontological status. That is, possible worlds semantics is really a semantic reduction of intensional semantics achieved by expanding our ontological commitments. It would be difficult to make sense of Montague's strong commitment to Fregean semantics, if his notion of intension was that of Carnap's. According to my interpretation, Montague's notion of intension must be distinct from the version adopted by possible world semantics. Montague took seriously the idea that intensional semantics was something quite different from extensionalist semantics. The first was not reducible to the second semantically speaking. Just as Frege believed that meaning consisted of both sense and reference, so too did Montague. However, just as Frege also believed, Montague thought that sense and reference were systematically related. As I illustrate, interpreting Montague as adopting a different notion of intension can also resolve the apparent problem of distinguishing the difference in meaning between intensional equivalents. It might also enable us to draw a distinction in epistemic logic between an agent having contradictory beliefs and believing contradictions.

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