Dissertation, Rutgers University (2010)

Authors
William B. Starr
Cornell University
Abstract
This work explores the hypothesis that natural language is a tool for changing a language user's state of mind and, more specifically, the hypothesis that a sentence's meaning is constituted by its characteristic role in fulfilling this purpose. This view contrasts with the dominant approach to semantics due to Frege, Tarski and others' work on artificial languages: language is first and foremost a tool for representing the world. Adapted to natural language by Davidson, Lewis, Montague, et. al. this dominant approach has crystalized as truth-conditional semantics: to know the meaning of a sentence is to know the conditions under which that sentence is true. Chapter 1 details the animating ideas of my alternative approach and shows that the representational function of language can be understood in terms of the more general function of changing representational mental states. Chapters 2-4 argue that the additional resources of this more general conception of meaning allow us to explain certain phenomena involving conditionals and grammatical mood that truth-conditional semantics does not. In the analysis of these specific phenomena and the articulation of the general approach on offer, it emerges that this approach combines insights and benefits from both use-theoretic and truth-theoretic work on meaning.
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References found in this work BETA

Studies in the Way of Words.H. P. Grice - 1989 - Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Causality: Models, Reasoning and Inference.Judea Pearl - 2000 - Cambridge University Press.

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Citations of this work BETA

A Uniform Theory of Conditionals.William B. Starr - 2014 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 43 (6):1019-1064.
Varieties of Update.Sarah E. Murray - 2014 - Semantics and Pragmatics 7 (2):1--53.
A Preference Semantics for Imperatives.William B. Starr - 2020 - Semantics and Pragmatics 20.

View all 11 citations / Add more citations

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