This paper gives a characterization of the ontology implicit in natural language and the entities it involves, situates natural language ontology within metaphysics, and responds to Chomskys' dismissal of externalist semantics.
The most common account of attitude reports is the relational analysis according towhich an attitude verb taking that-clause complements expresses a two-placerelation between agents and propositions and the that-clause acts as an expressionwhose function is to provide the propositional argument. I will argue that a closerexamination of a broader range of linguistic facts raises serious problems for thisanalysis and instead favours a Russellian `multiple relations analysis' (which hasgenerally been discarded because of its apparent obvious linguistic implausibility).The resulting account can be (...) given independent philosophical motivations within anintentionalist view of truth and predication. (shrink)
This book pursues the question of how and whether natural language allows for reference to abstract objects in a fully systematic way. By making full use of contemporary linguistic semantics, it presents a much greater range of linguistic generalizations than has previously been taken into consideration in philosophical discussions, and it argues for an ontological picture is very different from that generally taken for granted by philosophers and semanticists alike. Reference to abstract objects such as properties, numbers, propositions, and degrees (...) is considerably more marginal than generally held. (shrink)
A common view is that natural language treats numbers as abstract objects, with expressions like the number of planets, eight, as well as the number eight acting as referential terms referring to numbers. In this paper I will argue that this view about reference to numbers in natural language is fundamentally mistaken. A more thorough look at natural language reveals a very different view of the ontological status of natural numbers. On this view, numbers are not primarily treated abstract objects, (...) but rather 'aspects' of pluralities of ordinary objects, namely number tropes, a view that in fact appears to have been the Aristotelian view of numbers. Natural language moreover provides support for another view of the ontological status of numbers, on which natural numbers do not act as entities, but rather have the status of plural properties, the meaning of numerals when acting like adjectives. This view matches contemporary approaches in the philosophy of mathematics of what Dummett called the Adjectival Strategy, the view on which number terms in arithmetical sentences are not terms referring to numbers, but rather make contributions to generalizations about ordinary (and possible) objects. It is only with complex expressions somewhat at the periphery of language such as the number eight that reference to pure numbers is permitted. (shrink)
In recent work on contextdependency, it has been argued that certain types of sentences give rise to a notion of relative truth. In particular, sentences containing predicates of personal taste and moral or aesthetic evaluation as well as epistemic modals are held to express a proposition (relative to a context of use) which is true or false not only relative to a world of evaluation, but other parameters as well, such as standards of taste or knowledge or an agent. Thus, (...) a sentence like chocolate tastes good would express a proposition p that is true or false not only at a world of evaluation, but relative to the additional parameter as well, such as a parameter of taste or an agent. I will argue that the sentences that apparently give rise to relative truth should be understood by relating them in a certain way to the first person. More precisely, such sentences express what I will call firstpersonbased genericity, a form of generalization that is based on or directed toward an essential firstperson application of the predicate. The account differs from standard relative truth account in crucial respects: it is not the truth of the proposition expressed that is relative to the first person; the proposition expressed by a sentence with a predicate of taste rather has absolute truth conditions. Instead it is the propositional content itself that requires a firstpersonal cognitive access whenever it is entertained. This account, I will argue, avoids a range of problems that standard relative truth theories of the sentences in question face and explains a number of further peculiarities that such sentences display. (shrink)
This paper argues that attitudinal objects, entities of the sort of John's judgment, John's thought, and John's claim, should play the role of propositions, as the cognitive products of cognitive acts, not the acts themselves.
Quantified expressions in natural language generally are taken to act like quantifiers in logic, which either range over entities that need to satisfy or not satisfy the predicate in order for the sentence to be true or otherwise are substitutional quantifiers. I will argue that there is a philosophically rather important class of quantified expressions in English that act quite differently, a class that includes something, nothing, and several things. In addition to expressing quantification, such expressions act like nominalizations, introducing (...) a new domain of objects that would not have been present in the semantic structure of the sentence otherwise. The entities those expressions introduce are of just the same sort as those that certain ordinary nominalizations refer to (such as John's wisdom or John's belief that S), namely they are tropes or entities related to tropes. Analysing certain quantifiers as nominalizing quantifiers will shed a new light on philosophical issues such as the status of properties and the nature of propositional attitudes. (shrink)
The notion of existence is a very puzzling one philosophically. Often philosophers have appealed to linguistic properties of sentences stating existence. However, the appeal to linguistic intuitions has generally not been systematic and without serious regard of relevant issues in linguistic semantics. This paper has two aims. On the one hand, it will look at statements of existence from a systematic linguistic point of view, in order to try to clarify what the actual semantics of such statements in fact is. (...) On the other hand, it will explore what sort of ontology such statements reflect. The first aim is one of linguistic semantics; the second aim is one of descriptive metaphysics. Philosophically, existence statements appear to reflect the distinction between endurance and perdurance as well as particular notions of abstract states and of kinds. Linguistically, statements of existence involve a particular way of drawing the distinction between eventive and stative verbs and between individual-level and stage-level predicates as well as a particular approach to the semantics of bare plurals and mass nouns. (shrink)
This takes a closer look at the actual semantic behavior of apparent truth predicates in English and re-evaluates the way they could motivate particular philosophical views regarding the formal status of 'truth predicates' and their semantics. The paper distinguishes two types of 'truth predicates' and proposes semantic analyses that better reflect the linguistic facts. These analyses match particular independently motivated philosophical views.
The generic pronoun 'one' (or its empty counterpart, arbitrary PRO) exhibits a range of properties that show a special connection to the first person, or rather the relevant intentional agent (speaker, addressee, or described agent). The paper argues that generic 'one' involves generic quantification in which the predicate is applied to a given entity ‘as if’ to the relevant agent himself. This is best understood in terms of simulation, a central notion in some recent developments in the philosophy of mind (...) and cognitive science (Simulation Theory). (shrink)
Terms such as 'wisdom' or 'happiness' are commonly held to refer to abstract objects that are properties. On the basis of a greater range of linguistic data and with the support of some ancient and medieval philosophical views, I argue that such terms do not stand for objects, but rather for kinds of tropes, entities that do not have the status of objects, but only play a role as semantic values of terms and as arguments of predicates. Such ‘non-objects’ crucially (...) differ from objects in that they are not potential bearers of properties. (shrink)
This note gives a brief presentation of my recently developed attitudinal-objects semantics of attitude reports, in order to show that Felappi's (2014) arguments against it are flawed or fail to apply and to point out that her alternative suggestions have already been discussed and rejected in the work she criticizes.
This book present a unified semantic theory of expressions involving the notions of part and whole. It develops a theory of part structures which differs from traditional (extensional) mereological theories in that the notion of an integrated whole plays a central role and in that the part structure of an entity is allowed to vary across different situations, perspectives, and dimensions. The book presents a great range of empirical generalizations involving plurals, mass nouns, adnominal and adverbial modifiers such as 'whole', (...) 'together', and 'alone', nominal and adverbial quanitfiers ranging over parts, and expressions of completion such as 'completely' and 'partly'. (shrink)
In 'Aboutness' (MIT Press 2014), Yablo argues for the importance of the notions of partial content and partial truth. This paper argues that they are involved in a much greater range of entities than acknowledged by Yablo. The paper also argues that some of those entities involve a notion of partial satisfaction as well as partial existence (validity).
The aim of natural language ontology is to uncover the ontological categories and structures that are implicit in the use of natural language, that is, that a speaker accepts when using a language. This article aims to clarify what exactly the subject matter of natural language ontology is, what sorts of linguistic data it should take into account, how natural language ontology relates to other branches of metaphysics, in what ways natural language ontology is important, and what may be distinctive (...) of the ontological categories and structures reflected in natural language. (shrink)
This paper explores a novel analysis of adjectives in the comparative and the positive based on the notion of a trope, rather than the notion of a degree. Tropes are particularized properties, concrete manifestations of properties in individuals. The point of departure is that a sentence like ‘John is happier than Mary’ is intuitively equivalent to ‘John’s happiness exceeds Mary’s happiness’, a sentence that expresses a simple comparison between two tropes, John’s happiness and Mary’s happiness. The analysis received particular support (...) from various parallels between adjectival constructions and corresponding adjective nominalizations which make reference to tropes. (shrink)
In this paper, I will argue for a new account of presuppositions which is based on double indexing as well as minimal representational contexts providing antecedent material for anaphoric presuppositions, rather than notions of context defined in terms of the interlocutors’ pragmatic presuppositions or the information accumulated from the preceding discourse. This account applies in particular to new phenomena concerning the presupposition of quantifier domains. But it is also intended to be an account of presuppositions in general. The account differs (...) from the Satisfaction Theory and the Binding Theory of presuppositions in that it can be viewed as a conservative extension of traditional static semantics and in that it does not involve the notion of pragmatic presupposition. (shrink)
The most common philosophical view of existence is that existence amounts to existential quantification or is a second-order concept. A less common philosophical view is that existence is a first-order property distinguishing between nonexistent (past, possible, or merely intentional) objects and existing objects. An even less common philosophical view is that existence divides into different ‘modes of being’ for different kinds of entities. The aim of the present paper is to take a closer look at how the notion of existence (...) is in fact expressed in natural language. In natural language, it appears, existence is not so much expressed by quantification, which can be shown to be neutral as regards any distinction between existent and nonexistent objects that one might draw. Rather existence is expressed by predicates, and that is, first-order predicates, such as in English 'exist', 'occur', and 'obtain'. The semantic behavior of such existence predicates reveals a notion of existence that divides into at least three different kinds of modes being, reflecting the distinction between endurance and perdurance, as well as their space-related analogues, but also the particular mode of being of such entities as states, facts, conditions, and laws. (shrink)
This paper discusses the semantics of intensional transitive verbs such as 'need', 'want','recognize', 'find', and 'hire'. It proposes new linguistic criteria for intensionality and defends two semantic analyses for two different classes of intensional verbs. The paper also includes a systematic classification of intensional verbs according to the type of lexical meaning they involve.
This paper critically evaluates the view according to which number words in argument position retain the meaning they have when occurring as determiners or adjectives. In particular, it argues against syntactic evidence from German given by myself in support of that view.
Nominalizations are expressions that are particularly challenging philosophically in that they help form singular terms that seem to refer to abstract or derived objects often considered controversial. The three standard views about the semantics of nominalizations are  that they map mere meanings onto objects,  that they refer to implicit arguments, and  that they introduce new objects, in virtue of their compositional semantics. In the second case, nominalizations do not add anything new but pick up objects that would (...) be present anyway in the semantic structure of a corresponding sentence without a nominalization. In the first and third case, nominalizations in a sense ‘create’ new objects’, enriching the ontology on the basis of the meaning of expressions. I will argue that there is a fourth kind of nominalization which requires a quite different treatment. These are nominalizations that introduce ‘new’ objects, but only partially characterize them. Such nominalizations generally refer to events or tropes. I will explore an account according on which such nominalizations refer to truth makers. (shrink)
The complement of intensional transitive verbs, like any nonreferential complement, can be replaced by a ‘special quantifier’ or ‘special pronoun’ such as 'something', 'the same thing', or 'what'. In this paper, I will defend the ‘Nominalization Theory’ of special quantifiers against a range of apparent counterexamples involving intensional transitive verbs.
This paper reviews the role of sortals in the syntax and semantics of proper names and the related question of a mass-count distinction among proper names. The paper argues that sortals play a significant role with proper names and that that role matches individuating or ‘sortal’ classifiers in languages lacking a mass-count distinction. Proper names do not themselves classify as count, but may classify as mass or rather number-neutral. This also holds for other expressions or uses of expressions that lack (...) a syntactic mass-count distinction, namely that-clauses, predicative phrases, intensional NPs, quotations, as well as verbs with respect to their event arguments. In all those cases, the relevant diagnostics show a number-neutral status, rather than a division into mass and count. This is remarkable because it means that count status is independent of the nature of the semantic values of an expression or its conceptual content. It also means that even languages such as English or German are classifier languages when it comes to expressions or uses of expressions to which a syntactic mass-count distinction is inapplicable. (shrink)
Unbound anaphoric pronouns or ‘E-type pronouns’ have presented notorious problems for semantic theory, leading to the development of dynamic semantics, where the primary function of a sentence is not considered that of expressing a proposition that may act as the object of propositional attitudes, but rather that of changing the current information state. The older, ‘E-type’ account of unbound anaphora leaves the traditional notion of proposition intact and takes the unbound anaphor to be replaced by a full NP whose semantics (...) is assumed to be known (e.g. a definite description). In this paper, I argue that there are serious problems with any version of the E-type account as well as the (original form of the) dynamic account. I will explore a new account based on structured propositions, which can be considered a conservative extension of a traditional proposition-based semantics, but which at the same time incorporates some crucial insights of the dynamic account. (shrink)
This paper defends a distinction between ‘abstract states’ and ‘concrete states’, following Maienborn (2005, 2007) in her account of the peculiar semantic behavior of stative verbs. The paper proposes an ontological account of the notion of an abstract state and discusses how it relates to the notion of a trope or particularized property, which has so far been neglected in the semantic literature on stative verbs.
This paper presents a systematic semantic study of constructions with the noun 'case' in English (and the same sorts of constructions in other languages). It argues that 'case'-constructions are an overt reflection of the exact truthmaking relation of Kit Fine’s recent truthmaker semantics. The paper argues that ‘cases’, the entities described by the noun 'case' in English, are situations playing the truth-making role within a contextually specified case-space. The paper will also argue that not only sentences have truthmakers (or satisfiers), (...) but also truth- or satisfaction-directed propositional attitudes. (shrink)
This paper argues for an ontological distinction between two kinds of universals, 'kinds of tropes' such as 'wisdom' and properties such as 'the property of being wise'. It argues that the distinction is parallel to that between two kinds of collections, pluralities such as 'the students' and collective objects such as 'the class'. The paper argues for the priortity of distributive readings with pluralities on the basis of predicates of extent or shape, such 'large' or 'long'.
Syntacticians have proposed three-dimensional syntactic structures to account for the peculiarities of coordination. This paper proposes a way of interpreting such structures and gives an account of sentences of the sort 'John bought and Mary sold a total of ten cars' based on a notion of 'implicit' coordination.
The notions of part and whole play an important role for ontology and in many areas of the semantics of natural language. Both in philosophy and linguistic semantics, usually a particular notion of part structure is used, that of extensional mereology. This paper argues that such a notion is insufficient for ontology and, especially, for the semantic analysis of the relevant constructionsof natural language. What is needed for the notion of part structure,in addition to an ordering among parts, is the (...) notion of integrated whole. (shrink)
This paper discusses three approaches to the semantics of event nominalizations and adverbial modification: the Davidsonian account, the Kimian account, and the truthmaker account. It argues that a combination of all three accounts is needed for the semantics of the full range of event, trope, and state nominalizations in English.
Based on the notion of a trope, this paper gives a novel analysis of identificational sentences such as 'this is Mary','this is a beautiful woman', 'this looks like Mary', or 'this is the same lump of clay, but not the same statue as that'.
NPs with intensional relative clauses such as 'the impact of the book John needs to write' pose a significant challenge for trope theory (the theory of particularized properties), since they seem to refer to tropes that lack an actual bearer. This paper proposes a novel semantic analysis of such NPs on the basis of the notion of a variable object. The analysis avoids a range of difficulties that an alternative analysis based on the notion of an individual concept would face.
The semantic function of the modifier 'together' in adnominal position has generally been considered to be that of preventing a distributive reading of the predicate. This paper will argue that this view is mistaken. The semantic function of adnominal 'together' rather is that of inducing a cumulative measurement of the group that together is associated with. The measurement-based analysis of adnominal together that I propose can also, with some modifications, be extended to adverbial occurrences of together.
This paper defends 'plural reference', the view that definite plurals refer to several individuals at once, and it explores how the view can account for a range of phenomena that have been discussed in the linguistic literature.
This paper will outline a novel semantics of verbs of saying and of quotation based on Austin’s (1962) distinction among levels of linguistic acts (illocutionary, locutionary, rhetic, phatic, and phonetic acts). It will propose a way of understanding the notion of a rhetic act and argue that it is well-reflected in the semantics of natural language. The paper will furthermore outline a novel, unified and compositional semantics of quotation which is guided by two ideas. First, quotations convey properties related to (...) lower-level (phonetic or phatic) linguistic acts; second, such meanings of quotations are strictly based on syntactic structure, namely a lower-level (phonetic, phonological or morpho-syntactic) structure as part of the syntactic structure that is input to semantic interpretation. Such lower-level linguistic structures will contribute properties of utterances, to the semantic composition of the sentence, in one way or another. (shrink)
In this paper, I will argue that two kinds of first-person-oriented content are distinguished in more ways than usually thought and I propose an account that will shed new light on the distinction. The first kind consists of contents of attitudes de se (in a broad sense); the second kind consists of contents that give rise to intuitions of relative truth. I will present new data concerning the two kinds of first-person-oriented content, together with a novel account of propositional content (...) in general, namely based on the notion of an attitudinal object. That notion solves two major problems with Lewis's account of contents of attitudes de se and clarifies the difference between contents of attitudes de se and contents that give rise to intuitions of relative truth. I will propose an analysis of contents of the second kind in terms of what I call firstperson-based genericity, a form of genericity most explicitly expressed by sentences with generic one. I show how the overall account explains the particular semantic properties of sentences giving rise to intuitions of relative truth that distinguish them from sentences with expressions interpreted de se. I will start by introducing Lewis's account of attitudes de se and the problems that go along with that account. Introducing the notion of an attitudinal object, I will extend the account by an account of the truth conditions of the content of attitudes de se. I then discuss the second kind of first-person-oriented content, which is associated with intuitions of relative truth, and give an account of such contents on the basis of an analysis of generic one. Again making use of attitudinal objects, I will make clear what exactly distinguishes those contents from first-person-oriented contents of the first sort. (shrink)
In this paper I will give an analysis of what I call ‘generalizing detached self-reference’ within a general account of reference to the first person. With generalizing detached self-reference an agent attributes properties to a range of individuals by putting himself into their shoes, or simulating them. I will show that generalizing detached self-reference plays an important role in the semantics of natural language, in particular in the English generic one and in what syntacticians call arbitrary PRO.
The most common philosophical view about the notion of existence is that it is a second-order property or existential quantification. A less common view is that existence is a (first-order) property of 'existent' as opposed to 'nonexistent' (past or merely intentional) objects. An even less common view is that existence divides into different 'modes of being' for different sorts of entities. In this paper I will take a closer look at the semantic behavior of existence predicates in natural language, such (...) as exist, occur, and obtain, arguing that existence predicates in natural language support the two less common philosophical views. I will develop explicit analyses of existence predicates in their time-relative and space-relative uses which will explain why they apply to some kinds of entities, but not others. (shrink)
This paper will focus on a philosophically significant construction whose semantics brings together two important notions in Kit Fine’s philosophy, the notion of truthmaking and the notion of a variable embodiment, or its extension, namely what I call a ‘variable object’. The analysis of the construction this paper will develop will be based on an account of clausal complements of intensional verbs that is of more general interest, based on truthmaking and the notion of a cognitive product, such as a (...) promise or a belief, rather than that of a proposition. (shrink)
The question whether natural language permits quantification over intentional objects as the ‘nonexistent’ objects of thought is the topic of a major philosophical controversy, as is the status of intentional objects as such. This paper will argue that natural language does reflect a particular notion of intentional object and in particular that certain types of natural language constructions (generally disregarded in the philosophical literature) cannot be analysed without positing intentional objects. At the same time, those intentional objects do not come (...) for free; rather they are strictly dependent on intentional acts that generally need to have a presence, in one way or another, in the semantic structure of the sentence. (shrink)
This paper explores a notion of a truth-bearing entity that is distinct both from a proposition and from an intentional event, state, or action, namely the notion of an attitudinal object. Attitudinal objects are entities like ‘John’s belief that S’, John’s claim that S’, ‘John’s desire that S’, or ‘John’s request that S’. The notion of an attitudinal object has an important precedent in the work of the Polish philosopher Twardowski (1912), who drew a more general distinction between ‘actions’ and (...) ‘products’, such as screaming, judging, and thinking on the one hand and a scream, a judgment, and a thought on the other hand. The paper argue that the action-product distinction is the distinction between actions and the abstract or physically realized artifacts that they may create. (shrink)
In this paper, I have proposed a compositional semantic analysis of exception NPs from which three core properties of exception constructions could be derived. I have shown that this analysis overcomes various empirical and conceptual shortcomings of prior proposals of the semantics of exception sentences. The analysis was first formulated for simple exception NPs, where the EP-complement was considered a set-denoting term and the EP-associate was a monadic quantifier. It was then generalized in two steps: first, in order to account (...) for quantified EP-complements, and second, in order to account for polyadic quantifiers as the EP-associates. An additional assumption that was made in several places was that EPs may operate at the level of implications. The consequences of this assumption, though, still have to be investigated. (shrink)
This paper develops the notion of a situated part structure and applies it to the semantics of the modifiers 'whole' and 'individual'. It argues that the ambiguity of 'whole' should be traced to two different conceptions of part structures of objects being at play: one according to which the parts of an objects are just the material parts and another, Aristotelian conception according to which the parts of an object include properties of form.
Philosophers who accept tropes generally agree that tropes act as the objects of reference of nominalizations of adjectives, such as 'Socrates’ wisdom' or 'the beauty of the landscape'. This paper argues that tropes play a further important role in the semantics of natural language, namely in the semantics of bare demonstratives like 'this' and 'that' in what in linguistics is called identificational sentences.
This paper outlines a semantic account of attitude reports and deontic modals based on cognitive and illocutionary products, mental states, and modal products, as opposed to the notion of an abstract proposition or a cognitive act.
This paper concerns itself with the relation between two important semantic notions: the traditional notion of proposition and a more recent notion of context as an information state. The notion of proposition has traditionally played an important role in the theory of meaning: propositions are entities that have independent truth conditions and act as the meaning of both independent and embedded sentences as well the objects of propositional attitudes such as assertion and belief.
In their paper ‘Degrees as Kinds’, Anderson and Morzycki, demonstrate how certain constructions in a range of languages treat kinds, manners, and degrees alike. Their proposal is to identify degrees with kinds of states and they consider states to be interchangeable with tropes. In these comments, I will raise some issues about the interchangeability of (concrete) states and tropes as well as the category of concrete states as well as Anderson and Morzycki's analysis of the comparative.
The question whether numbers are objects is a central question in the philosophy of mathematics. Frege made use of a syntactic criterion for objethood: numbers are objects because there are singular terms that stand for them, and not just singular terms in some formal language, but in natural language in particular. In particular, Frege (1884) thought that both noun phrases like the number of planets and simple numerals like eight as in (1) are singular terms referring to numbers as abstract (...) objects. (shrink)
This paper argues that certain complements in philosophically significant constructions, especially predicative and clausal complements and intensional NPs, should not be analysed as providing an argument for a relation expressed by the verb, but rather as forming a complex predicate together with the verb. Apparent evidence for the traditional relational analyses, namely the possibility of replacing the complement by quantifiers such as 'something', will be shown to be misguided. Quantifiers like 'something' rather act as nominalizing expressions introducing ‘new’, derived objects (...) into the semantic structure of a sentence. The resulting analyses will have several philosophical ramifications. (shrink)