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)
This chapter gives a truthmaker-based account of the semantics of 'reifying' quantifiers like 'something' when they act as complements of intensional transitive verbs ('need', 'look for'). It argues that such quantifiers range over 'variable satisfiers' of the attitudinal object described by the verb (e.g. the need or the search).
This paper gives an outline of truthmaker semantics for natural language against the background of standard possible-worlds semantics. It develops a truthmaker semantics for attitude reports and deontic modals based on an ontology of attitudinal and modal objects and on a semantic function of clauses as predicates of such objects. It also présents new motivations for 'object-based truthmaker semantics' from intensional transitive verbs such as ‘need’, ‘look for’, ‘own’, and ‘buy’ and gives an outline of their 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)
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)
The mass-count distinction is a morpho-syntactic distinction that is generally taken to have semantic content. There are three approaches to what such such a semantic mass-count distinction may consist in: 1. an object-based approach, 2. an extension-based approach, and 3. a grammar-based approach.The paper adopts the grammar-based approach on which count categories convey a notion of unity at a level of 'grammaticized individuation', to use Rothstein's (2017) terms. It argues that verbs with respect to their Davidsonian argument position display the (...) diagnostics of mass rather than count. This is predicted by the grammar-based approach, but not object- or extension-based approaches. The paper accounts for the mass diagnostics of verbs in terms of semantic selection. (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 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)
The mass-count distinction is a morpho-syntactic distinction among nouns that is generally taken to have semantic content. This content is generally taken to reflect a conceptual, cognitive, or ontological distinction and relates to philosophical and cognitive notions of unity, identity, and counting. The mass-count distinction is certainly one of the most interesting and puzzling topics in syntax and semantics that bears on ontology and cognitive science. This volume aims to contribute to some of the gaps in the research on the (...) topic, in particular the relation between the syntactic mass-count distinction and semantic and cognitive distinctions, diagnostics for mass and count, the distribution and role of numeral classifiers, abstract mass nouns, and object mass nouns (furniture, police force, clothing). (shrink)
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 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.
This paper defends the view that attitudinal objects such as claims, beliefs, judgments, and requests form an ontological category of its own sharply distinguished from that of events and states and that of propositions. Attitudinal objects play a central role in attitude reports and avoid the conceptual and empirical problems for propositions. Unlike the latter, attitudinal objects bear a particular connection to normativity. The paper will also discuss the syntactic basis of a semantics of attitude reports based on attitudinal objects.
It is common in contemporary metaphysics to distinguish two levels of ontology: the ontology of ordinary objects and the ontology of fundamental reality. This papers argues that natural language reflects not only the ontology of ordinary objects, but also a language-driven ontology, which is involved in the mass-count distinction and part-structure-sensitive semantic selection, as well as perhaps the light ontology of pleonastic entities. The paper recasts my older theory of situated part structures without situations, making use of a primitive notion (...) of unity. (shrink)
This paper gives an outline of natural language ontology as a subdiscipline of both linguistics and philosophy. It argues that part of the constructional ontology reflected in natural language is in significant respects on a par with syntax (on the generative view).
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)
This paper argues that truth predicates in natural language and their variants, predicates of correctness, satisfaction and validity, do not apply to propositions (not even with 'that'-clauses), but rather to a range of attitudinal and modal objects. As such natural language reflects a notion of truth that is primarily a normative notion of correctness constitutive of representational objects. The paper moreover argues that 'true' is part of a larger class of satisfaction predicates whose semantic differences are best accounted for in (...) terms of a truthmaker theory along the lines of Fine's recent truthmaker semantics. (shrink)
This paper criticizes the view that number words in argument position retain the meaning they have on an adjectival or determiner use, as argued by Hofweber :179–225, 2005) and Moltmann :499–534, 2013a, 2013b). In particular the paper re-evaluates syntactic evidence from German given in Moltmann to that effect.
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 elaborates distinctions between a core and a periphery in the ontological and the conceptual domain associated with natural language. The ontological core-periphery distinction is essential for natural language ontology and is the basis for the central thesis of my 2013 book Abstract Objects and the Semantics of Natural Language, namely that natural language permits reference to abstract objects in its periphery, but not its core.
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.
Possible worlds semantics faces a range of difficulties for at least certain types of modals, especially deontic modals with their distinction between heavy and light permissions and obligations. This paper outlines a new semantics of modals that aims to overcome some of those difficulties. The semantics is based on an a novel ontology of modal objects, entities like obligations, permissions, needs, as well as epistemic states, abilities, and essences. Moreover, it is based on truthmaking, in the sense of Fine’s recent (...) truthmaker semantics. (shrink)
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 paper discusses attributively limited concrete objects such as disturbances (holes, folds, scratches etc), tropes, and attitudinal objects, which lack the sort of spatial location or part structures expected of them as concrete objects. The paper proposes an account in terms of (quasi-Fregean) abstraction, which has so far been applied only to abstract objects.
Ever since Frege, propositions have played a central role in philosophy of language. Propositions are generally conceived as abstract objects that have truth conditions essentially and fulfill both the role of the meaning of sentences and of the objects or content of propositional attitudes. More recently, the abstract conception of propositions has given rise to serious dissatisfaction among a number of philosophers, who have instead proposed a conception of propositional content based on cognitive acts (Hanks, Moltmann, Soames). This approach is (...) not entirely new, though, but has important precedents in early analytic philosophy and phenomenology. The aim of this volume is bring together some of the most important texts from the relevant historical literature and new contributions from contemporary proponents of act-based conceptions of propositional content. (shrink)
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)
This paper argues for the philosophical and semantic importance of attitudinal objects, entities such as judgments, claims, beliefs, demands, and desires, as an ontological category distinct from that of events and states and from that of propositions. The paper presents significant revisions and refinements of the notion of an attitudinal object as it was developed in my previous work.
Against the background of standard possible-worlds semantics, this paper outlines a truthmaker approach to the semantics of attitude reports and modal sentences based on an ontology of attitudinal and modal objects.
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.
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)
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.
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 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 '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).
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 standard view of clauses embedded under attitude verbs or modal predicates is that they act as terms standing for propositions, a view that faces a range of philosophical and linguistic difficulties. Recently an alternative has been explored according to which embedded clauses act semantically as predicates of content-bearing objects. This paper argues that this approach faces serious problems when it is based on possible worlds-semantics. It outlines a development of the approach in terms of truthmaker theory instead.
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.
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.
In a range of recent and not so recent work, I have developed a novel semantics of attitude reports on which the notion of an attitudinal object or cognitive product takes center stage, that is, entities such as thoughts claims and decisions. The purpose of this note is to give a brief summary of this account against the background of the standard semantics of attitude reports and to show that the various sorts of criticism that Felappi recently advanced against it (...) are mistaken. (shrink)
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'.
This paper argues that NPs with case as head noun stand for situations in their role as truthmakers within a sentential or epistemic case space. The paper develops a unified semantic analysis of case-constructions of the various sorts within a truthmaker-based version of alternative semantics.
This paper presents a systematic semantic study of constructions with the noun 'case'. It argues that 'cases' are situations acting as truthmakers within a sentential or epistemic case space. It develops a truthmaker-based alternative semantics of 'case'-constructions, based on Fine's recent truthmaker semantics.
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'.
Natural languages generally distinguishes among different existence predicates for different types of entities, such as English 'exist', 'occur', and 'obtain'. The paper gives an in-depth discussion and analysis of a range of existence predicates in natural language within the general project of descriptive metaphysics, or more specifically ‘natural language ontology’.
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)
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)
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 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 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)