Preface This book is about semantics and logic. More specifically, it is about the semantics and logic of natural language; and, even more specifically than that, it is about a particular way of dealing with those subjects, known as Discourse Representation Theory, or DRT. DRT is an approach towards natural language semantics which, some thirteen years ago, arose out of attempts to deal with two distinct problems. The first of those was the semantic puzzle that had been brought to contempo (...) rary attention by Geach's notorious "donkey sentences" - sentences like If Pedro owns some donkey, he beats it, in which the anaphoric connection we perceive between the indefinite noun phrase some donkey and the pronoun it may seem to conflict with the existential meaning of the word some. The second problem had to do with tense and aspect. Some languages, for instance French and the other Romance languages, have two morphologically distinct past tenses, a simple past and a continuous past. To articulate precisely what the difference between these tenses is has turned out to be surprisingly difficult. (shrink)
This paper studies the uses of proper names within a communication-theoretic setting, looking at both the conditions that govern the use of a name by a speaker and those involved in the correct interpretation of the name by her audience. The setting in which these conditions are investigated is provided by an extension of Discourse Representation Theory, MSDRT, in which mental states are represented as combinations of propositional attitudes and entity representations . The first half of the paper presents the (...) features of this framework that are needed to understand its application to the account of names that follows. N-labelled entity representations, where N is a proper name, play a pivotal part in this account: A speaker must have an N-labelled ER in order to be in a position to use a name N, and the interpreter must either have such a representation, or else construct one as part of his interpretation. The paper distinguishes different types of name uses in terms of what they presuppose about the role of N-labelled ERs on the side of the interpreter. (shrink)
This paper presents a sound and complete proof system for the first order fragment of Discourse Representation Theory. Since the inferences that human language users draw from the verbal input they receive for the most transcend the capacities of such a system, it can be no more than a basis on which more powerful systems, which are capable of producing those inferences, may then be built. Nevertheless, even within the general setting of first order logic the structure of the formulas (...) of DRS-languages, i.e. of the Discourse Representation Structures suggest for the components of such a system inference rules that differ somewhat from those usually found in proof systems for the first order predicate calculus and which are, we believe, more in keeping with inference patterns that are actually employed in common sense reasoning.This is why we have decided to publish the present exercise, in spite of the fact that it is not one for which a great deal of originality could be claimed. In fact, it could be argued that the problem addressed in this paper was solved when Gödel first established the completeness of the system of Principia Mathematica for first order logic. For the DRS-languages we consider here are straightforwardly intertranslatable with standard formulations of the predicate calculus; in fact the translations are so straightforward that any sound and complete proof system for first order logic can be used as a sound and complete proof system for DRSs: simply translate the DRSs into formulas of predicate logic and then proceed as usual. As a matter of fact, this is how one has chosen to proceed in some implementations of DRT, which involve inferencing as well as semantic representation; an example is the Lex system developed jointly by IBM and the University of Tübingen ). (shrink)
This paper proposes a method for computing the temporal aspects of the interpretations of a variety of Germa sentences. The method is strictly modular in the sense that it allows each meaning-bearing sentence constituent to make its own, separate, contribution to the semantic representation of any sentence containing it. The semantic representation of a sentence is reached in several stages. First, an ‘initial semantic representation’ is constructed, using a syntactic analysis of the sentence as input. This initial representation is then (...) transformed into the definitive representation by a series of transformations which reflect the ways in which the contributions from different constituents of the sentence interact. Since the different constituents which make their respective contributions to the meaning of the sentence are in most instances ambiguous, the initial representations are typically of a high degree of underspecification. (shrink)
Natural languages are vehicles of information, arguably the most important, certainly the most ubiquitous that humans possess. Our everyday interactions with the world, with each other and with ourselves depend on them. And even where in the specialised contexts of science we use dedicated formalisms to convey information, their use is embedded in natural language.1..
Does context and context-dependence belong to the research agenda of semantics - and, specifically, of formal semantics? Not so long ago many linguists and philosophers would probably have given a negative answer to the question. However, recent developments in formal semantics have indicated that analyzing natural language semantics without a thorough accommodation of context-dependence is next to impossible. The classification of the ways in which context and context-dependence enter semantic analysis, though, is still a matter of much controversy and some (...) of these disputes are ventilated in the present collection. This book is not only a collection of papers addressing context-dependence and methods for dealing with it: it also records comments to the papers and the authors' replies to the comments. In this way, the contributions themselves are contextually dependent. In view of the fact that the contributors to the volume are such key figures in contemporary formal semantics as Hans Kamp, Barbara Partee, Reinhard Muskens, Nicholas Asher, Manfred Krifka, Jaroslav Peregrin and many others, the book represents a quite unique inquiry into the current activities on the semantics side of the semantics/pragmatics boundary. (shrink)
This paper develops a metaphysically flexible theory of quantification broad enough to incorporate many distinct theories of objects. Quite different, mutually incompatible conceptions of the nature of objects and of reference find representation within it. Some conceptions yield classical first-order logic; some yield weaker logics. Yet others yield notions of validity that are proper extensions of classical logic.
Vagueness is an ultimate challenge. An enormous diversity of literature on the topic has accumulated over the years, with no hint of a consensus emerging. In this light, Section 1 presents the main aspects of the challenge vagueness poses, focusing on the category of adjectives, and then gives some brief illustrations of the pervasive manifestations of vagueness in grammar.Section 2 deals with theSorites paradox, which for many philosophers is the hallmark of vagueness: By assigning avague predicate step by apparently inescapable (...) step to more and more objects one is eventually led to assign it to entities of which it plainly isn’t true.It is hard to resist the force of the paradox once one has been exposed to it. The result of this has been that many see the philosophical problem presented by vagueness as nothing other than the problem of solving the Sorites.The efforts to solve the Sorites paradox have uncovered a range of important connections between vagueness and other aspects of language and thought. But most of these seem to lead further and further away from what some consider the core issues that vagueness raises.Given the challenge posed by the Sorites, it is rather remarkable to discover that there is a lot more to vagueness beyond the paradox. In fact, linguists traditionally leave it to the philosophers to deal with the Sorites and put their own efforts into dealing with other manifestations of vagueness in natural language and their consequences for grammar. Page 2 2Section 3 reviews some of these additional phenomena, centering around three issues: (i) the controversial connections between vagueness and morphological gradability, (ii) the similarity and differences between the phenomena of vagueness and imprecision, and (iii) the ways in which vagueness infiltrates various grammatical constructions we find in language, with consequences for the architecture of grammar.The aim of this section is to highlight the main questions which any theory of vagueness will ultimately have to address. (shrink)