The idea that an adequate semantics of ordinary language calls for some theory of events has sparked considerable debate among linguists and philosophers. On the one hand, so many linguistic phenomena appear to be explained if (and, according to some authors, only if) we make room for logical forms in which reference to or quantification over events is explicitly featured. Examples include nominalization, adverbial modification, tense and aspect, plurals, and singular causal statements. On the other hand, a number of deep (...) philosophical questions arise as soon as we take events into consideration. Are events entities of a kind? What are their identity and individuation criteria? How does semantic theorizing depend on such metaphysical issues? The aim of this book is to address such issues in some depth, with emphasis precisely on the interplay between linguistic applications and philosophical implications. Contributors: N. Asher, P. M. Bertinetto, J. Brandl, D. Delfitto, R. Eckardt, J. Higginbotham, A. Lenci, T. Parsons, A. ter Meulen, H. Verkuyl. A comprehensive introductory essay (pp. 3-47) is included. (shrink)
In this article I contrast in two ways those conceptions of semantic theory deriving from Richard Montague's Intensional Logic (IL) and later developments with conceptions that stick pretty closely to a far weaker semantic apparatus for human first languages. IL is a higher-order language incorporating the simple theory of types. As such, it endows predicates with a reference. Its intensional features yield a conception of propositional identity (namely necessary equivalence) that has seemed to many to be too coarse to be (...) acceptable. In the most usual expositions, it takes the object of linguistic explication to be the sentence in a context, as in Kaplan, 1977. This last has led to recent speculations about 'shifted' contexts. IL may be contrasted with a more linguistically (representationally) bound conception of propositions and interpretation of their predicational and functional parts, and with the explication, not of sentences in contexts, but of potential utterances, relative to the antecedent referential intentions of their speakers. We may then advance, as an empirical hypothesis about all human languages, that contexts never shift, and propose that apparent counterexamples stem from the misconstrual of linguistically coded anaphoric relations, relations that are wanted independently anyway. Donald Davidson's posthumous volume Truth and Predication mounts a sustained criticism of the notion of predicate reference. This criticism is not decisive. However, it may put the ball in the other court, insofar as it asks for a justification of what IL takes as given. Elaborations of IL using structured propositions, recently defended in King, 2007, recognize the problem of predicate reference, and the correlative issue of the 'unity of the proposition'; but I do not see that they can do better than bite the bullet already bitten in IL. I agree with Frege's insight that full justification of predicate reference pushes the boundaries of natural language, and to that extent may not be found within the semantic (as opposed to general scientific) enterprise. (shrink)
: Consider mental states of the type that relate a subject to a content expressed by a sentence. I propose that some of these states necessarily include as constituents of their contents the states themselves. These reflexive states arise when one locates a content as belonging, for example, to one's own present or past. That content is then a tense% thought, ordering one's present state with respect to the content. Anaphoric cross‐reference between an event or state and a constituent of (...) its own content is responsible, I argue, for the phenomenon of sequence of tense in English. Conversely, the fact that some states are necessarily reflexive supports the view that the elaborations of logical form that account for sequence of tense are no mere artefact of semantics, but even intrinsic to some of our utterances and thoughts. (shrink)
An idiolectal conception of language is compatible with a substantive role for external things — objects, including other people — in the characterization of idiolects. Illustrations of this role are not hard to come by. The point of looking outward from the individual is pretty evident for the case of reference to perceptually encountered objects: had the world been significantly different, a person with the same molecular history would have acquired, and called by the same familiar names, different physical and (...) other concepts. An idiolectal conception of language is by no means committed, and has some reason to be opposed, to internalism, and to individualism in Burge's sense; that is, to the view that the organization of the body, abstracting from external things, is constitutive of any linguistically significant aspect of language. (shrink)
After reviewing some major features of theinteractions between Linguistics and Philosophyin recent years, I suggest that the depth and breadthof current inquiry into semanticshas brought this subject into contact both with questionsof the nature of linguistic competence and with modern andtraditional philosophical study of the nature ofour thoughts, and the problems of metaphysics.I see this development as promising for thefuture of both subjects.
In this article we consider, relying in part upon comparative semantic evidence from English and Romanian, two contrasting dimensions of the sense in which our thoughts, including the contents of imagination and memory, and extending to objects of fear, enjoyment, and other emotions directed toward worldly happenings, may be distinctively first-personal, or "de se," to use the terminology introduced in Lewis (1979), and exhibit the phenomenon of immunity to error through misidentification (hereafter: IEM) in the sense of Shoemaker (1968) and (...) elsewhere. The different dimensions of the de se, we will argue, come apart in the following sense: some first-personal propositions, memories, and fears are about oneself as an experiencer of the contents in question, and others not; and some that are about the experiencer are not given as about oneself. (shrink)
In this commentary, I concentrate upon Ray Jackendoff's view of the proper foundations for semantics within the context of generative grammar. Jackendoff (2002) favors a form of internalism that he calls “conceptualism.” I argue that a retreat from realism to conceptualism is not only unwarranted, but even self-defeating, in that the issues that prompt his view will inevitably reappear if the latter is adopted.