Interview with Richard Rorty, April 1997, Amsterdam. Occasion for the interview was Rorty being the occupant of the Spinoza Chair in 1997. The interview is mostly about Rorty's paper 'The Intellectuals and the Poor', in which he criticises the politics of left-wing academics.
This paper is devoted to the formulation and investigation of a dynamic semantic interpretation of the language of ﬁrst-order predicate logic. The resulting system, which will be referred to as ‘dynamic predicate logic’, is intended as a ﬁrst step towards a compositional, non-representational theory of discourse semantics. In the last decade, various theories of discourse semantics have emerged within the paradigm of model-theoretic semantics. A common feature of these theories is a tendency to do away with the principle of compositionality, (...) a principle which, implicitly or explicitly, has dominated semantics since the days of Frege. Therefore the question naturally arises whether non-compositionality is in any way a necessary feature of discourse semantics. Since we subscribe to the interpretation of compositionality as constituting primarily a methodological principle, we consider this to be a methodological rather than an empirical question. As a consequence, the emphasis in the present paper lies on developing an alternative compositional semantics of discourse, which is empirically equivalent to its non-compositional brethren, but which diﬀers from them in a principled methodological way. Hence, no attempts are made to improve on existing theories empirically. Nevertheless, as we indicate in section 5, the development of a compositional alternative may in the end have empirical consequences, too. First of all, it can be argued that the dynamic view on interpretation developed in this paper suggests natural and relatively easy to formulate extensions which enable one to deal with a wider range of phenomena than can be dealt with in existing theories. Moreover, the various approaches to the model-theoretic semantics of discourse that have been developed during the last decade, have constituted a ‘fresh start’ in the sense that much of what had been accomplished before was ignored, at least for a start. Of course, this is a justiﬁed strategy if one feels one is trying to develop a radically diﬀerent approach to recalcitrant problems. However, there comes a time when such new approaches have to be compared with the older one, and when an assessment of the pros and cons of each has to be made. One of the main problems in semantics today, we feel, is that a semantic theory such as Montague grammar, and an approach like Kamp’s discourse representation theory, are hard to compare, let alone that it is possible to unify their insights and results.. (shrink)
In many natural languages, there are clear syntactic and/or intonational differences between declarative sentences, which are primarily used to provide information, and interrogative sentences, which are primarily used to request information. Most logical frameworks restrict their attention to the former. Those that are concerned with both usually assume a logical language that makes a clear syntactic distinction between declaratives and interrogatives, and usually assign different types of semantic values to these two types of sentences. A different approach has been taken (...) in recent work on inquisitive semantics. This approach does not take the basic syntactic distinction between declaratives and interrogatives as its starting point, but rather a new notion of meaning that captures both informative and inquisitive content in an integrated way. The standard way to treat the logical connectives in this approach is to associate them with the basic algebraic operations on these new types of meanings. For instance, conjunction and disjunction are treated as meet and join operators, just as in classical logic. This gives rise to a hybrid system, where sentences can be both informative and inquisitive at the same time, and there is no clearcut division between declaratives and interrogatives. It may seem that these two general approaches in the existing literature are quite incompatible. The main aim of this paper is to show that this is not the case. We develop an inquisitive semantics for a logical language that has a clearcut division between declaratives and interrogatives. We show that this language coincides in expressive power with the hybrid language that is standardly assumed in inquisitive semantics, we establish a sound and complete axiomatization for the associated logic, and we consider a natural enrichment of the system with presuppositional interrogatives. (shrink)
Of course, although this view on meaning was the prevailing one for almost a century, many of the people who initiated the enterprise of logical semantics, including people like Frege and Wittgenstein, had an open eye for all that it did not catch. However, the logical means which Frege, Wittgenstein, Russell, and the generation that succeeded them, had at their disposal were those of classical mathematical logic and set-theory, and these indeed are not very suited for an analysis of other (...) aspects of meaning than those which the slogan covers. A real change in view then had to await the emergence of other concepts, which in due course became available mainly under the influence of developments in computer science and cognate disciplines such as artificial intelligence. And this is one of the reasons why it took almost a century before any serious and successful challenge of the view that meaning equals truthconditions from within logical semantics could emerge. (shrink)
This paper is about a topic in the semantics of interrogatives.1 In what follows a number of assumptions ﬁgure at the background which, though intuitively appealing, have not gone unchallenged, and it seems therefore only fair to draw the reader’s attention to them at the outset. The ﬁrst assumption concerns a very global intuition about the kind of semantic objects that we associate with interrogatives. The intuition is that there is an intimate relationship between interrogatives and their answers: an interrogative (...) determines what counts as an answer.2 Given a certain, independently motivated, view on what constitutes the meaning of an answer, this intuition, in return, determines what constitutes the meaning of an interrogative. For example, starting from the observation that answers are true or false in situations, we may be led to the view that answers express propositions, i.e., objects which determine a truth value in a situation. Given that much, our basic intuition says that interrogatives are to be associated with objects which determine propositions. Such objects will be referred to as ‘questions’ in what follows. Notice that all this is largely framework independent: we have made no assumptions yet about what situations, propositions, and questions are, we have only related them in a certain systematic way. In fact we will use a more or less standard, but certainly not uncontroversial, speciﬁcation in what follows: situations are identiﬁed with (total) possible worlds; propositions with sets of worlds; and questions with equivalence relations on the set of worlds. The second assumption that plays a role in what follows is of a more linguistic nature. Interrogatives typically occur in two ways: as independent expressions, and as complements of certain verbs. The assumption is that these two ways of occurring are systematically related, not just syntactically but also semantically.3 Notice that the exact nature of this relationship is underdeter.. (shrink)
In the present version of these lecture notes only a number of typos and a few glaring mistakes have been corrected. Thanks to Paul Dekker for his help in this respect. No attempt has been been made to update the original text or to incorporate new insights and approaches. For a more recent overview, see our ‘Questions’ in the Handbook of Logic and Language (edited by Johan van Benthem and Alice ter Meulen, Elsevier, 1997).
Discussions often end before the issues that started them have been resolved. For example, in the late sixties and early seventies, a hot topic in philosophical logic was the development of an adequate semantics for the language of modal predicate logic. However, the result of this discussion was not one single system that met with general agreement, but a collection of alternative systems, each defended most ably by its proponents.
There is an increasing interest in publications about the sources of meaning in life; books about the art of living are immensely popular. This article discusses whether one of the ancient predecessors of current 'art of living' theories, the Stoa and more particularly Seneca, can be of interest to educators today. Seneca's explicit writings on education are relatively few, but in his letters to his friend Lucilius we find several ideas as to how educators can assist students to become wise (...) and virtuous adults. The main characteristic of the virtuous sage is his ability to maintain tranquillity of mind. While we disagree with the radicalism of Seneca's view on the extirpation of emotions, we have discovered insights that we believe can be a valuable source for educators and students in their reflections on the meaning of education for the business of life. (shrink)
The paper sketches the place of dynamic semantics within a broader picture of developments in philosophical and linguistic theories of meaning. Some basic concepts of dynamic semantics are illustrated by means of a detailed analysis of anaphoric deﬁnite and indeﬁnite descriptions, which are treated as contextually dependent quantiﬁcational expressions. It is shown how a dynamic view sheds new light on the contextual nature of interpretation, on the diﬀerence between monologue and dialogue, and on the interplay between direct and indirect information.
One of the insights of dynamic semantics in its various guises (Kamp 1981, Heim 1982, Groenendijk & Stokhof 1991, Kamp & Reyle 1993 among many others) is that interpretation is sensitive to left-to-right order. Is order sensitivity, particularly the default left-to-right order of evaluation, a property of particular meanings of certain lexical items (e.g., dynamically interpreted conjunction) or is it a more general feature of meaning composition? If it is a more general feature of meaning composition, is it a (...) processing ‘preference’ or should it be captured as a ‘harder’ constraint on the type of meanings and operations over meanings involved in natural language interpretation? This squib draws attention to the symmetrical A-too B-too construction (found in a variety of languages, e.g., Hungarian, Japanese, Romanian, Russian) in this context. It argues that any semantic analysis of its main ‘symmetrical-meaning’ characteristic should also allow for subtler interactions between this construction and items that are clearly sensitive to evaluation-order effects, e.g., anaphoric adjectives like next and other. We suggest that the notion of postsupposition embedded in a broader dynamic framework is better able to account for both the symmetric nature of this construction, its non-symmetric variant A-too, and its interaction with items that are evaluation-order sensitive. We briefly compare this proposal with a couple of possible alternative accounts. (shrink)
This paper investigates a generalized version of inquisitive semantics. A complete axiomatization of the associated logic is established, the connection with intuitionistic logic and several intermediate logics is explored, and the generalized version of inquisitive semantics is argued to have certain advantages over the system that was originally proposed by Groenendijk (2009) and Mascarenhas (2009).
In terms of Groenendijk and Stokhofs (1984) formalization of exhaustive interpretation, many conversational implicatures can be accounted for. In this paper we justify and generalize this approach. Our justification proceeds by relating their account via Halpern and Moses (1984) non-monotonic theory of only knowing to the Gricean maxims of Quality and the first sub-maxim of Quantity. The approach of Groenendijk and Stokhof (1984) is generalized such that it can also account for implicatures that are triggered in subclauses not (...) entailed by the whole complex sentence. (shrink)
In this paper an approach to the exhaustive interpretation of answers is developed. It builds on a proposal brought forward by Groenendijk and Stokhof (1984). We will use the close connection between their approach and McCarthy's (1980, 1986) predicate circumscription and describe exhaustive interpretation as an instance of interpretation in minimal models, well-known from work on counterfactuals (see for instance Lewis (1973)). It is shown that by combining this approach with independent developments in semantics/pragmatics one can overcome certain limitations (...) of Groenenedijk and Stokhof's (1984) proposal. In the last part of the paper we will provide a Gricean motivation for exhaustive interpretation building on work of Schulz (to appear) and van Rooij and Schulz (2004). (shrink)
We observe that the facts pertaining to the acceptability of negative polarity items (henceforth, NPIs) in interrogative environments are more complex than previously noted. Since Klima [Klima, E. (1964). In J. Fodor & J. Katz (Eds.), The structure of language. Prentice-Hall], it has been typically assumed that NPIs are grammatical in both matrix and embedded questions, however, on closer scrutiny it turns out that there are differences between root and embedded environments, and between question nucleus and wh-restrictor. While NPIs are (...) always licensed in the nucleus of root questions, their acceptability in the restrictor of wh-phrases and in the nucleus of any embedded question depends on the logical properties of the linguistic environment: its strength in terms of exhaustivity [Groenendijk, J., & Stokhof, M. (1984). Studies on the semantics of questions and the pragmatic answers. Amserdam (NL), Post-Doctoral Dissertation. Heim, I. (1994). In R. Buchalla & A. Mittwoch (Eds.), Proceedings of the 9th annual IATL conference and of the 1993 IATL workshop on discourse (pp. 128-144). Akademon, Jerusalem. Beck, S., & Rullmann, H. (1999). Natural Language Semantics, 7, 249-298. Sharvit, Y. (2002). Natural Language Semantics, 10, 97-123] and its monotonicity properties (in the sense of von Fintel [von Fintel, K. (1999). Journal of Semantics, 16, 97-148]). (shrink)
A semantics for interrogatives is presented which is based on Karttunen's theory, but in a flexible manner incorporates both weak and strong exhaustivity. The paper starts out by considering degree questions, which often require an answer picking out the maximal degree from a certain set. However, in some cases, depending on the semantic properties of the question predicate, reference to the minimal degree is required, or neither specifying the maximum nor the minimum is sufficient. What is needed is an operation (...) which defines the maximally informative answer on the basis of the Karttunen question denotation. Shifting attention to non-degree questions, two notions of answerhood are adopted from work by Heim. The first of these is weakly exhaustive and the second strongly exhaustive. The second notion of answerhood is proven to be equivalent to Groenendijk and Stokhof's interrogative semantics. On the basis of a wide range of empirical data showing that questions often are not interpreted exhaustively, it is argued that a fairly rich system of semantic objects associated with questions is needed to account for the various ways in which questions contribute to the semantics and pragmatics of the utterances in which they appear. (shrink)
In the logical, philosophical and linguistic literature, a number of theoretical frameworks have been proposed for the meaning of questions (see Ginzburg (1995), Groenendijk & Stokhof (1997) for recent overviews). I will concentrate on two general approaches that figured prominently in linguistic semantics, which I will call the proposition set approach and the structured meaning approach (sometimes called the “propositional” and the “categorial” or “functional” approach). I will show that the proposition set approach runs into three problems: It does (...) not always predict the right focus structure in answers, it is unable to distinguish between polarity (yes/no) and a certain type of alternative questions, and it does not allow to formulate an important condition for a type of multiple constituent questions. On the other hand, I will show that the main argument brought forward against the structured meaning framework, namely that it does not give us an elegant way to account for embedded questions, does not withstand closer scrutiny. In this I will take up an issue raised in von Stechow (1990), namely, that the greater expressive power of the structured meaning approach might be necessary for the proper treatment of semantic phenomena like question formation and focusation. (shrink)
There are two kinds of semantic theories of anaphora. Some, such as Heim’s File Change Semantics, Groenendijk and Stokhof’s Dynamic Predicate Logic, or Muskens’ Compositional DRT (CDRT), seem to require full coindexing of anaphora and their antecedents prior to interpretation. Others, such as Kamp’s Discourse Representation Theory (DRT), do not require this coindexing and seem to have an important advantage here. In this squib I will sketch a procedure that the first group of theories may help themselves to so (...) that they can interleave interpretation and coindexing in DRT’s way. (shrink)
An antecedent relationship may hold between an indefinite and a pronoun across non-quantified sentences (‘Jane bought a book. She read it immediately.‘), from the restrictor to the nuclear scope of a single quantified sentence (‘Every woman who bought a book read it immediately.‘; Geach 1962), and even across two quantified sentences (‘Every woman bought a book. Most read it immediately.‘; Sells 1985). First-generation dynamic semantic systems (Kamp 1981; Heim 1983; Groenendijk & Stokhof 1991) cannot handle anaphora across quantified sentences, (...) but do handle the first two cases above quite elegantly: anaphora within a single quantified sentence (i.e. donkey anaphora) is a simple extension of anaphora across non-quantified sentences. Dynamic Plural Logic (van den Berg 1996) expands empirical coverage to anaphora across two quantified sentences (i.e. quantificational subordination) by generalising all three cases above to this worst case. This paper presents Dynamic Update Anaphora Logic, an alternative extended logic that introduces variables to store full dynamic clause meanings and compound variable terms to construct sets of individuals. Clause meanings may be retrieved later to handle donkey anaphora and quantificational subordination as straightforward extensions to non-quantified cross-sentential anaphora. This new system also handles paycheck pronouns (Karttunen 1969b), an empirical deficit of Dynamic Plural Logic. (shrink)
We propose a novel interpretation of natural-language questions using a modal predicate logic of knowledge. Our approach brings standard model-theoretic and proof-theoretic techniques from modal logic to bear on questions. Using the former, we show that our interpretation preserves Groenendijk and Stokhof's answerhood relation, yet allows an extensional interpretation. Using the latter, we get a sound and complete proof procedure for the logic for free. Our approach is more expressive; for example, it easily treats complex questions with operators that (...) scope over questions. We suggest a semantic criterion that restricts what natural-language questions can express. We integrate and generalize much previous work on the semantics of questions, including Beck and Sharvit's families of subquestions, non-exhaustive questions, and multi-party conversations. (shrink)
In this paper we reexamine the question of whether questions areinherently intensional entities. We do so by proposing a novelextensional theory of questions, based on a re-interpretation of thedomain of t as a bilattice rather than the usual booleaninterpretation. We discuss the adequacy of our theory with respect tothe adequacy criteria imposed on the semantics of questionsby (Groenendijk and Stokhof 1997). We show that the theory is able to account in astraightforward manner for some complex issues in the semantics (...) ofquestions including coordinated questions, combined indicative andinterrogative sentences, questions with quantifiers, and theimpossibility of negating questions. (shrink)
Traditional approaches to the semantics of questions analyze questions indirectly, via the notion of an answer. In recent work on inquisitive semantics, a different perspective is taken: the meaning of a question is equated with its resolution conditions, just like the meaning of a statement is traditionally equated with its truth-conditions. In this paper I argue that this proposal improves on previous approaches, combining the formal elegance and explanatory power of Groenendijk and Stokhof’s partition theory with the greater generality (...) afforded by answer-set theories. (shrink)