Split constructions are widespread in natural languages. The separation of the semantic restriction of a quantifier from that quantifier is a typical example of such a construction. This study addresses the problem that such discontinuous strings exhibit--namely, a number of locality constraints, including intervention effects. These are shown to follow from the interaction of a minimalist syntax with a semantics that directly assigns a model-theoretic interpretation to syntactic logical forms. The approach is shown to have wide empirical coverage and a (...) conceptual simplicity. The book will be of interest to scholars and advanced students of syntax and semantics. (shrink)
The main objective of this article is to provide a formal semantics of comparative correlatives of the form ‘yuè …, (jiù ) yuè … ’ in Mandarin Chinese. A new analysis is proposed which treats the comparative correlatives as one which involves a quantificational tripartite structure and which derives all the meanings of the ‘yuè …, (jiù) yuè … ’ constructions through a comparison of degrees which relate to different or same individuals. The comparison of the same or (...) different degrees of a given property is shown to be the consequences of the general processing strategy for noun phrase interpretations suggested by Partee, as well as of the constituent structure of the sentence. It is also shown that the same semantics for Chinese yuè can be extended to the -er in English comparative conditionals, as well as to similar constructions in other languages. At the same time a superficial cross-linguistic variation from independent factors can also be derived. (shrink)
One of the two central suggestions put forth in Longobardi (1991, 1994) was that Romance/English differences in the syntax of proper names were parametrically connected to supposed differences in the semantics of bare (plural and mass) common nouns (BNs). The present article will pursue this line of investigation, trying to make precise such meaning differences and to understand the reason for their apparently surprising parametric association with the syntax of proper names.It will be shown that in most Romance varieties BNs, (...) unlike their English counterparts, distribute their existential and generic readings across all different contexts exactly like (Romance and English) overt indefinites. All the differences will be unified under the proposal that Romance BNs are nothing but a type of indefinites (variables, existentially or generically bound) in Kamp-Heim’s DRT sense, while English BNs are rather systematically ambiguous between this quantificational interpretation and a referential (i.e. directly kind-denoting, much in the spirit of Carlson 1977a, b) one, providing for another type of generic reading.The analysis will therefore crucially exploit and empirically support Gerstner and Krifka’s (1987) distinction between referential and quantificational genericity. On such grounds we will finally gain a conceptual understanding of the typological implication originally established in Longobardi (1991, 1994), thus confirming that the strategies of interpretation of nominals, whether proper or common nouns, are basically one and the same, though differently parametrized in different languages. This result, in turn, will shed some light on the question whether comparative semantics is possible and whether it can be singled out as a legitimate independent component of parametric theories of grammatical variation. (shrink)
The main objective of this article is to provide a formal semantics of comparative correlatives of the form ‘ yuè …, yuè … ’ in Mandarin Chinese. A new analysis is proposed which treats the comparative correlatives as one which involves a quantificational tripartite structure and which derives all the meanings of the ‘ yuè …, yuè … ’ constructions through a comparison of degrees which relate to different or same individuals. The comparison of the same or different (...) degrees of a given property is shown to be the consequences of the general processing strategy for noun phrase interpretations suggested by Partee, as well as of the constituent structure of the sentence. It is also shown that the same semantics for Chinese yuè can be extended to the - er in English comparative conditionals, as well as to similar constructions in other languages. At the same time a superficial cross-linguistic variation from independent factors can also be derived. (shrink)
Spatial relational meaning is typically predominantly expressed in English and related languages by die locative particle system. Even between closely related languages such as Danish and English, there are substantial differences with respect to both the semantics and the morphology of locative particles. Other languages (including Japanese), although they may use locative particles in spatial relational expression, distribute spatial relational meaning quite differendy between and within form classes. We investigate the consequences of these differences for the acquisition of spatial relational (...) expressions in these three languages. Although the structure of the target language affects the specific strategies employed by the language acquiring child, the acquisition strategies for all three languages appear to be instances of a general class of conservative learning strategies. We discuss die implications of these findings in terms of the relationship between linguistic and cognitive determinants of spatial language acquisition. (shrink)
Against the background of a new interest in empires past and present and an inflation of the concept in modern political language and beyond, the article first looks at the use of the concept as an analytical marker in historical and current interpretations of empires. With a focus on Western European cases, the concrete semantics of empire as a key concept in modern European history is analyzed, combining a reconstruction of some diachronic trends with synchronic differentiations.
Stephen Barker argues that a possible worlds semantics for the counterfactual conditional of the sort proposed by Stalnaker and Lewis cannot accommodate certain examples in which determinism is true and a counterfactual Q > R is false, but where, for some P, the compound counterfactual P > is true. I argue that the completeness theorem for Lewis’s system VC of counterfactual logic shows that Stalnaker–Lewis semantics does accommodate Barker’s example, and I argue that its doing so should be understood as (...) showing that the example is an exception to Lewis’s Time’s Arrow requirements. (shrink)
Our understanding of subjunctive conditionals has been greatly enhanced through the use of possible world semantics and, more precisely, by the idea that they involve variably strict quantification over possible worlds. I propose to extend this treatment to ceteris paribus conditionals - that is, conditionals that incorporate a ceteris paribus or 'other things being equal' clause. Although such conditionals are commonly invoked in scientific theorising, they traditionally arouse suspicion and apprehensiveness amongst philosophers. By treating ceteris paribus conditionals as a species (...) of variably strict conditional I hope to shed new light upon their content and their logic. (shrink)
Conceptual primitives and semantic universals are the cornerstones of a semantic theory which Anna Wierzbicka has been developing for many years. Semantics: Primes and Universals is a major synthesis of her work, presenting a full and systematic exposition of that theory in a non-technical and readable way. It delineates a full set of universal concepts, as they have emerged from large-scale investigations across a wide range of languages undertaken by the author and her colleagues. On the basis of empirical cross-linguistic (...) studies it vindicates the old notion of the "psychic unity of mankind", while at the same time offering a framework for the rigorous description of different languages and cultures. (shrink)
'Mass terms', words like water, rice and traffic, have proved very difficult to accommodate in any theory of meaning since, unlike count nouns such as house or dog, they cannot be viewed as part of a logical set and differ in their grammatical properties. In this study, motivated by the need to design a computer program for understanding natural language utterances incorporating mass terms, Harry Bunt provides a thorough analysis of the problem and offers an original and detailed solution. An (...) extension of classical set theory, Ensemble Theory, is defined, and this provides the conceptual basis of a framework for the analysis of natural language meaning which Dr Bunt calls Two-level model-theoretic semantics. The validity of the framework is convincingly demonstrated by the formal analysis of a fragment of English including sentences with quantified and modified mass terms. Separate chapters of the book are devoted to an axiomatic definition of Ensemble Theory and a detailed discussion of its status as a mathematical formalism. (shrink)
This dissertation provides a model-theoretic semantics for English sentences atttributing a property or action to a group of objects, either collectively or distributively. It is shown that certain adverbial expressions select for collective predicates; therefore collective and distibutive predicates must be distinguishable. This finding is problematic for recent accounts of distributive predicates which analyze such predicates as taking group-level arguments, and hence as not distinguishable from collective predicates. ;A group-level treatment of distributives is possible, however, if predicate denotations are relativized (...) to a set of events for which a part/whole relation is defined. An event in which a group performs an action distributively will have subevents in which each of the group's members perform the same action; an event in which the group performs the action collectively will not. ;This analysis also makes possible an account of the fact that adverbials expressing collective action commonly have an additional use expressing spatial proximity, both in English and cross-linguistically. . A spatial "trace" function on the set of events allows formal definitions for the spatial uses of such adverbials to exactly parallel the definitions for the collectivizing uses. ;The dissertation also provides arguments for a set-theoretic model for plurality, in which the group membership relation is distinct from the subgroup relation. ;Certain quantifiers are shown sensitive to distinction between different sorts of group-level event. To accommodate this fact, it is suggested that verbal denotations provide, for each event, both an "inclusion set" and an "exclusion set"--corresponding roughly to positive and negative denotations. If the inclusion and exclusion sets are allowed under certain circumstances not to complement each other, correct results obtain. ;The splitting of verbal denotations into inclusion and exclusion sets also allows the solution of certain problems in previous accounts of the semantics of subject-verb agreement for number. The dissertation closes with a defense of the hypothesis that agreement is conditioned primarily by the semantics. (shrink)
In this interpretive analysis, Ravin argues that thematic roles are not valid semantic entities, and that syntax and semantics are indeed autonomous and independent of one another. Suggesting a decompositional approach to lexical semantics in the spirit of Katz's semantic theory, the book considers such theoretical issues as indeterminacy and ambiguity, lexical configuration rules, and lexical projection, and analyzes the semantic content of event concepts such as causation, action, and change.
During the last thirty years, most linguists and philosophers have assumed that meaning can be represented symbolically and that the mental processing of language involves the manipulation of symbols. Scholars have assembled strong evidence that there must be linguistic representations at several abstract levels--phonological, syntactic, and semantic--and that those representations are related by a describable system of rules. Because meaning is so complex, linguists often posit an equally complex relationship between semantic and other levels of grammar. The Semantics of Syntax (...) is an elegant and powerful analysis of the relationship between syntax and semantics. Noting that meaning is underdetermined by form even in simple cases, Denis Bouchard argues that it is impossible to build knowledge of the world into grammar and still have a describable grammar. He thus proposes simple semantic representations and simple rules to relate linguistic levels. Focusing on a class of French verbs, Bouchard shows how multiple senses can be accounted for by the assumption of a single abstract core meaning along with background information about how objects behave in the world. He demonstrates that this move simplifies the syntax at no cost to the descriptive power of the semantics. In two important final chapters, he examines the consequences of his approach for standard syntactic theories. (shrink)
This book attempts to marry truth-conditional semantics with cognitive linguistics in the church of computational neuroscience. To this end, it examines the truth-conditional meanings of coordinators, quantifiers, and collective predicates as neurophysiological phenomena that are amenable to a neurocomputational analysis. Drawing inspiration from work on visual processing, and especially the simple/complex cell distinction in early vision (V1), we claim that a similar two-layer architecture is sufficient to learn the truth-conditional meanings of the logical coordinators and logical quantifiers. As a prerequisite, (...) much discussion is given over to what a neurologically plausible representation of the meanings of these items would look like. We eventually settle on a representation in terms of correlation, so that, for instance, the semantic input to the universal operators (e.g. and, all)is represented as maximally correlated, while the semantic input to the universal negative operators (e.g. nor, no)is represented as maximally anticorrelated. On the basis this representation, the hypothesis can be offered that the function of the logical operators is to extract an invariant feature from natural situations, that of degree of correlation between parts of the situation. This result sets up an elegant formal analogy to recent models of visual processing, which argue that the function of early vision is to reduce the redundancy inherent in natural images. Computational simulations are designed in which the logical operators are learned by associating their phonological form with some degree of correlation in the inputs, so that the overall function of the system is as a simple kind of pattern recognition. Several learning rules are assayed, especially those of the Hebbian sort, which are the ones with the most neurological support. Learning vector quantization (LVQ) is shown to be a perspicuous and efficient means of learning the patterns that are of interest. We draw a formal parallelism between the initial, competitive layer of LVQ and the simple cell layer in V1, and between the final, linear layer of LVQ and the complex cell layer in V1, in that the initial layers are both selective, while the final layers both generalize. It is also shown how the representations argued for can be used to draw the traditionally-recognized inferences arising from coordination and quantification, and why the inference of subalternacy breaks down for collective predicates. Finally, the analogies between early vision and the logical operators allow us to advance the claim of cognitive linguistics that language is not processed by proprietary algorithms, but rather by algorithms that are general to the entire brain. Thus in the debate between objectivist and experiential metaphysics, this book falls squarely into the camp of the latter. Yet it does so by means of a rigorous formal, mathematical, and neurological exposition – in contradiction of the experiential claim that formal analysis has no place in the understanding of cognition. To make our own counter-claim as explicit as possible, we present a sketch of the LVQ structure in terms of mereotopology, in which the initial layer of the network performs topological operations, while the final layer performs mereological operations. The book is meant to be self-contained, in the sense that it does not assume any prior knowledge of any of the many areas that are touched upon. It therefore contains mini-summaries of biological visual processing, especially the retinocortical and ventral /what?/ parvocellular pathways computational models of neural signaling, and in particular the reduction of the Hodgkin-Huxley equations to the connectionist and integrate-and-fire neurons Hebbian learning rules and the elaboration of learning vector quantization the linguistic pathway in the left hemisphere memory and the hippocampus truth-conditional vs. image-schematic semantics objectivist vs. experiential metaphysics and mereotopology. All of the simulations are implemented in MATLAB, and the code is available from the book’s website. • The discovery of several algorithmic similarities between visison and semantics. • The support of all of this by means of simulations, and the packaging of all of this in a coherent theoretical framework. (shrink)
Philosophers have long analyzed the truth-condition of counterfactual conditionals in terms of the possible-worlds semantics advanced by Lewis  and Stalnaker . In this paper, I argue that, from the perspective of philosophical semantics, the causal modeling semantics proposed by Pearl  and others (e.g., Briggs ) is more plausible than the Lewis-Stalnaker possible-worlds semantics. I offer two reasons. First, the possible-worlds semantics has suffered from a specific type of counterexamples. While the causal modeling semantics can handle such examples with (...) ease, the only way for the possible-worlds semantics to do so seems to cost it its distinctive status as a philosophical semantics. Second, the causal modeling semantics, but not the possible-worlds semantics, has the resources enough for accounting for both forward-tracking and backtracking counterfactual conditionals. (shrink)
This book presents an innovative and novel approach to linguistic semantics, beginning with the idea that language can be described as a system for the expression of linguistic Meanings as particular surface forms or Texts.
This book is concerned with the relationship between semantics and surface structure and in particular with the way in which each is mapped into the other. Jim Miller argues that semantic and syntactic structure require different representations and that semantic structure is far more complex than many analysts realise. He argues further that semantic structure should be based on notions of location and movement. The need for a semantic component of greater complexity is demonstrated by an examination of prepositions, particles, (...) adverbs and verb-prefixes, and is shown to accord with cross-language and historical facts. The volume goes on to consider the sort of rules that are required to map semantic structures onto syntax. Semantics and Syntax tackles fundamental issues and draws together many of the key concepts of traditional grammar and formal linguistics. The general framework for handling syntax, semantics and morphology that it outlines is perhaps a controversial one, but it will be recognized as challenging and original. (shrink)