Professor Hilary Putnam has been one of the most influential and sharply original of recent American philosophers in a whole range of fields. His most important published work is collected here, together with several new and substantial studies, in two volumes. The first deals with the philosophy of mathematics and of science and the nature of philosophical and scientific enquiry; the second deals with the philosophy of language and mind. Volume one is now issued in a new edition, including an (...) essay on the philosophy of logic first published in 1971. (shrink)
This book is an outstanding contribution to the philosophical study of language and mind, by one of the most influential thinkers of our time. In a series of penetrating essays, Chomsky cuts through the confusion and prejudice which has infected the study of language and mind, bringing new solutions to traditional philosophical puzzles and fresh perspectives on issues of general interest, ranging from the mind-body problem to the unification of science. Using a range of imaginative and deceptively simple linguistic analyses, (...) Chomsky defends the view that knowledge of language is internal to the human mind. He argues that a proper study of language must deal with this mental construct. According to Chomsky, therefore, human language is a 'biological object' and should be analyzed using the methodology of the sciences. His examples and analyses come together in this book to give a unique and compelling perspective on language and the mind. (shrink)
Many people have argued that the evolution of the human language faculty cannot be explained by Darwinian natural selection. Chomsky and Gould have suggested that language may have evolved as the by-product of selection for other abilities or as a consequence of as-yet unknown laws of growth and form. Others have argued that a biological specialization for grammar is incompatible with every tenet of Darwinian theory – that it shows no genetic variation, could not exist in any intermediate forms, confers (...) no selective advantage, and would require more evolutionary time and genomic space than is available. We examine these arguments and show that they depend on inaccurate assumptions about biology or language or both. Evolutionary theory offers clear criteria for when a trait should be attributed to natural selection: complex design for some function, and the absence of alternative processes capable of explaining such complexity. Human language meets these criteria: Grammar is a complex mechanism tailored to the transmission of propositional structures through a serial interface. Autonomous and arbitrary grammatical phenomena have been offered as counterexamples to the position that language is an adaptation, but this reasoning is unsound: Communication protocols depend on arbitrary conventions that are adaptive as long as they are shared. Consequently, language acquisition in the child should systematically differ from language evolution in the species, and attempts to analogize them are misleading. Reviewing other arguments and data, we conclude that there is every reason to believe that a specialization for grammar evolved by a conventional neo-Darwinian process. (shrink)
A novel theoretical framework for an embodied, non-representational approach to language that extends and deepens enactive theory, bridging the gap between sensorimotor skills and language. -/- Linguistic Bodies offers a fully embodied and fully social treatment of human language without positing mental representations. The authors present the first coherent, overarching theory that connects dynamical explanations of action and perception with language. Arguing from the assumption of a deep continuity between life and mind, they show that this continuity extends to language. (...) Expanding and deepening enactive theory, they offer a constitutive account of language and the co-emergent phenomena of personhood, reflexivity, social normativity, and ideality. Language, they argue, is not something we add to a range of existing cognitive capacities but a new way of being embodied. Each of us is a linguistic body in a community of other linguistic bodies. The book describes three distinct yet entangled kinds of human embodiment, organic, sensorimotor, and intersubjective; it traces the emergence of linguistic sensitivities and introduces the novel concept of linguistic bodies; and it explores the implications of living as linguistic bodies in perpetual becoming, applying the concept of linguistic bodies to questions of language acquisition, parenting, autism, grammar, symbol, narrative, and gesture, and to such ethical concerns as microaggression, institutional speech, and pedagogy. (shrink)
There’s an interesting debate in moral and political philosophy about the nature of, and relationship between, ideal and non-ideal theory. In this paper we discuss whether an analogous distinction can be drawn in philosophy of language. Our conclusion is negative: Even if you think that distinction can be put to work within moral and political philosophy, there’s no useful way to extend it to work that has been done in the philosophy of language.
A central theme in Wittgenstein’s post-Tractatus remarks on the limits of language is that we ‘cannot use language to get outside language’. One illustration of that idea is his comment that, once we have described the procedure of teaching and learning a rule, we have ‘said everything that can be said about acting correctly according to the rule’; ‘we can go no further’. That, it is argued, is an expression of anti-reductionism about meaning and rules. A framework is presented for (...) assessing the debate between reductionist and anti-reductionist readings of Wittgenstein’s views about meaning and use. It is argued that that debate cannot be settled merely by reference to Wittgenstein’s general opposition to reductionism. An important argument for anti-reductionism about rules and meaning, from Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics, is discussed. Putative evidence of reductionism about meaning in the Brown Book is considered; an alternative reading is proposed. The nature of Wittgenstein’s anti-reductionism is examined. It is argued, first, that Wittgenstein accepts that semantic and normative facts supervene on non-semantic, non-normative facts and, second, that at many points his treatment of meaning and rules goes beyond the kind of pleonastic claim that is often taken to define non-reductionist, quietist, positions in philosophy. (shrink)
Knowledge is power. Knowledge about human psychology is increasingly being produced using natural language processing (NLP) and related techniques. The power that accompanies and harnesses this knowledge should be subject to ethical controls and oversight. In this chapter, we address the ethical pitfalls that are likely to be encountered in the context of such research. These pitfalls occur at various stages of the NLP pipeline, including data acquisition, enrichment, analysis, storage, and sharing. We also address secondary uses of the results (...) and tools developed through psychometric NLP, such as profit-driven targeted advertising, political campaigns, and domestic and international psyops. Along the way, we reflect on potential ethical guidelines and considerations that may help researchers navigate these pitfalls. (shrink)
Currently, production and comprehension are regarded as quite distinct in accounts of language processing. In rejecting this dichotomy, we instead assert that producing and understanding are interwoven, and that this interweaving is what enables people to predict themselves and each other. We start by noting that production and comprehension are forms of action and action perception. We then consider the evidence for interweaving in action, action perception, and joint action, and explain such evidence in terms of prediction. Specifically, we assume (...) that actors construct forward models of their actions before they execute those actions, and that perceivers of others' actions covertly imitate those actions, then construct forward models of those actions. We use these accounts of action, action perception, and joint action to develop accounts of production, comprehension, and interactive language. Importantly, they incorporate well-defined levels of linguistic representation. We show how speakers and comprehenders use covert imitation and forward modeling to make predictions at these levels of representation, how they interweave production and comprehension processes, and how they use these predictions to monitor the upcoming utterances. We show how these accounts explain a range of behavioral and neuroscientific data on language processing and discuss some of the implications of our proposal. (shrink)
EVERY speaker of a language knows a bewildering variety of linguistic facts, and will come to know many more. It is knowledge that connects sound and meaning. Questions about the nature of this knowledge cannot be separated from fundamental questions about the nature of language. The conception of language we should adopt depends on the part it plays in explaining our knowledge of language. This chapter explores options in accounting for language, and our knowledge of language, and defends the view (...) that individuals’ languages are constituted by the standing knowledge they carry from one speech situation to another. (shrink)
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 defends the view that the Faculty of Language is compositional, i.e., that it computes the meaning of complex expressions from the meanings of their immediate constituents and their structure. I fargue that compositionality and other competing constraints on the way in which the Faculty of Language computes the meanings of complex expressions should be understood as hypotheses about innate constraints of the Faculty of Language. I then argue that, unlike compositionality, most of the currently available non-compositional constraints predict (...) incorrect patterns of early linguistic development. This supports the view that the Faculty of Language is com- positional. More generally, this paper presents a way of framing the compositionality debate (by focusing on its implications for language acquisition) that can lead to its even- tual resolution, so it will hopefully also interest theorists who disagree with its main conclusion. (shrink)
The paper builds on a methodological idea from experimental philosophy and on findings from psycholinguistics, to develop and defend ordinary language analysis (OLA) as practiced in J.L. Austin’s Sense and Sensibilia. That attack on sense-datum theories of perception focuses on the argument from illusion. Through a case-study on this paradoxical argument, the present paper argues for a form of OLA which is psychologically informed, seeks to expose epistemic, rather than semantic, defects in paradoxical arguments, and is immune to the main (...) objections to ordinary language philosophising, including those arising from the semantic/pragmatics distinction: A key project in current experimental philosophy is to develop psychological explanations of philosophically relevant intuitions that help us determine what warrant thinkers have for accepting them. Psycholinguistic work on the role of stereotypes in verb-comprehension has shown that intuitive judgments can be generated by automatic cognitive processes that duplicate both semantic and pragmatic inferences and are shaped by dominant uses of words. For systematic reasons, philosophers are prone to unwittingly deviate from such dominant uses. Where this happens, they are liable to automatically infer unwarranted conclusions that strike them as intuitively compelling. OLA helps us to determine those dominant uses, to identify unwitting deviations from them, and thus to expose unwarranted intuitions – e.g., in the premises of paradoxical arguments. Ordinary language does not determine the bounds of sense but shapes our leaps of thought. The paper shows how this enables its ‘Austinian’ analysis to contribute to a novel, epistemic, resolution of philosophical paradoxes and problems. (shrink)
This paper offers an interpretation of the later Wittgenstein's handling of the idea of an "essence of human language", and examines in particular his treatment of the 'Augustinean' vision of reference as constituting this "essence". A central theme of the interpretation is the perennial philosophical desire to impose upon linguistic meaning conceptual templates drawn from outside the forms of thought about meaning in which we engage when we exercise our capacity to speak and understand a language. The paper closes with (...) a consideration of ways in which Donald Davidson's generally congenial work on interpretation may diverge from Wittgenstein's thinking in this vicinity. (shrink)
Many philosophers think that being in an intentional state is a matter of being related to a sentence in a mental language-a 'Language of Thought' (see especially Fodor 1975, 1987 Appendix; Field 1978). According to this view-which I shall call 'the LT hypothesis'-when anyone has a belief or a desire or a hope with a certain content, they have a sentence of this language, with that content, 'written' in their heads. The claim is meant quite literally: the mental representations that (...) make up the items of this language have semantic and syntactic properties. This is why, according to this view, cognitive psychology does, and should, treat that part of the mind which deals with intentional states as a semantic and a syntactic 'engine'. (shrink)
Do we conduct our conscious propositional thinking in natural language? Or is such language only peripherally related to human conscious thought-processes? In this paper I shall present a partial defence of the former view, by arguing that the only real alternative is eliminativism about conscious propositional thinking. Following some introductory remarks, I shall state the argument for this conclusion, and show how that conclusion can be true. Thereafter I shall defend each of the three main premises in turn.
Meaning defines language because it is the internal function of language. At the same time, meaning does not exist unless in language and because of language. From the point of view of the speaking subject meaning is contents of conscience. From the point of view of a language, meaning is the objectification of knowledge in linguistic signs. And from the point of view of the individual speaking subject, meaning is the expressive intentional purpose to say something.
Speakers live language, that is, they intuit, create, acquire, perform, speak and say, interpret, use, evaluate and, even, speak of language. The real language is the language lived by speakers. On the contrary linguists, who at the same time are speakers and linguists, study language as something manifesting of front of them. In order to study language it is necessary to determine the degree of reality of the thing called language as the reality lived and used by speakers.
This volume puts forward a distinct new theory of direct reference, blending insights from both the Fregean and the Russellian traditions, and fitting the general theory of language understanding used by those working on the pragmatics of natural language.
The changes known as the loss of inflexions in English (11th- 15th centuries, included) were prompted with the introduction of a new mode of thinking. The mode of thinking, for the Anglo-Saxons, was a dynamic way of conceiving of things. Things were considered events happening. With the contacts of Anglo-Saxons with, first, the Romano-British; second, the introduction of Christianity; and finally with the Norman invasion, their dynamic way of thinking was confronted with the static conception of things coming from the (...) Mediterranean. The history of English from the 11th to the 15th century meant the introduction, confrontation and adoption of a new mental conception of things, the static way of conceiving of things, both modes of thinking defining the language today. (shrink)
By a fragment of a natural language we mean a subset of thatlanguage equipped with semantics which translate its sentences intosome formal system such as first-order logic. The familiar conceptsof satisfiability and entailment can be defined for anysuch fragment in a natural way. The question therefore arises, for anygiven fragment of a natural language, as to the computational complexityof determining satisfiability and entailment within that fragment. Wepresent a series of fragments of English for which the satisfiabilityproblem is polynomial, NP-complete, EXPTIME-complete,NEXPTIME-complete (...) and undecidable. Thus, this paper represents a casestudy in how to approach the problem of determining the logicalcomplexity of various natural language constructions. In addition, wedraw some general conclusions about the relationship between naturallanguage and formal logic. (shrink)
Metaethics is the study of metaphysics, epistemology, the philosophy of mind, and the philosophy of language, insofar as they relate to the subject matter of moral or, more broadly, normative discourse – the subject matter of what is good, bad, right or wrong, just, reasonable, rational, what we must or ought to do, or otherwise. But out of these four ‘core’ areas of philosophy, it is plausibly the philosophy of language that is most central to metaethics – and not simply (...) because ‘metaethics’ was for a long time construed more narrowly as a name for the study of moral language. The philosophy of language is central to metaethics because both the advantages of and the open problems facing different metaethical theories differ sharply over the answers those theories give to central questions in the philosophy of language. In fact, among the open problems over which such theories differ, are included particularly further problems in the philosophy of language. This article briefly surveys a range of broad categories of views in metaethics and both catalogues some of the principal issues faced by each in the philosophy of language, as well as how those arise out of their answers to more basic questions in the philosophy of language. I make no claim to completeness, only to raising a variety of important issues. (shrink)
Michael Dummett is a leading contemporary philosopher whose work on the logic and metaphysics of language has had a lasting influence on how these subjects are conceived and discussed. This volume contains some of the most provocative and widely discussed essays published in the last fifteen years, together with a number of unpublished or inaccessible writings. Essays included are: "What is a Theory of Meaning?," "What do I Know When I Know a Language?," "What Does the Appeal to Use Do (...) for the Theory of Meaning?," "Language and Truth," "Truth and Meaning," "Language and Communication," "The Source of the Concept of Truth," "Mood, Force, and Convention," "Frege and Husserl on Reference," "Realism," "Existence," "Does Quantification Involve Identity?," "Could there be Unicorns?," "Causal Loops," "Common Sense and Physics," "Testimony and Memory," "What is Mathematics About?," "Wittgenstein on Necessity: Some Reflections," and "Realism and Anti-Realism." Serving well as a companion to Dummett's other collections, the essays in this volume are not forbiddingly technical or specialized, and have relevance to many areas of analytic philosophy. (shrink)
From Augustine’s (death) drive towards an imaginary time before speech to Marx’s drive toward an imaginary time after speech as we know it, we learn that we are always already within the bonds of the mother tongue. In the late twentieth-century, Derrida turns to both Augustine and Marx to repeat the fantasy of escaping the mother (tongue). Derrida responds to Marx’s analysis of our repeated failure to forget the mother tongue by turning to Augustine’s analysis of the mother’s touch: we (...) cannot forget the mother tongue because it is licked upon our skin. Drawing on Derrida’s relationship to Augustine and Marx on the topic of touch and language, I argue that although the bond of the mother tongue is inescapable, its very real grip upon our skin is founded upon a number of fantasies: the fantasy of the Mother, of a cut with the Mother by the Mother, which separates us from an original shared skin and binds us to the Mother tongue, the fantasy of self-articulation in the death of the Mother. I suggest that the symptoms of the fantasmatic foundation of our entrapment by the mother tongue-touch is expressed in barely perceptible glitches—a shiver passing over one’s skin, a stutter in one’s speech. (shrink)
Language exists because human subjects define themselves in the circumstance they are in. This is possible because they are able to know, not directly through their senses only, but adding something new to the construct they create in their conscience. The main thing they add to the construct created is categories, something invented or fabricated by the human subject at the moment of speaking.
Neuroscience offers more than new empirical evidence about the details of cognitive functions such as language, perception and action. Since it also shows many functions to be highly distributed, interconnected and dependent on mechanisms at different levels of processing, it challenges concepts that are traditionally used to describe these functions. The question is how to accommodate these concepts to the recent evidence. A recent proposal, made in Philosophical Foundations of Neuroscience (2003) by Bennett and Hacker, is that concepts play a (...) foundational role in neuroscience, that empirical research needs to presuppose them and that changing concepts is a philosophical task. In defending this perspective, PFN shows much neuroscientific writing to be dualistic in nature due to our poor grasp of its foundations. In our review article we take a different approach. Instead of foundationalism we plead for a mild coherentism, which allows for a gradual and continuous alteration of concepts in light of new evidence. Following this approach it is also easier to deal with some neurological conditions (like blindsight, synaesthesia) that pose difficulties for our concepts. Finally, although words and concepts seem to seduce us to thinking that many skills and tasks function separately, it is language skill that – as neuroscientific evidence shows – co-emerges with action/perception cycles and thus seems to require revision of some of our central concepts. (shrink)
In this paper we propose a way to deal with natural language inference by implementing Modern Type Theoretical Semantics in the proof assistant Coq. The paper is a first attempt to deal with NLI and natural language reasoning in general by using the proof assistant technology. Valid NLIs are treated as theorems and as such the adequacy of our account is tested by trying to prove them. We use Luo’s Modern Type Theory with coercive subtyping as the formal language into (...) which we translate natural language semantics, and we further implement these semantics in the Coq proof assistant. It is shown that the use of a MTT with an adequate subtyping mechanism can give us a number of promising results as regards NLI. Specifically, it is shown that a number of inference cases, i.e. quantifiers, adjectives, conjoined noun phrases and temporal reference among other things can be successfully dealt with. It is then shown, that even though Coq is an interactive and not an automated theorem prover, automation of all of the test examples is possible by introducing user-defined automated tactics. Lastly, the paper offers a number of innovative approaches to NL phenomena like adjectives, collective predication, comparatives and factive verbs among other things, contributing in this respect to the theoretical study of formal semantics using MTTs. (shrink)
In this commentary on Berwick and Chomsky's “Why Only Us,” I discuss three key points. I first offer a brief critique of their scholarship, notably their often unjustified dismissal of previous thinking about language evolution. But my main focus concerns two arguments central to the book's thesis: the irrelevance of externalization to language evolution and the discontinuity between human conceptual representations and those of other animals. I argue against both stances, using cognitive data from nonhuman species to show that externalization (...) is not irrelevant to understanding the biology of language, and that many human conceptual structures have clear animal homologs. (shrink)
Jerry Fodor's argument for an innate language of thought continues to be a hurdle for researchers arguing that natural languages provide us with richer conceptual systems than our innate cognitive resources. I argue that because the logical/formal terms of natural languages are given a usetheory of meaning, unlike predicates, logical/formal terms might be learned without a mediating internal representation. In that case, our innate representational system might have less logical structure than a natural language, making it possible that we augment (...) our innate representational system and improve our ability to think by learning a natural language. (shrink)
A construction is found in American Sign Language that we call a Question–Answer Clause. It is made of two parts: the first part looks like an interrogative clause conveying a question, while the second part resembles a declarative clause answering that question. The very same signer has to sign both, the entire construction is interpreted as truth-conditionally equivalent to a declarative sentence, and it can be uttered only under certain discourse conditions. These and other properties of Question–Answer Clauses are discussed, (...) and a detailed syntactic, semantic, and pragmatic account is provided. Question–Answer Clauses are argued to be copular clauses consisting of a silent copula of identity connecting an interrogative clause in the precopular position with a declarative clause in the postcopular position. Pragmatically, they instantiate a topic/comment structure, with the first part expressing a sub-question under discussion and the second part expressing the answer to that sub-question. Broader implications of the analysis are discussed for the Question Under Discussion theory of discourse structuring, for the analysis of pseudoclefts in spoken languages, and for recent proposals about the need for answerhood operators and exhaustivity operators in the grammar and the consequences for the syntax/semantics/pragmatics interface. (shrink)
Bayesian probability is normally defined over a fixed language or eventspace. But in practice language is susceptible to change, and thequestion naturally arises as to how Bayesian degrees of belief shouldchange as language changes. I argue here that this question poses aserious challenge to Bayesianism. The Bayesian may be able to meet thischallenge however, and I outline a practical method for changing degreesof belief over changes in finite propositional languages.
We provide a syntax and a derivation system fora formal language of mathematics called Weak Type Theory (WTT). We give the metatheory of WTT and a number of illustrative examples.WTT is a refinement of de Bruijn''s Mathematical Vernacular (MV) and hence:– WTT is faithful to the mathematician''s language yet isformal and avoids ambiguities.
PHILOSOPHY Supplement: 42 Pages: 171-176 Published: 1997 Conference: Annual Conference of the Royal-Institute-of-Philosophy Location: UNIV READING, READING, ENGLAND Date: SEP , 1996 Sponsor(s): Royal Inst Philos Accession Number: WOS:000071935500009 Document Type: Article; Proceedings Paper Language: English Reprint Address: Quine, WV (reprint author), Harvard Univ, Cambridge, MA 02138 USA Addresses: 1. Harvard Univ, Cambridge, MA 02138 USA Publisher: CAMBRIDGE UNIV PRESS, 40 WEST 20TH STREET, NEW YORK, NY 10011-4211 USA Web of Science Category: Philosophy Subject Category: Philosophy IDS Number: YW440 ISSN: (...) 0031-8191. (shrink)
Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767-1835) is rightly regarded as a thinker who extended the development of the so-called expressivist conception of language and world that Johann Georg Hamann (1730-1788) and especially Johann Gottfried Herder (1744-1803) initially articulated. Being immersed as Humboldt was in the intellectual climate of German Romanticism, he aimed not only to provide a systematic foundation for how he believed linguistic research as a science should be conducted, but also to attempt to rectify what he saw as the deficiencies (...) of Kant’s philosophical system. My aim in this paper is to show how an expressivist thinker like Humboldt has the conceptual resources from within his own framework and, perhaps surprisingly, with some help from the 20th century philosopher of language and mind, Donald Davidson, to reject a criticism commonly made against expressivist conceptions of language and world. This is the charge that this sort of expressivism threatens the objectivity of the world by emphasizing the role of language in the constitution and disclosure of the world. Cristina Lafont makes just this charge against Humboldt (and other philosophers in the German expressivist-hermeneutic tradition). Specifically, she argues that expressivist philosophers of language are all ultimately committed to some pernicious form of linguistic idealism and relativism. In this paper, I first present Humboldt’s reflections on language and give some textual evidence for why he is often read – mistakenly in my view – as a linguistic idealist and relativist. Second, I briefly sketch Lafont’s charge of linguistic idealism and relativism against Humboldt. Third and finally, I show how she misunderstands Humboldt’s expressivist conception of language and world by connecting my rebuttal to her criticism with Davidson’s argument that successful communication does not require the sharing of explicit rules or conventions that govern in advance the use and understanding of words. (shrink)
Inquiry into language evolution has been controversial, mainly because there is no consensus as to the nature of both ‘evolution’ and ‘language.’ Berwick and Chomsky make sense of the evolution of language by treating it as a biological phenomenon. In contrast to functional characterizations of language as ‘communication’ or ‘speech,’ the authors define it as, essentially, a mind-internal computational mechanism. Within their minimalist approach, hierarchical syntactic structure is achieved through the recursive application of a basic operation called ‘Merge.’ The simplicity (...) of the basic operation is consistent with archeological evidence suggesting an evolutionary recent origin of language. (shrink)
This paper argues that the faculty of language comes essentially for free in evolutionary terms, by grace of a capacity shared with some evolutionarily quite distantly related animals for deliberatively planning action in the world. The reason humans have language of a kind that animals do not is because of a qualitative difference in the nature of human plans rather than anything unique to language.
-/- This volume presents eleven original essays that critically examine aspects of John Searle's seminal contributions to the philosophy of language, and explore new ways in which some of their themes could be developed. After an opening essay by Searle in which he summarizes the essentials of his conception of language and what he currently takes its most distinctive implications to be, the critical essays are grouped into two interconnected parts – “From mind to meaning” and “From meaning to force” (...) – reflecting Searle's claim that an analysis of meaning would not be adequate if it could not integrate a proper analysis of illocutionary force and if it could not itself be integrated within a satisfactory account of mind. -/- Searle's views on how force, meaning, and mind are interconnected form part of the general account of intentionality (in the broad sense of an entity's being about entities other that itself) that he has developed over the years, and his opening essay includes an outline of that account, emphasizing three of its basic ideas. First, the idea that linguistic intentionality does not merely require the expression of propositions and the existence of conditions under which they might or might not be satisfied, but also the association of those propositions with illocutionary forces of various kinds, which determine the various kinds of acts (asserting, requesting, promising, etc.) that possession of a language characteristically makes possible. (shrink)
One of the challenges confronted by language learners is to master the interpretation of sentences with multiple logical operators, where different interpretations depend on different scope assignments. Five-year-old children have been found to access some readings of potentially ambiguous sentences much less than adults do :73–102, 2006; Musolino, Universal Grammar and the acquisition of semantic knowledge, 1998; Musolino and Lidz, Lang Acquis 11:277–291, 2003, among many others). Recently, Gualmini et al. have shown that, by careful contextual manipulation, it is possible (...) to evoke some of the putatively unavailable interpretations from young children. Their proposal is quite general, but the focus of their work was on sentences involving nominal quantifiers and negation. The present paper extends this investigation to sentences with modal expressions. The results of our two experimental studies reveal that, in potentially ambiguous sentences with modal expressions, the kinds of contextual manipulations introduced by Gualmini and colleagues do not suffice to explain children’s initial scope interpretations. In response to the recalcitrant data, we propose a new three-stage model of the acquisition of scope relations. Most importantly, at the initial stage, child grammars make available only one interpretation of negative sentences with modal expressions. We call this the Unique Scope Assignment stage. (shrink)
This light piece reflects on analogies between two often disjoint streams of research: the logical semantics and pragmatics of natural language and dynamic logics of general information-driven agency. The two areas show significant overlap in themes and tools, and yet, the focus seems subtly different in each, defying a simple comparison. We discuss some unusual questions that emerge when the two are put side by side, without any pretense at covering the whole literature or at reaching definitive conclusions.
I discuss a stochastic model of language learning and change. During a syntactic change, each speaker makes use of constructions from two different idealized grammars at variable rates. The model incorporates regularization in that speakers have a slight preference for using the dominant idealized grammar. It also includes incrementation: The population is divided into two interacting generations. Children can detect correlations between age and speech. They then predict where the population’s language is moving and speak according to that prediction, which (...) represents a social force encouraging children not to sound out-dated. Both regularization and incrementation turn out to be necessary for spontaneous language change to occur on a reasonable time scale and run to completion monotonically. Chance correlation between age and speech may be amplified by these social forces, eventually leading to a syntactic change through prediction-driven instability. (shrink)
The paper sets out to offer an alternative to the function/argument approach to the most essential aspects of natural language meanings. That is, we question the assumption that semantic completeness (of, e.g., propositions) or incompleteness (of, e.g., predicates) exactly replicate the corresponding grammatical concepts (of, e.g., sentences and verbs, respectively). We argue that even if one gives up this assumption, it is still possible to keep the compositionality of the semantic interpretation of simple predicate/argument structures. In our opinion, compositionality presupposes (...) that we are able to compare arbitrary meanings in term of information content. This is why our proposal relies on an ‘intrinsically’ type free algebraic semantic theory. The basic entities in our models are neither individuals, nor eventualities, nor their properties, but ‘pieces of evidence’ for believing in the ‘truth’ or ‘existence’ or ‘identity’ of any kind of phenomenon. Our formal language contains a single binary non-associative constructor used for creating structured complex terms representing arbitrary phenomena. We give a finite Hilbert-style axiomatisation and a decision algorithm for the entailment problem of the suggested system. (shrink)
This article introduces a special issue on mechanisms in language evolution research. It describes processes relevant for the emergence of protolanguage and the transition thereof to modern language. Protolanguage is one of the key terms in the field of language evolution, used to designate a hypothesised intermediate stage in the emergence of language present in extinct hominins: qualitatively different from non-human primate communication in possessing some, but not all, of the features that characterise modern language. Much debate in language evolution (...) focuses on the exact delineation of these features, as well as the means whereby the transitions occurred: first from non-human primate communication systems to protolanguage, and then from protolanguage to modern language. In what follows, we first propose a comprehensive typology of protolanguage debates, taking into account the postulated structural organisation of protolanguage, its functions, and its communicative modality. This makes it possible to show how a specific focus on mechanisms and processes deemed relevant for the emergence of these features allows us to assess the explanatory scope of the existing theories of protolanguage. (shrink)
I offer a synoptic account of some chief parameters of language and its relationship to communication and to thought, distinguishing in the process between semantical and pragmatic dimensions of utterance.
Ueda Shizuteru (born 1926) draws both on „Asian“ and „Western“ ideas to highlight the importance of silence as a mode of expression, especially in the Zen Buddhist tradition. This paper seeks to sort out the basic idea that stands behind his analysis: the idea of articulation, a term – implicitly or explicitly – taken from Wilhelm von Humboldt. Though Ueda acknowledges the importance of language, and – in line with Ernst Cassirer – of non-linguistic, i.e. symbolic forms of articulation, the (...) way in which he presents his concept of silence remains in itself opaque and contests partly his basic assumption that the human being is essentially linguistic. It will therefore be shown how Humboldt’s and Cassirer’s idea of articulation can help to clarify Ueda’s usage of the term, while its application by Ueda in a number of analyses can help to rethink the idea of articulation from its inception in voicing (Verlautlichung) and vocalizing (Verlautbarung) and hence the relation of language and silence. The paper finally aims at an interpretation of Ueda’s analysis of how silence in sitting meditation is drawn towards articulating the very idea of silent meditation in words. (shrink)
Ruth Millikan is well known for having developed a strikingly original way for philosophers to seek understanding of mind and language, which she sees as biological phenomena. She now draws together a series of groundbreaking essays which set out her approach to language. Guiding the work of most linguists and philosophers of language today is the assumption that language is governed by prescriptive normative rules. Millikan offers a fundamentally different way of viewing the partial regularities that language displays, comparing them (...) to biological norms that emerge from natural selection. This yields novel and quite radical consequences for our understanding of the nature of public linguistic meaning, the process of language understanding, how children learn language, and the semantics/pragmatics distinction. (shrink)