, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 1-17
Date: 28 Feb 2007

Towards a natural language semantics without functors and operands

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Abstract

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.