Advertisement

How important are truth-conditions for truth-conditional semantics?

  • Toby NapoletanoEmail author
Article
  • 26 Downloads

Abstract

In this paper, I argue that while truth-conditional semantics in generative linguistics provides lots of good semantic explanations, truth-conditions do not play an important role in these explanations. That is, the fact that expressions have the particular truthconditional contents (extensions or intensions) they have does not even partly explain facts about semantic phenomena. Rather, explanations of semantic phenomena appeal to extra-truth-conditional properties attributed to expressions via their lexical entries. Focusing on recent truth-conditional work on gradable adjectives and degree modifiers by Kennedy and McNally (Language 81:345–381, 2005), I show that the best explanations of semantic anomaly and entailment for these expressions are non-truth-conditional—they do not depend on the fact that these expressions have the truth-conditional contents they have. I then provide reasons for thinking that the point generalizes beyond gradable adjectives and degree modifiers to other expressions, and beyond anomaly and entailment to other semantic phenomena. Truth-conditional content, generally, is extrasemantic.

Keywords

Natural language semantics Truth-conditional semantics Gradable adjectives Degree modifiers Semantic explanation 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

References

  1. Chomsky, N. (1986). Knowledge of language. New York: Prager.Google Scholar
  2. Chomsky, N. (2000). New horizons in the study of language and mind. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Field, H. (1972). Tarski’s theory of truth. Journal of Philosophy, 69(13), 347–375.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Fodor, J., & Lepore, E. (1998). The emptiness of the lexicon: Critical reflections on James Pustejovsky’s “The generative lexicon”. Linguistic Inquiry, 29(2), 269–288.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Glanzberg, M. (2009). Semantics and truth relative to a world. Synthese, 166(1), 281–307.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Glanzberg, M. (2011). Meaning, concepts, and the lexicon. Croatian Journal of Philosophy, 11(1), 1–29.Google Scholar
  7. Glanzberg, M. (2014). Explanation and partiality in semantic theory. In A. Burgess & B. Sherman (Eds.), Metasemantics (pp. 259–292). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Guasti, M. T. (2002). Language acquisition: The growth of grammar. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  9. Heim, I., & Kratzer, A. (1998). Semantics in generative grammar. New York: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  10. Higginbotham, J. (1989). Knowledge of reference. In A. George (Ed.), Reflections on Chomsky (pp. 153–174). Oxford: Basil Blackwell.Google Scholar
  11. Jackendoff, R. S. (1990). Semantic structures. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  12. Kennedy, C. (2007). Vagueness and grammar: The semantics of relative and absolute gradable adjectives. Linguistics and Philosophy, 30(1), 1–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Kennedy, C., & McNally, L. (1999). From event structure to scale structure: Degree modification in deverbal adjectives. In T. Matthews & D. Strolovitch (Eds.), Proceedings of SALT 9 (pp. 163–180). Ithaca, NY: CLC Publications.Google Scholar
  14. Kennedy, C., & McNally, L. (2005). Scale structure, degree modification, and the semantics of gradable predicates. Language, 81(2), 345–381.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Larson, R. K., & Ludlow, P. (1993). Interpreted logical forms. Synthese, 95(2), 305–355.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Larson, R., & Segal, G. (1995). Knowledge of meaning. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  17. Lewis, D. (1975). Languages and language. In K. Gunderson (Ed.), Minnesota studies in the philosophy of science (pp. 3–35). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  18. Lewis, D. (1980). Index, context, and content. In S. Kanger & S. Öhman (Eds.), Philosophy and grammar (pp. 79–100). Dordrecht: Reidel.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Ludlow, P. (2011). The philosophy of generative linguistics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Napoletano, T. (2015). Compositionality as weak supervenience. Synthese, 192(1), 201–220.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Pagin, P., & Westerståhl, D. (2010). Compositionality I: Definitions and variants. Philosophy Compass, 5(2), 250–264.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Partee, B. H. (1979). Semantics—Mathematics or psychology? In R. Bäuerle, U. Egli, & A. von Stechow (Eds.), Semantics from different points of view (pp. 1–14). Berlin: Springer.Google Scholar
  23. Partee, B. H. (2011). Formal semantics: Origins, issues, early impact. The Baltic International Yearbook of Cognition, Logic and Communication, 6, 1–52.Google Scholar
  24. Pietroski, P. M. (2010). Concepts, meanings and truth: First nature, second nature and hard work. Mind and Language, 25(2), 247–278.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Schiffer, S. (2015). Meaning and formal semantics in generative grammar. Erkenntnis, 80(1), 61–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Soames, S. (1992). Truth, meaning, and understanding. Philosophical Studies, 65(1–2), 17–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Soames, S. (2012). What is meaning?. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Szabó, Z. G. (2000). Compositionality as supervenience. Linguistics and Philosophy, 23, 475–505.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Szabó, Z. G. (2012). The case for compositionality. In W. Hinzen, M. Werning, & E. Machery (Eds.), The Oxford handbook on compositionality (pp. 64–80). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  30. von Fintel, K., & Heim, I. (2011). Intensional semantics. Lecture notes, MIT. http://lingphil.mit.edu/papers/heim/fintel-heim-intensional.pdf.
  31. Yalcin, S. (2014). Semantics and metasemantics in the context of generative grammar. In A. Burgess & B. Sherman (Eds.), Metasemantics (pp. 17–54). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophy DepartmentUniversity of ConnecticutStorrsUSA

Personalised recommendations