Advertisement

The Vagueness of Sentences in Isolation

  • Carlota S. SmithEmail author
Chapter
Part of the Studies in Linguistics and Philosophy book series (SLAP, volume 87)

Abstract

Many fully grammatical sentences are vague, in that they give too little information for complete semantic interpretation. However, speakers appear to have no difficulty interpreting such sentences. When they appear in a context, information from neighboring sentences allows complete interpretation. When vague sentences are presented in isolation they are interpreted with great consistency, a striking fact since no completing information is available. This consistency is due, I shall argue, to a general strategy for maximizing available information rather than to the linguistic properties of the sentences in question.

Keywords

Event Time Reference Time Subjective Contour Specific Reading Speech Time 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Notes

Acknowledgments

I would like to thank Andy Rogers, Robert Wall, and especially Susan F. Schmerling for their helpful comments and suggestions. Responsibility for the analysis and errors is mine. [Note from the editors: We thank Barbara Partee for identifying two minor, but substantive, errors in the original CLS publication; these have been corrected, given that Carlota Smith’s intent was absolutely clear. We have also updated the references and corrected other typographical and formatting errors.]

References

  1. Hochberg, J., & McAlister, E. (1953). A quantitative approach to figural ‘goodness.’ Journal of Experimental Psychology, 46, 361–364.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Kanisza, G. (1976). Subjective contours. Scientific American, 234, 48–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Partee, B. (1973). Some structural analogies between tenses and pronouns in English. Journal of Philosophy, 70, 601–609.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Reichenbach, H. (1947). Elements of symbolic logic. New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  5. Schmerling, S. (1978). Synonymy judgments as syntactic evidence. In P. Cole (Ed.), Syntax and semantics, v. 9. Pragmatics. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  6. Smith, C. S. (1976a). A theory of auxiliary have in English. Bloomington: Indiana University Linguistics Club.Google Scholar
  7. Smith, C. S. (1976b). Present curiosities. Proceedings of the Regional Meeting, Chicago Linguistic Society, 12, 568–581.Google Scholar
  8. Smith, C. S. (1976c). The temporal interpretation of complements in English. Texas Linguistic Forum, 6, 150–168.Google Scholar
  9. Smith, C. S. (1978a). How context contributes to the interpretation of temporal expressions. Southwest Regional Laboratory Professional Papers, 40, 1–11.Google Scholar
  10. Smith, C. S. (1978b). The syntax and interpretation of temporal expressions in English. Linguistics and Philosophy, 2, 43–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Formerly of Department of LinguisticsUniversity of TexasAustinUSA

Personalised recommendations