Abstract Objects and the Core-Periphery Distinction in the Ontological and the Conceptual Domain of Natural Language

Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 422)


This paper elaborates core-periphery distinctions in the ontological and the conceptual domain of natural language. The core-periphery distinction is essential for the pursuit of natural language ontology and has in fact been made implicitly by any philosopher present or past when appealing to natural language for motivating an ontological notion or view. The distinction plays a central role in the main thesis of my 2013 book Abstract Objects and the Semantics of Natural Language, that natural language permits reference to abstract objects only in its periphery, not its core. The paper explores how the core-periphery distinction relevant for ontology appears to be structurally anchored and relates to the more familiar core-periphery distinction that Chomsky drew for syntax.


Abstract objects Core-periphery distinction Propositions Properties Numbers Degrees Functional categories 



Part of the material of this paper has been presented in courses on natural language ontology in Duesseldorf, ESSLLI in Sofia (Bulgaria), and Munich in 2018 as well as at NYU (May 2019) and the IHPST, Paris (July 2019). The paper has benefitted greatly from discussions with the audiences as well as from numerous conversations with Kit Fine, exchanges with Noam Chomsky and Donca Steriade, as well as comments by Matti Eklund, Jonathan Schaffer, and an anonymous referee on a previous version of this paper.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CNRSParisFrance

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