Analytic/Synthetic and Semantic Theory

  • Leonard Linsky
Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 40)


A somewhat simplified version of Jerrold J. Katz’s theory of the analytic/ synthetic distinction for natural languages is presented. Katz’s account is criticized on the following grounds. (1) the ‘antonymy operator’ is not well defined; it leaves certain sentences without readings. (2) The account of negation is defective; it has the consequence that certain nonsynonymous sentences are marked as synonymous. (3) The account of entailment is defective; it has the consequence that analytic sentences entail synthetic ones. (4) Katz’s account of “indeterminable sentences” is criticized; it has the consequence that certain logical truths are not marked as analytic. (5) Katz’s semantics provides no account of truth, so that he is unable to show that analytic sentences are true and that ‘indeterminable’ sentences are not.


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  1. 1.
    Jerrold J. Katz, The Philosophy of Language, Harper and Row, New York and London, 1966. All quotations in this paper are from this book.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Similar results are obtainable without use of the erasure clause. Consider the sentence (1′) ‘An uncle is an aunt’. The negation of (1′), by clause (ii) of the entry for ‘Neg’ is the analytic sentence (2′) ‘An uncle is not an aunt’. Since ‘(Female)’ in the reading of the predicate of (1′) has been replaced by A/(Female), i.e. ‘(Male)’, in forming the reading for the predicate of (2′), there is nothing in the reading for (2′) to distinguish it from the reading for (3′) ‘An uncle is an uncle’. Katz’s definitions thus lead to the conclusion that (3′) and (2′) are synonymous.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    R subji’ and ‘R pred1’ stand respectively for readings for the subject and predicate of S 1. Similarly for ‘R subj2’ and ‘R pred2’; and generally, ‘R consti’ and ‘R constj stand for readings for the same unspecified constituent (e.g., Subject) of S i and S j.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Another route to the same conclusion is this: The sentence ‘A spinster is a person’ is analytic. Therefore, R subj4ø R subj5. Since pred4 = preds, R pred R pred5. Therefore (4), which is analytic, entails (5) which is synthetic.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht-Holland 1972

Authors and Affiliations

  • Leonard Linsky
    • 1
  1. 1.University of ChicagoUSA

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