Logic and Language

Michael Glanzberg (Northwestern University): Binding, Compositionality, and Semantic Values (joint work with Jeffrey C. King)

Speaker: Michael Glanzberg (Northwestern University)
Title: Binding, Compositionality, and Semantic Values (joint work with Jeffrey C. King)
Time: 16:00 - 17:30
Location: ILLC seminar room F1.15
In this paper, we defend a traditional approach to semantics, that holds that the outputs of compositional semantics are propositional, i.e. truth conditions (or anything else appropriate to be the objects of assertions or the contents of attitudes).  Though traditional, this view has been challenged on a number of fronts over the years.  Since classic work of Lewis, arguments have been offered which purport to show that semantic composition requires values that are relativized, e.g. to times, or other parameters that render them no longer propositional.  Focusing in recent variants of these arguments involving quantification and binding, we argue that a correct understanding of how composition works gives no reason to relativize semantic values, and that propositional semantic values are in fact the preferred option.  We take our argument to be mainly empirical, but along the way, we defend some more general theses.  Simple propositional semantic values are viable in composition, we maintain, because composition is itself a complex phenomenon, involving multiple modes of composition.  Furthermore, some composition principles make adjustments to the meanings of constituents in the course of composition. These adjustments are by triggered syntactic environments. We argue such small contributions of meaning from syntactic structure are acceptable.