Logic and Language

Moshe Bar-Lev & Roni Katzir (Tel Aviv): Communicative stability and the typology of logical operators

Speaker: Moshe Bar-Lev & Roni Katzir (Tel Aviv)
Title: Communicative stability and the typology of logical operators
Time: 14:00 - 15:30
Location: Online, via Zoom

Zoom link

To join the Zoom meeting, click https://uva-live.zoom.us/j/89599576823.

The talk will take place online on Wednesday 16 March at 14:00.


Abstract. The typology of the logical vocabulary in natural language is highly skewed. For instance, the logical connectives AND and OR are often lexicalized; lexicalizations of NOR are less common and tend to be structurally complex and no other logical connective is ever lexicalized. Existing accounts fail to fully derive this major cross-linguistic pattern, and moreover resort to otherwise unwarranted assumptions. The goal of this talk is to provide an account which is less stipulative and has wider empirical coverage than all previous accounts, based on a novel notion of communicative stability. Using a model of rational communication (the Rational Speech Act model) we observe that attested languages are stable languages, i.e., languages in which the optimal message for a speaker to choose when they want to convey a particular state they are in is not affected by which states they take to be more likely and which ones less. Unstable languages, we propose, are not attested because they lead to miscommunication. We further discuss what implications upholding this explanation has on the role of probabilities in communication, especially in light of problems raised by Fox & Katzir (2021) for communication models which are affected by prior probabilities.