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|Title: ||Natural language semantics: a naturalistic approach|
|Authors: ||Underwood, Ian|
|Supervisor(s): ||Cann, Ronnie|
|Issue Date: ||2009|
|Publisher: ||The University of Edinburgh|
|Abstract: ||Within linguistics, the dominant truth-conditional approach to semantics belongs to the
Tarskian, model-theoretic tradition. Theories in this tradition offer an abstract, mathematical
description of the truth conditions of natural language expressions in terms
of their correspondence with the world. This thesis takes issue with existing modeltheoretic
accounts of quantification on the basis that the specific abstract relations that
they describe could not plausibly be models of natural language-to-world relations.
Recent decades have seenmuch philosophical interest in naturalistic theories of reference
and mental content. In one sense, these theories address the above concern by trying to
identify something naturalistic for semantic correspondence to consist in, such as causalhistorical
chains or ceteris paribus laws. In another sense, they fail to address the problem,
since no account is given of either the semantic structure or the truth conditions of
even the tiniest fragment of a natural language. Crucially, it is far from clear that modeltheoretic
semantics, in anything like its present form, can accommodate the solutions
proposed by naturalistic theories of content. If correspondence truth and naturalism are
both to be retained, a new theory is needed.
I begin by arguing that the class nominalism underlying model-theoretic semantics is
unsuited to this naturalistic project, and propose that a variant of Armstrong’s realist
metaphysic, incorporating Donald Baxter’s theory of aspects, provides the ideal ontology.
I revise and extend Baxter’s theory for a more complete and precise account of the
instantiation of properties and relations, and show that the theory of aspects allows for
an appealing treatment of both numbers and general facts.
Against the background of this realist metaphysic, and drawing on insights from naturalistic
theories of mental content, I propose an original theory of mentally represented
semantic structures and their truth-conditional analysis. Within this framework, I treat
the core semantic phenomena of predication, negation, conjunction, and disjunction, and
devote considerable attention to relations. I also develop a detailed theory of quantification,
which includes a fully naturalistic account of both universal quantification and
|Sponsor(s): ||studentship fromthe Arts and Humanities Research Council.|
|Appears in Collections:||Linguistics and English Language PhD thesis collection|
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