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Semantics and metasemantics in the context of generative grammar

In Alexis Burgess & Brett Sherman (eds.), Metasemantics: New Essays on the Foundations of Meaning. Oxford University Press. pp. 17-54 (2014)

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  1. Formal Semantics and Applied Mathematics: An Inferential Account.Ryan M. Nefdt - 2020 - Journal of Logic, Language and Information 29 (2):221-253.
    In this paper, I utilise the growing literature on scientific modelling to investigate the nature of formal semantics from the perspective of the philosophy of science. Specifically, I incorporate the inferential framework proposed by Bueno and Colyvan : 345–374, 2011) in the philosophy of applied mathematics to offer an account of how formal semantics explains and models its data. This view produces a picture of formal semantic models as involving an embedded process of inference and representation applying indirectly to linguistic (...)
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  • Anti-Normativism Evaluated.Ulf Hlobil - 2015 - International Journal of Philosophical Studies 23 (3):376-395.
    I argue that recent attempts to show that meaning and content are not normative fail. The two most important arguments anti-normativists have presented are what I call the ‘argument from constitution’ and the ‘argument from guidance’. Both of these arguments suffer from the same basic problem: they overlook the possibility of focusing on assessability by norms, rather than compliance with norms or guidance by norms. Moreover, I argue that the anti-normativists arguments fail even if we ignore this basic problem. Thus, (...)
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  • Absolutism About Taste and Faultless Disagreement.Marián Zouhar - 2020 - Acta Analytica 35 (2):273-288.
    It is usually claimed that taste utterances have judge-dependent semantic content. Jeremy Wyatt recently proposed a semantic theory that rejects this claim. According to him, the semantic content of taste sentences is judge-independent, but the content of our assertions made by uttering taste sentences is judge-dependent. He showed that this account explains faultless disagreements about tastes. My paper aims to raise some challenges to his proposal. First, a judge-independent taste proposition semantically expressed by a taste sentence seems unrelated to a (...)
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  • Discourse and Method.Ethan Nowak & Eliot Michaelson - 2020 - Linguistics and Philosophy 43 (2):119-138.
    Stojnić et al. (2013, 2017) argue that the reference of demonstratives is fixed without any contribution from the extra-linguistic context. On their `prominence/coherence' theory, the reference of a demonstrative expression depends only on its context-independent linguistic meaning. Here, we argue that Stojnić et al.’s striking claims can be maintained in only the thinnest technical sense. Instead of eliminating appeals to the extra-linguistic context, we show how the prominence/coherence theory merely suppresses them. Then we ask why one might be tempted to (...)
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  • Ascribing practical knowledge.Marija Jankovic - 2020 - Linguistics and Philosophy 43 (3):247-275.
    Stanley and Williamson :411–444, 2001) argue for intellectualism—the thesis that knowing how is a type of knowing that—in part by defending a thesis about the semantics of English ascriptions of knowing how. But ascriptions of practical knowledge seem to exhibit significant crosslinguistic variation. This observation has been invoked to argue that S&W’s analysis reflects a quirk of English rather than a general feature of the concept of knowledge. I argue that the type of argument employed by both S&W and their (...)
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  • No Context, No Content, No Problem.Ethan Nowak - forthcoming - Mind and Language.
    Recently, philosophers have offered compelling reasons to think that demonstratives are best represented as variables, sensitive not to the context of utterance, but to a variable assignment. Variablists typically explain familiar intuitions about demonstratives—intuitions that suggest that what is said by way of a demonstrative sentence varies systematically over contexts—by claiming that contexts initialize a particular assignment of values to variables. I argue that we do not need to link context and the assignment parameter in this way, and that we (...)
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  • How to Embed an Epistemic Modal: Attitude Problems and Other Defects of Character.Alex Silk - 2017 - Philosophical Studies 174 (7):1773-1799.
    This paper develops a contextualist account of certain recalcitrant embedding phenomena with epistemic modals. I focus on three prominent objections to contextualism from embedding: first, that contextualism mischaracterizes subjects’ states of mind; second, that contextualism fails to predict how epistemic modals are obligatorily linked to the subject in attitude ascriptions; and third, that contextualism fails to explain the persisting anomalousness of so-called “epistemic contradictions” in suppositional contexts. Contextualists have inadequately appreciated the force of these objections. Drawing on a more general (...)
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  • The Generalized Integration Challenge in Metaethics.Laura Schroeter & François Schroeter - 2019 - Noûs 53 (1):192-223.
    The Generalized Integration Challenge is the task of providing, for a given domain of discourse, a simultaneously acceptable metaphysics, epistemology and metasemantics and showing them to be so. In this paper, we focus on a metaethical position for which seems particularly acute: the brand of normative realism which takes normative properties to be mind-independent and causally inert. The problem is that these metaphysical commitments seem to make normative knowledge impossible. We suggest that bringing metasemantics into play can help to resolve (...)
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  • The Myth of Occurrence-Based Semantics.Bryan Pickel & Brian Rabern - forthcoming - Linguistics and Philosophy:1-25.
    The principle of compositionality requires that the meaning of a complex expression remains the same after substitution of synonymous expressions. Alleged counterexamples to compositionality seem to force a theoretical choice: either apparent synonyms are not synonyms or synonyms do not syntactically occur where they appear to occur. Some theorists have instead looked to Frege’s doctrine of “reference shift” according to which the meaning of an expression is sensitive to its linguistic context. This doctrine is alleged to retain the relevant claims (...)
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  • Index, Context, and the Content of Knowledge.Brian Rabern - 2017 - In Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Epistemic Contextualism. Routledge. pp. 465-479.
    The verb 'knows' is often taken to be context-sensitive in an interesting way. What 'knows' means seems to be sensitive to the epistemic features of the context, e.g. the epistemic standard in play, the set of relevant alternatives, etc. There are standard model-theoretic semantic frameworks which deal with both intensional operators and context-sensitive expressions. In this chapter, we provide a brief overview of the various moving parts of these frameworks, the roles of context and index, the need for double indexing, (...)
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  • Linguistic Hijacking.Derek Anderson - 2020 - Feminist Philosophy Quarterly 6 (3).
    This paper introduces the concept of linguistic hijacking, the phenomenon wherein politically significant terminology is co-opted by dominant groups in ways that further their dominance over marginalized groups. Here I focus on hijackings of the words “racist” and “racism.” The model of linguistic hijacking developed here, called the semantic corruption model, is inspired by Burge’s social externalism, in which deference plays a key role in determining the semantic properties of expressions. The model describes networks of deference relations, which support competing (...)
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  • Semantics with Assignment Variables.Alex Silk - forthcoming - Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    This book develops a syntactic and semantic framework for natural language. The principal focus is a spectrum of "shifting" phenomena in which the context relevant for interpreting certain expressions seems to depend on features of the linguistic environment. A key innovation is to introduce explicit representations of context in linguistic structure and meanings. Central applications include local and non-local contextual dependencies with quantifiers, attitude ascriptions, conditionals, questions, and relativization. The project integrates conceptual insights from contemporary philosophy of language, formal tools (...)
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  • Semantic expressivism for epistemic modals.Peter Hawke & Shane Steinert-Threlkeld - forthcoming - Linguistics and Philosophy:1-37.
    Expressivists about epistemic modals deny that ‘Jane might be late’ canonically serves to express the speaker’s acceptance of a certain propositional content. Instead, they hold that it expresses a lack of acceptance. Prominent expressivists embrace pragmatic expressivism: the doxastic property expressed by a declarative is not helpfully identified with that sentence’s compositional semantic value. Against this, we defend semantic expressivism about epistemic modals: the semantic value of a declarative from this domain is the property of doxastic attitudes it canonically serves (...)
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  • Theories of Meaning.Jeff Speaks - 2010 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
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  • A Bridge From Semantic Value to Content.Brian Rabern - 2017 - Philosophical Topics 45 (2):181-207.
    A common view relating compositional semantics and the objects of assertion holds the following: Sentences φ and ψ expresses the same proposition iff φ and ψ have the same modal profile. Following Dummett, Evans, and Lewis, Stanley argues that this view is fundamentally mistaken. According to Dummett, we must distinguish the semantic contribution a sentence makes to more complex expressions in which it occurs from its assertoric content. Stojnić insists that views which distinguish the roles of content and semantic value (...)
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  • Two-Dimensional Semantics.Laura Schroeter - 2010 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    Two-dimensional (2D) semantics is a formal framework that is used to characterize the meaning of certain linguistic expressions and the entailment relations among sentences containing them. 2D semantics has also been applied to thought contents. In contrast with standard possible worlds semantics, 2D semantics assigns extensions and truth-values to expressions relative to two possible world parameters, rather than just one. So a 2D semantic framework provides finer-grained semantic values than those available within standard possible world semantics, while using the same (...)
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  • Semàntica I Pragmàtica, Contingut I Context.Joan Gimeno-Simó - 2019 - Quaderns de Filosofia 6 (2):91.
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  • Quaderns de Filosofia VI, 2.Quad Fia - 2019 - Quaderns de Filosofia 6 (2).
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  • Context-Free Semantics.Paolo Santorio - 2019 - In Ernie LePore & David Sosa (eds.), Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Language, Volume 1. Oxford University Press. pp. 208-239.
    On a traditional view, the semantics of natural language makes essential use of a context parameter, i.e. a set of coordinates that represents the situation of speech. In classical semantic frameworks, this parameter plays two key roles: first, context contributes to determining the content of utterance; second, it is crucial for defining logical consequence. I point out that recent empirical proposals about context shift in natural language (in particular, context-shifting semantics in the style of Anand and Nevins 2004) are incompatible (...)
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  • What is Said?Anders J. Schoubye & Andreas Stokke - 2016 - Noûs 50 (4):759-793.
    It is sometimes argued that certain sentences of natural language fail to express truth conditional contents. Standard examples include e.g. Tipper is ready and Steel is strong enough. In this paper, we provide a novel analysis of truth conditional meaning using the notion of a question under discussion. This account explains why these types of sentences are not, in fact, semantically underdetermined, provides a principled analysis of the process by which natural language sentences can come to have enriched meanings in (...)
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  • Binding, Compositionality, and Semantic Values.Michael Glanzberg & Jeffrey C. King - 2020 - Philosophers' Imprint 20.
    In this paper, we defend a traditional approach to semantics, that holds that the outputs of compositional semantics are propositional, i.e. truth conditions. 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 (...)
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  • Reflections on the Liar.Eric Gordon Epstein - 2019 - Philosophical Review 128 (3):356-362.
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  • Polysemy and Word Meaning: An Account of Lexical Meaning for Different Kinds of Content Words.Agustin Vicente - 2018 - Philosophical Studies 175 (4):947-968.
    There is an ongoing debate about the meaning of lexical words, i.e., words that contribute with content to the meaning of sentences. This debate has coincided with a renewal in the study of polysemy, which has taken place in the psycholinguistics camp mainly. There is already a fruitful interbreeding between two lines of research: the theoretical study of lexical word meaning, on the one hand, and the models of polysemy psycholinguists present, on the other. In this paper I aim at (...)
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  • What Words Mean and Express: Semantics and Pragmatics of Kind Terms and Verbs.Agustin Vicente - 2017 - Journal of Pragmatics 117:231-244.
    For many years, it has been common-ground in semantics and in philosophy of language that semantics is in the business of providing a full explanation about how propositional meanings are obtained. This orthodox picture seems to be in trouble these days, as an increasing number of authors now hold that semantics does not deal with thought-contents. Some of these authors have embraced a “thin meanings” view, according to which lexical meanings are too schematic to enter propositional contents. I will suggest (...)
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  • Decision-Theoretic Relativity in Deontic Modality.Nate Charlow - 2018 - Linguistics and Philosophy 41 (3):251-287.
    This paper explores the idea that a semantics for ‘ought’ should be neutral between different ways of deciding what an agent ought to do in a situation. While the idea is, I argue, well-motivated, taking it seriously leads to surprising, even paradoxical, problems for theorizing about the meaning of ‘ought’. This paper describes and defends one strategy—a form of Expressivism for the modal ‘ought’—for navigating these problems.
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  • Content and Composition. An Essay on Tense, Content and Semantic Value.Sara Packalén - 2016 - Dissertation, Stockholm University
    A remarkable thing about natural language is that we can use it to share our beliefs and thoughts about the world with other speakers of our language. In cases of successful communication, beliefs seem to be transferred from speakers to hearers by means of the hearer recovering the contents of the speaker’s utterances. This is so natural to us that we take it for granted in our everyday life, and rarely stop to think about how it's is possible. Nevertheless, it's (...)
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  • Demonstratives, Definite Descriptions and Non-Redundancy.Kyle Hammet Blumberg - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 177 (1):39-64.
    In some sentences, demonstratives can be substituted with definite descriptions without any change in meaning. In light of this, many have maintained that demonstratives are just a type of definite description. However, several theorists have drawn attention to a range of cases where definite descriptions are acceptable, but their demonstrative counterparts are not. Some have tried to account for this data by appealing to presupposition. I argue that such presuppositional approaches are problematic, and present a pragmatic account of the target (...)
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  • Clause-Type, Force, and Normative Judgment in the Semantics of Imperatives.Nate Charlow - forthcoming - In Daniel Fogal Daniel Harris & Matt Moss (eds.), New Work on Speech Acts. Oxford University Press.
    I argue that imperatives express contents that are both cognitively and semantically related to, but nevertheless distinct from, modal propositions. Imperatives, on this analysis, semantically encode features of planning that are modally specified. Uttering an imperative amounts to tokening this feature in discourse, and thereby proffering it for adoption by the audience. This analysis deals smoothly with the problems afflicting Portner's Dynamic Pragmatic account and Kaufmann's Modal account. It also suggests an appealing reorientation of clause-type theorizing, in which the cognitive (...)
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  • Quasi Indexicals.Justin Khoo - 2020 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 100 (1):26-53.
    I argue that not all context dependent expressions are alike. Pure (or ordinary) indexicals behave more or less as Kaplan thought. But quasi indexicals behave in some ways like indexicals and in other ways not like indexicals. A quasi indexical sentence φ allows for cases in which one party utters φ and the other its negation, and neither party’s claim has to be false. In this sense, quasi indexicals are like pure indexicals (think: “I am a doctor”/“I am not a (...)
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  • Self-Consciousness and Reductive Functionalism.Arvid Båve - 2017 - Philosophical Quarterly 67 (266):1-21.
    It is argued that although George Bealer's influential ‘Self-Consciousness argument’ refutes standard versions of reductive functionalism (RF), it fails to generalize in the way Bealer supposes. To wit, he presupposes that any version of RF must take the content of ‘pain’ to be the property of being in pain (and so on), which is expressly rejected in independently motivated versions of conceptual role semantics (CRS). Accordingly, there are independently motivated versions of RF, incorporating CRS, which avoid Bealer's main type of (...)
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  • From Meaning to Content.Francois Recanati - 2018 - In Derek Ball & Brian Rabern (eds.), The Science of Meaning: Essays on the Metatheory of Natural Language Semantics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    According to a widespread picture due to Kaplan, there are two levels of semantic value: character and content. Character is determined by the grammar, and it determines content with respect to context. In this chapter Recanati criticizes that picture on several grounds. He shows that we need more than two levels, and rejects the determination thesis: that linguistic meaning as determined by grammar determines content. Grammatical meaning does not determine assertoric content, he argues, but merely constrains it — speaker’s meaning (...)
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  • Prepragmatics: Widening the Semantics-Pragmatics Boundary.Isidora Stojanovic - 2013 - In Alexis Burgess & Brett Sherman (eds.), Metasemantics: New Essays on the Foundations of Meaning. Oxford University Press. pp. 311-326.
    One of the most important and, at the same time, most controversial issues in metasemantics is the question of what semantics is, and what distinguishes semantic elements (features, properties, phenomena, mechanisms, processes, or whatever) from the rest. The issue is tightly linked with the debate over the semantics-pragmatics distinction, which has been vibrant for a decade or two, but seems to be reaching an impasse. I suggest that this impasse may be due to the failure to recognize a distinct realm (...)
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  • X—Knowing What One Ought to Do.Matthew Chrisman - 2015 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 115 (2pt2):167-186.
    This paper considers two competing pictures of knowledge of what one ought to do—one which assimilates this to other propositional knowledge conceived as partial ‘locational’ knowledge of where one is in a space of possibilities, the other which distinguishes this from other propositional knowledge by construing it as partial ‘directional’ knowledge of what to do in particular circumstances. I argue that the apparent tension can be lessened by better understanding the contextualized modal-cum-prescriptive nature of ‘ought’ and enriching our conception of (...)
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  • Infinity and the Foundations of Linguistics.Ryan Nefdt - 2019 - Synthese 196 (5):1671-1711.
    The concept of linguistic infinity has had a central role to play in foundational debates within theoretical linguistics since its more formal inception in the mid-twentieth century. The conceptualist tradition, marshalled in by Chomsky and others, holds that infinity is a core explanandum and a link to the formal sciences. Realism/Platonism takes this further to argue that linguistics is in fact a formal science with an abstract ontology. In this paper, I argue that a central misconstrual of formal apparatus of (...)
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  • Saying Nothing : In Defence of Syntactic and Semantic Underdetermination.Mark Bowker - 2016 - Dissertation, University of St Andrews
    According to the Encoding Model, speakers communicate by encoding the propositions they want to communicate into sentences, in accordance with the conventions of a language L. By uttering a sentence that encodes p, the speaker says that p. Communication is successful only if the audience identifies the proposition that the speaker intends to communicate, which is achieved by decoding the uttered sentence in accordance with the conventions of L. A consequence of the Encoding Model has been the proliferation of underdetermination (...)
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  • Obligation and Aspect.Benj Hellie - 2016 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 59 (4):398-449.
    ‘Fred must open the door’ concerns Fred’s obligations. This obligative meaning is turned off by adding aspect: ‘Fred must have opened/be opening/have been opening the door’ are one and all epistemic. Why? In a nutshell: obligative ’must’ operates on procedural contents of imperative sentences, epistemic ‘must’ on propositional contents of declarative sentences; and adding aspect converts procedural into propositional content.
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  • The Philosophy of Linguistics: Scientific Underpinnings and Methodological Disputes.Ryan M. Nefdt - 2019 - Philosophy Compass 14 (12).
    This article surveys the philosophical literature on theoretical linguistics. The focus of the paper is centred around the major debates in the philosophy of linguistics, past and present, with specific relation to how they connect to the philosophy of science. Specific issues such as scientific realism in linguistics, the scientific status of grammars, the methodological underpinnings of formal semantics, and the integration of linguistics into the larger cognitive sciences form the crux of the discussion.
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  • Rigid Designators.Joseph LaPorte - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
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  • Perspectivism.Jeremy Goodman & Harvey Lederman - forthcoming - Noûs.
    Consider the sentence “Lois knows that Superman flies, but she doesn’t know that Clark flies”. In this paper we defend a Millian contextualist semantics for propositional attitude ascriptions, according to which ordinary uses of this sentence are true but involve a mid-sentence shift in context. Absent any constraints on the relevant parameters of context sensitivity, such a semantics would be untenable: it would undermine the good standing of systematic theorizing about the propositional attitudes, trivializing many of the central questions of (...)
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  • Relevance and Conditionals: A Synopsis of Open Pragmatic and Semantic Issues.Niels Skovgaard-Olsen - forthcoming - In S. Elqayam, Igor Douven, J. Evans & N. Cruz (eds.), Festschrift for David Over. Routledge.
    Recently several papers have reported relevance effects on the cognitive assessments of indicative conditionals, which pose an explanatory challenge to the Suppositional Theory of conditionals advanced by David Over, which is influential in the psychology of reasoning. Some of these results concern the “Equation” (P(if A, then C) = P(C|A)), others the de Finetti truth table, and yet others the uncertain and-to-inference task. The purpose of this chapter is to take a Birdseye view on the debate and investigate some of (...)
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  • Monsters and the Theoretical Role of Context.Brian Rabern & Derek Ball - 2019 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 98 (2):392-416.
    Kaplan (1989) famously claimed that monsters--operators that shift the context--do not exist in English and "could not be added to it". Several recent theorists have pointed out a range of data that seem to refute Kaplan's claim, but others (most explicitly Stalnaker 2014) have offered a principled argument that monsters are impossible. This paper interprets and resolves the dispute. Contra appearances, this is no dry, technical matter: it cuts to the heart of a deep disagreement about the fundamental structure of (...)
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  • Expressivism by Force.Seth Yalcin - forthcoming - In D. Fogal, D. Harris & M. Moss (eds.), New Work on Speech Acts. Oxford University Press.
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