Three Forms of Contextual Dependence

In Paolo Bouquet (ed.), Modeling and Using Context. Second International and Interdisciplinary Conference, CONTEXT '99, Trento, Italy, September 9-11, 1999, Proceedings. Springer (1999)
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The paper emphasizes the inadequacy of formal semantics, the classical paradigm in semantics, in treating contextual dependence. Some phenomena of contextual dependence threaten one central assumption of the classical paradigm, namely the idea that linguistic expressions have a fixed meaning, and utterances have truth conditions well defined. It is possible to individuate three forms of contextual dependence: the one affecting pure indexicals, the one affecting demonstratives and "contextual expressions", and the one affecting all linguistic expressions. The third type of dependence is top-down: context, and not only linguistic material, shows which variables must be instantiated, relying on context itself. The generalization of underdetermination to all linguistic expressions is in fact a kind of metadependence: the mode of dependence itself depends on context.

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Claudia Bianchi
Università Vita-Salute San Raffaele (Milan)


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