Foundational Semantics I: Descriptive Accounts

Philosophy Compass 7 (6):397–409 (2012)
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Abstract
Descriptive semantic theories purport to characterize the meanings of the expressions of languages in whatever complexity they might have. Foundational semantics purports to identify the kind of considerations relevant to establish that a given descriptive semantics accurately characterizes the language used by a given individual or community. Foundational Semantics I presents three contrasting approaches to the foundational matters, and the main considerations relevant to appraise their merits. These approaches contend that we should look at the contents of speakers’ intuitions; at the deep psychology of users and its evolutionary history, as revealed by our best empirical theories; or at the personal-level rational psychology of those subjects. Foundational Semantics II examines a fourth view, according to which we should look instead at norms enforced among speakers. The two papers aim to determine in addition the extent to which the approaches are really rival, or rather complementary
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