The Co-Ascription of Ordered Lexical Pairs: a Cognitive-Science-Based Semantic Theory of Meaning and Reference. Part 1

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Lexical semantics has a problem. As Allesandro Lenci put it, the problem is that it cannot distinguish semantic from non-semantic relationships within its data. (2008, 2014). The data it relies on are patterns of co-occurrence of lexemes within linguistic corpora. But patterns of co-occurrence can reflect either our knowledge of what the world is like or our knowledge of what words mean -- matters of fact or matters of meaning. In this essay, I develop a semantic theory which draws this distinction in a way which makes it discernible in lexical semantics and cognitive science research. In doing so, this theory unifies truth-functional and structuralist approaches to semantics, and provides an integrated explanation of meaning and reference. I base this semantic theory on linguistic dispositions to pair words with words, and to pair words with things, both based on learned patterns of association. These dispositions manifest themselves in verbal behavior, and (in Part 2) I propose a new neurophysical model to account for these dispositions which underlie both the intensional and extensional patterns in that behavior.
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