The Co-Ascription of Ordered Lexical Pairs: a Cognitive-Science-Based Semantic Theory of Meaning and Reference: Part 2


(1) This is Part 2 of the semantic theory I call TM. In Part 1, I developed TM as a theory in the analytic philosophy of language, in lexical semantics, and in the sociology of relating occasions of statement production and comprehension to formal and informal lexicographic conclusions about statements and lexical items – roughly, as showing how synchronic semantics is a sociological derivative of diachronic, person-relative acts of linguistic behavior. I included descriptions of new cognitive psychology experimental paradigms which would allow us to precisely measure the two constituents of semantics – meaning and reference – both at the level of individual speech acts and at the level of societal convergences, i.e. at both the token and type levels. (2) In the Introduction, I recapitulate the arguments of Part 1. The Introduction also develops some analytic philosophical and lexical semantics themes not discussed in Part 1. (3) After the Introduction, I present neural TM (nTM) as a theory of the neural mechanisms and processes which give rise to these person/occasion-relative acts of linguistic behavior. I develop nTM at three levels, the first two of which describe linguistic/semantic functions independently of their cortical locations. At the first level, I describe individual word-to-word and word-to-object connections. At the second level, I describe the corresponding structuralist networks of which they are the individual components. At this level, I introduce some key linguistic concepts of TM – its graded meaning, reference, and generalization sets, and the types of statements which express various levels of word-to-word and word-to-object relationships among lexical items which, because of the constraints they impose on the use of those lexical items in statements we produce and comprehend, are concepts. This constitutes the second structural level of nTM. (4) At the third level, I associate the non-localized structures of the previous levels with cortically located neural structures and with the fasciculi that connect them. I distinguish neural areas in which primary (phonetic) and secondary (orthographic) lexicons are stored in long-term memory. I also describe the embodied concepts which co-exist in the anterior temporal lobes with the images they lexicalize. These concepts are often said to name physical objects and their features, although what they in fact name are kinds of physical objects and features. I describe how conceptual constraints and referential constraints interact to channel our intentions to say how things are into statements which are semantically well-formed, and which consequently successfully communicate information. (5) Following this presentation of nTM, I examine five prominent neural semantic theories. I point out what is wrong with each of them as far as their explanations of semantics are concerned, and I also indicate how nTM can replace the “semantic cores” of those theories. (6) The two basic mistakes made by neuroscience semantic theories, as I will explain, are (i) that all but one of them regard semantics as a matter of the association of words with perceptual images, and of generalizations from those associations; and (ii) that they all rely on an unspecified set of neural structures which purportedly encode the meaning of concepts in abstraction from their phonological and orthographic forms. nTM maintains, in contrast, that there are no abstract neural representations of semantic content. Neural constraints on our linguistic behavior, especially on our ascriptive and co-ascriptive use of words, express the semantic constraints on those words which make them concepts. That is the semantic content of words. (7) I next consider several results from neuroscience experimental data which have been given one interpretation by one or another of the standard neurosemantic theories, but to which nTM gives a different interpretation. I include several predictions which I have found neither confirmed nor disconfirmed in the experimental neuroscience literature. (8) After a concluding section in which I summarize the major changes to neurosemantic theory introduced by TM, and the analytic philosophy of language and lexical semantics contexts within which TM is situated, there follows an appendix in which I discuss neural net AI, and make some recommendations for implementing nTM in silicon.

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