Reviving the parameter revolution in semantics

In Derek Ball & Brian Rabern (eds.), The Science of Meaning. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 138-171 (2018)
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Montague and Kaplan began a revolution in semantics, which promised to explain how a univocal expression could make distinct truth-conditional contributions in its various occurrences. The idea was to treat context as a parameter at which a sentence is semantically evaluated. But the revolution has stalled. One salient problem comes from recurring demonstratives: "He is tall and he is not tall". For the sentence to be true at a context, each occurrence of the demonstrative must make a different truth-conditional contribution. But this difference cannot be accounted for by standard parameter sensitivity. Semanticists, consoled by the thought that this ambiguity would ultimately be needed anyhow to explain anaphora, have been too content to posit massive ambiguities in demonstrative pronouns. This article aims to revived the parameter revolution by showing how to treat demonstrative pronouns as univocal while providing an account of anaphora that doesn't end up re-introducing the ambiguity.
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Archival date: 2017-10-05
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