Meaning, modulation, and context: a multidimensional semantics for truth-conditional pragmatics

Linguistics and Philosophy 41 (2):165-207 (2018)
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The meaning that expressions take on particular occasions often depends on the context in ways which seem to transcend its direct effect on context-sensitive parameters. ‘Truth-conditional pragmatics’ is the project of trying to model such semantic flexibility within a compositional truth-conditional framework. Most proposals proceed by radically ‘freeing up’ the compositional operations of language. I argue, however, that the resulting theories are too unconstrained, and predict flexibility in cases where it is not observed. These accounts fall into this position because they rarely, if ever, take advantage of the rich information made available by lexical items. I hold, instead, that lexical items encode both extension and non-extension determining information. Under certain conditions, the non-extension determining information of an expression e can enter into the compositional processes that determine the meaning of more complex expressions which contain e. This paper presents and motivates a set of type-driven compositional operations that can access non-extension determining information and introduce bits of it into the meaning of complex expressions. The resulting multidimensional semantics has the tools to deal with key cases of semantic flexibility in appropriately constrained ways, making it a promising framework to pursue the project of truth-conditional pragmatics.

Author's Profile

Guillermo Del Pinal
University of Massachusetts, Amherst


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