The Logicality of Language: Contextualism versus Semantic Minimalism

Mind 131 (522):381-427 (2022)
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Abstract

The logicality of language is the hypothesis that the language system has access to a ‘natural’ logic that can identify and filter out as unacceptable expressions that have trivial meanings—that is, that are true/false in all possible worlds or situations in which they are defined. This hypothesis helps explain otherwise puzzling patterns concerning the distribution of various functional terms and phrases. Despite its promise, logicality vastly over-generates unacceptability assignments. Most solutions to this problem rest on specific stipulations about the properties of logical form—roughly, the level of linguistic representation which feeds into the interpretation procedures—and have substantial implications for traditional philosophical disputes about the nature of language. Specifically, contextualism and semantic minimalism, construed as competing hypotheses about the nature and degree of context-sensitivity at the level of logical form, suggest different approaches to the over-generation problem. In this paper, I explore the implications of pairing logicality with various forms of contextualism and semantic minimalism. I argue that to adequately solve the over-generation problem, logicality should be implemented in a constrained contextualist framework.

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Guillermo Del Pinal
University of Massachusetts, Amherst

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