Semantics: A Reader

Semantics: A Reader

Semantics: A Reader

Semantics: A Reader

Synopsis

Semantics: A Readercontains a broad selection of classic articles on semantics and the semantics/pragmatics interface. Comprehensive in the variety and breadth of theoretical frameworks and topics that it covers, it includes articles representative of the major theoretical frameworks within semantics, including: discourse representation theory, dynamic predicate logic, truth theoretic semantics, event semantics, situation semantics, and cognitive semantics.

All the major topics in semantics are covered, including lexical semantics and the semantics of quantified noun phrases, adverbs, adjectives, performatives, and interrogatives. Included are classic papers in the field of semantics as well as papers written especially for the volume. The volume comes with an extensive introduction designed not only to provide an overview of the field, but also to explain the technical concepts the beginner will need to tackle before the more demanding articles. Semanticswill have appeal as a textbook for upper level and graduate courses and as a reference for scholars of semantics who want the classic articles in their field in one convenient place.

Excerpt

The link between the study of language and psychology goes back to the beginning of modern psychology, when Wilhelm Wundt (1904) established psychology as an empirical science, independent of philosophy. It was the American linguist Leonard Bloomfield (1933) who first viewed the study of language, or linguistics as it had come to be known, as a special branch of psychology. The dominant view of psychology at the beginning of the twentieth century was behaviorism, whose central tenet is that only theoretical entities that can be directly observed may be admitted into theories about human behavior. Behaviorists took as the basic notions of their theories stimuli that impinge on the sensory organs of a subject, the subject's behavioral response to these stimuli, and schedules of reinforcement that induce in the subject tendencies or habits to respond in certain ways when confronted with specific stimuli. Most notably, behaviorists eschewed any appeal to internal states of organisms to explain behavior, including such things as beliefs, hopes, desires, capacities, and abilities. It might be thought that the behaviorist's appeal to habits is an appeal to internal states. But the behaviorist's tendencies or habits are not to be understood as internal states; they are merely the systematic matching of stimuli and responses that the organism exhibits. Thus, a particular organism's (o) tendency to respond (r) given a stimulus (s) is to be understood in terms of a conditional: if o were stimulated by stimuli of type s, then it would respond with behavior of type r. No appeal is made to internal states. Bloomfield (1933, ch. 2), adopting this approach and applying it to language, attempted to make linguistics fit the mold of this view of psychology.

Many theorists studying language today still regard linguistics as a special domain within psychology, although their view about what kind of psychology is appropriate to linguistics is very different from that of Bloomfield. Currently, the fundamental idea for many theorists, including linguists, is to ascribe to organisms that behave in characteristic ways a capacity for such behavior. Thus, for example, it is characteristic of cats to hunt rodents and birds, of salmon to swim up river to spawn eggs, and of birds to build nests. It is clear that something about these animals enables them to behave in these ways. One might call this a capacity, which clearly differs across types of organisms. When mature, many organisms behave in ways in which they are . . .

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