Logic, Meaning, and Conversation: Semantical Underdeterminacy, Implicature, and Their Interface

Logic, Meaning, and Conversation: Semantical Underdeterminacy, Implicature, and Their Interface

Logic, Meaning, and Conversation: Semantical Underdeterminacy, Implicature, and Their Interface

Logic, Meaning, and Conversation: Semantical Underdeterminacy, Implicature, and Their Interface

Synopsis

This fresh look at the philosophy of language focuses on the interface between a theory of literal meaning and pragmatics--a philosophical examination of the relationship between meaning and language use and its contexts. Here, Atlas develops the contrast between verbal ambiguity and verbal generality, works out a detailed theory of conversational inference using the work of Paul Grice on Implicature as a starting point, and gives an account of their interface as an example of the relationship between Chomsky's Internalist Semantics and Language Performance. Atlas then discusses consequences of his theory of the Interface for the distinction between metaphorical and literal language, for Grice's account of meaning, for the Analytic/Synthetic distinction, for Meaning Holism, and for Formal Semantics of Natural Language. This book makes an important contribution to the philosophy of language and will appeal to philosophers, linguists, and cognitive scientists.

Excerpt

The flight to Frankfurt on the Lufthansa 747-400 passed slowly, as August flights from the summer afternoon sun of Los Angeles into the European darkness tend to do. The seat was comfortable enough, even for my six-foot one-inch frame, the cuisine was German bourgeois respectable, and I managed to sleep. The charm of the trip was awakening to a large, healthy, hot breakfast, but only after the stretching exercises were completed. With attention to detail, hygiene, and the physical culture of northern Germany, some Mephisto at the airline had mandated a wake-up video that taught passengers a way to stretch their chair-encased muscles while they remained in their seats. It was a show and practice exercise video, done while strapped in one’s seat, that loosened and stretched the feet, ankles, calves, upper legs, arms, and neck. So, at the command of the celluloid instructor, I rolled, waggled, extended, raised, and kneaded my body back to life, as did most of my fellow passengers, except for some unruly nonconforming Americans who decided to remain cramped and caged in their seatformed postures. By the end of the video, I felt awake and physically alive. “Damn the Germans,” I thought; “Such a good idea!” I enjoyed the breakfast.

Transferring in Frankfurt for a short flight to Brussels, I then took a train to Leuven in Belgium, a university city where I was to lecture for a week in August 1990 at the Second European Summer School on Language, Logic, and Information. It was to be an advanced course on “Implicature and Logical Form: The Semantics-Pragmatics Interface” for graduate students in philosophy, logic, linguistics, and computer science from universities in the European Union. Some six hundred graduate students had assembled for two weeks, 30 July–10 August 1990, at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven for this intellectual feast of a summer school, and I was on the menu. “I’m an hors d’oeuvre,” I thought, and I expected about six students to show up at the lecture hall on Monday morning for the week’s ten hours of course lectures that I had written. I had even bought my first laptop computer in May, a Sharp 8088 laptop with two 720K disk drives, in order to compose the lectures, realizing that without electronic help in editing I would never write, type, revise, and retype the body of lectures in time.

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