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The Science of MeaningEssays on the Metatheory of Natural Language Semantics$
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Derek Ball and Brian Rabern

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198739548

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198739548.001.0001

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Reviving the Parameter Revolution in Semantics

Reviving the Parameter Revolution in Semantics

Chapter:
(p.138) 5 Reviving the Parameter Revolution in Semantics
Source:
The Science of Meaning
Author(s):

Bryan Pickel

Brian Rabern

Josh Dever

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780198739548.003.0005

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 chapter 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.

Keywords:   Demonstratives, Pronouns, context, anaphora, numerical indexing

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