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Harvard Linguistics 110 Handout 5

Harvard Linguistics 110 Handout 5

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Ling 110, Section 5 (Semantics I)
March 17, 2006.
Next Homework:
7.1, 7.2, 7.4, 7.11, 7.12, 7.14
due at 11 am on
(March 20)
Semantics quiz date has been changed to Wednesday, April 5
 Quiz review session will be held Tuesday, April 4
6-7 pm, in Emerson 101
1. Compositionality of Meaning
(1) Thumbnail definition of semantics
The study of the relation between linguistic
.(2) Semantic compositionality
the key principle in linguistic semantics due to Gottlob Frege
 Meaning is
 – the meaning of an expression is determined by the meanings of its parts and by the ways in which those parts are assembled.In semantics, we want to model the way a speaker/hearer computes the meaning of a whole from themeanings of its parts in a compositional fashion.
2. Entailment
Speakers have intuitions about
truth-value relations between sentences.
Any competent Englishspeaker can recognize that if (S1) is true, then so is (S2), even without knowing anything about thehistorical figure Julius Caesar:(S1) Julius Caesar was a famous man.(S2) Julius Caesar was a man.(3)
: Sentence S1 entails sentence S2 if, and only if whenever S1 is true in a situation, S2is also necessarily true in that situation.S1
S2 =
whenever S1 is true in a situation, S2 is true in that situation.In other words, a situation describable by S1 must also be a situation describable by S2.E.g.) (S1) Beidao is a Chinese poet
(S2) Beidao is a poet(S1) Beidao killed his wife
 (S2) Beidao’s wife diedPart of our 
knowledge is knowing the entailment relations between certain sentences.(4) Some sentences are
true (=
):e.g.) Either there is a book on the table, or there isn’t a book on the table.Every hedgehog is a hedgehog.Every six-pointed triangle is a six-pointed triangle.(5)
... or necessarily false (=
):e.g.) Lois read the book, and Lois didn’t read the book.
No hedgehog is a hedgehog.Some hedgehog is not a hedgehog.(6) Tautology, Contradiction and Entailment:(i) It is said that every sentence entails
 (ii) It is also said that
entails every sentence.
which entails which in the following pairs of the sentences (if entailment ever holds)?(7) a. Amy knows the answer. b. Only Amy knows the answer.(8) a. If Mary wins a fellowship, she can finish her thesis. b. If Mary does not win a fellowship, she can’t finish her thesis.(9) a. His speech disturbed me. b. His speech deeply disturbed me.
3. Assertion and Presupposition
 —What the speaker is claiming to be true or false by uttering the sentence.(11)
 —What the speaker assumes to be true, as ‘background’ to the sentence s/he isuttering.When a speaker utters a sentence, the speaker asserts trueness or falseness a certain proposition, butthe speaker can
make any claim about the trueness or falseness of what is already presupposed (=assumed to be true).E.g.) Q: Did you
beating your wife?A: Yes/NoWhether you answer the question with yes or no, you can’t help getting to admit that you used to beatyour wife. This is because the verb ‘stop’ triggers
that ‘beating your wife’ is assumedto be true as a background of this conversation.(12)
The negation-test
for presupposition: A sentence S1 presupposed S2 if S1 entails and
S1entails S2, too!E.g.) the factive predicate ‘be surprised’S1: I was (not) surprised that Brad and Jen separated.S2: Brad and Jen separatedS1
S2 because both S1 and its negation entail S2.E.g.)
the definite determiner ‘the’S1: The Mayor of Manchester is (not) a woman.S2: There is a uniquely identifiable Mayor of Manchester.S1
S2 because both S1 and its negation entail S2.
: Discuss what presupposition each of the following sentences has.(13) a. John realizes that syntax deals with sentence structure. b. Sue regrets getting a Ph.D. in art history.
c. Bill managed to kiss Mary.
4. Extensions vs. Intensions
(14) The thing or the set of the things which bear a property X is called the
of X:[[ Romeo ]] = the individual by the name of Romeo[[ student ]] = the set of all entities that are students[[ vegetarian ]] = the set of all entities that are vegetariansQ: Can two expressions have the same
 but different
?e.g. ) the first person to walk on the moon Neil ArmstrongQ: Do they pick out the same entity in the world? I.e., do they have the same extension?Q: Do they have the same meaning?(S1) My crazy aunt thought she was the first person to walk on the moon.(S2) My crazy aunt thought she was Neil Armstrong.(S1) Everyone knows Venus is the morning star.(S2) Everyone knows Venus is Venus.(15) Frege’s observation: Expressions with identical extensions can produce differenttruth values.(16) To express this difference, semanticists contrast
: The entity or the set of entities in the world to which an expression refers. (its
: The ‘inherent
’ conveyed by an expression.
5. Fundamentals of Extensional Semantics
(17) Extension of 
Proper Names
:[[ Ann ]] = Ann[[ John ]] = John[[ Fido ]] = Fidoetc.(18) Extension of 
s:[[ smoke ]] = the set of all individuals that smoke[[ smart ]] = the set of all individuals that are smart[[ boy ]] = the set of all individuals that are boys

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