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LINGUIST List 17.836

Sat Mar 18 2006

Disc: Why are there common nouns?

Editor for this issue: Ann Sawyer <sawyerlinguistlist.org>

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        1.    Michael Covington, Why are there common nouns?

Message 1: Why are there common nouns?
Date: 16-Mar-2006
From: Michael Covington <mcuga.edu>
Subject: Why are there common nouns?

Could anyone point me to literature that discusses the following issue?

One of the biggest discrepancies between natural language syntax and formal
logic is that, in logic, common nouns are predicates, but in natural
language syntax, they are very much like names (logical constants) even
though their referents are not constant.

I presume the reason for this is that the human mind has chosen to treat
descriptive common nouns like names, and that this has to do with the way
we maintain reference in discourse.

In psychology, there is a time-honored tradition (from Kintsch) of writing
semantic representations in a kind of ''mentalese'' where common nouns are
handled like names and are not considered to be predicative.

Have semanticists said anything illuminating about this issue? It must be
one of the oldest questions in semantic theory.

Linguistic Field(s): Semantics

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