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LINGUIST List 23.233

Thu Jan 12 2012

Confs: Philosophy of Language, Cognitive Science/Netherlands

Editor for this issue: Amy Brunett <brunettlinguistlist.org>


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        1.     Galit Weidman Sassoon , Vagueness in Language, Reasoning and Cognition


Message 1: Vagueness in Language, Reasoning and Cognition
Date: 11-Jan-2012
From: Galit Weidman Sassoon <galitadargmail.com>
Subject: Vagueness in Language, Reasoning and Cognition
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Vagueness in Language, Reasoning and Cognition

Date: 27-Jan-2012 - 28-Jan-2012
Location: Amsterdam, Netherlands
Contact: Galit Weidman Sassoon
Contact Email: < click here to access email >
Meeting URL: http://sites.google.com/site/vaguenesscircle/workshop

Linguistic Field(s): Cognitive Science; Philosophy of Language

Meeting Description:

We are pleased to announce the closing workshop of the NWO project On vagueness - and how to be precise enough (2008-2012): 'Vagueness in Language, Reasoning and Cognition'. The workshop will bring together philosophers, semanticists, and psychologists working on the topic.

Time: January 27-28, 2012.
Location: de Doelenzaal (University Library, UvA), Singel 425, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Institute: The Institute for Logic, Language and Computation (ILLC), University of Amsterdam.

The invited speakers will be:

Louise McNally (Pompeu Fabra University)
Chris Barker (New York University)
Sigrid Beck (University of Tübingen)
Yael Greenberg (Bar-Ilan University)
Francis Jeffry Pelletier (Simon Fraser University)
Peter Pagin (Stockholm University)
Agustín Rayo (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
Pablo Cobreros (University of Navarra)
Raquel Fernández (University of Amsterdam)
Gerhard Jäger (University of Tübingen)
Gert Storms (University of Leuven)

The project adviser:

Ewan Klein (University of Edinburgh)

More details on the workshop will be provided on the official site (sites.google.com/site/vaguenesscircle/workshop) in due time. We hope to see you there!

Best wishes,

The organizers,
Galit Sassoon
Harald Bastiaanse
Robert van Rooij
Frank Veltman

Programme

Friday 27 January

10:00 - 11:00
Francis Jeffry Pelletier -- On Ultimate Causes of Vagueness

11:00 - 11:15
Coffee

11:15 - 12:15
Sigrid Beck -- t.b.a.

12:15 - 13:30
Lunch

13:30 - 14:30
Yael Greenberg -- Domain Vague Modal Operators

14:30 - 15:30
Pablo Cobreros -- Tolerant Identity

15:30 - 16:00
Tea

16:00 - 17:00
Agustín Rayo -- A Localist Account of Vagueness

17:00 - 18:00
Chris Barker -- Negotiating Temperature Standards

19:00 -
Dinner

Saturday 28 January

10:00 - 11:00
Louise McNally -- Vagueness and crispness in the verbal domain

11:00 - 11:15
Coffee

11:15 - 12:15
Gert Storms -- Formal Models to Study Vagueness in Everyday Semantic Concepts

12:15 - 13:30
Lunch

13:30 - 14:30
Raquel Fernández Rovira -- Granularity in Referential Tasks: Experimental Evidence

14:30 - 15:30
Gerhard Jäger -- Vagueness, Signaling & Bounded Rationality

15:30 - 16:00
Tea

16:00 - 17:00
t.b.a.

17:00 - 18:00
Peter Pagin -- Gaps and Higher-Order Vagueness

Abstracts:

On Ultimate Causes of Vagueness
Francis Jeffry Pelletier
It is traditional to divide viewpoints concerning the ultimate cause of vagueness into three sorts: metaphysical vagueness, epistemological vagueness, and linguistic vagueness. It is not so common to think of the appropriateness of different types of representational frameworks (e.g., different logics) as mirroring these different views as to the ultimate cause. One such evaluation, however, was undertaken in Evans (1978), where it was argued that metaphysical vagueness fell afoul of Leibniz's Law. I followed that up in Pelletier (1989) with a different argument to the same conclusion. But this article was criticized on various grounds. I've always thought the criticisms were misguided and in this talk will try to re-establish the general form of argumentation by paying more attention to the notion of an ultimate cause of vagueness and how different logics do or don't fit it.

Domain Vague Modal Operators
Yael Greenberg
This talk looks at vagueness in the restriction of two modal operators, namely Gen (the generic quantifier) and happens to. I examine the idea that the vagueness of Gen (Kadmon & Landman 1993, Greenberg 2007), concerns the domain of worlds (instead of the domain of individuals) quantified over. Under this approach, Gen should be viewed as a domain vague universal modal quantifier only with 'descriptive / inductive' generics (e.g. ones with bare plural subjects), and not with 'in virtue of' / definitional' generics (e.g. ones with indefinite singular subjects). An interesting support of this idea is the (in)compatibility of the two types of generics with the operator happens to (compare Dogs happen to have 4 legs and # A dog happens to have 4 legs). I propose that despite the apparent 'accidentalness' expressed by happens to, it is, in fact, a (circumstantial) necessity operator, but one whose restriction is systematically vague, and discuss its interaction with Gen.

Tolerant Identity
Pablo Cobreros, Paul Egré, David Ripley, Robert van Rooij
The 'received view' on identity takes it that identity is a transitive relation. Cases like that of Theseus ship and analogous, are taken to be cases showing something about the semantic indefiniteness of identity statements, but not about the identity of the things themselves. The identity of a thing is a fully precise matter and there's no point on questioning its transitivity. Though we don't have yet a full explanation of this general opposition against the (metaphysical) indefiniteness of identity and its possible non-transitivity, we suspect that part of the issue concerns the idea that there's no coherent notion of (metaphysical) indefinite identity or that, if there's such a notion, it is based on dubious principles of logic. This claim sounds very much like the idea that endorsing tolerance requires a drastic revision of logic, something we (hope to) have shown to be mistaken in our 2011 paper. We think, therefore, that it is worth exploring a notion of non-transitive identity based on our framework.
References: Cobreros, P., Egré, P., Ripley, D. and van Rooij, R. (2011) 'Tolerant, Classical, Strict' Journal of Philosophical Logic (forthcoming)

A Localist Account of Vagueness
Agustín Rayo
All it takes to be competent with the use of a basic lexical item is to have access to a suitable collection of associations. The rest of the work is done by the speaker's knowledge of grammar, and by a combination of sensitivity to context and common sense.

Negotiating Temperature Standards
Chris Barker
Predicates of personal taste (''This chili is tasty'') allow faultless disagreement (''No it's not!''), suggesting that truth may sometimes be relative to an assessor (Lasersohn). But there are many notable properties of these predicates: they assert a normative aesthetic judgment, they summarize an ill-defined multi-dimensional set of component properties, they involve direct perception, they lack intersubjective stability---which of these properties are essential? In pursuit of this question, I will consider temperature assertions (''It's cold today'') which arguably exhibit faultless disagreement (''No it's not!''). This is despite the fact that temperatures correspond to a well-defined, single-dimensional, speaker-independent, objective scale (whose units, appropriately enough are called ''degrees''!). Taking a dynamic view, I will suggest that, like all absolute assertions of gradable adjectives, temperature assertions constrain adjectival standards. And, like all absolute assertions, they can be used in a variety of ways: to carve off regions of borderline degrees (Kyburg and Morreau), to inform discourse participants about the prevailing standards (Barker 2002), to assert a norm (Sundell), or even to negotiate which micro-language we are using to communicate (Lassiter). But in situations in which disagreements over taste or temperature remain unresolved, the net result is a partially defective discourse context (Barker 2009) in which both a sentence and its negation are both true (and both false). Understanding faultless disagreement, then, requires a theory of discourse that enables us to comfortably manage pockets of paraconsistency. A dynamic semantics that models uncertainty over the facts of the discourse, in addition to uncertainty over the facts of the world, provides the appropriate sort of flexibility.

Vagueness and crispness in the verbal domain
Louise McNally
Kennedy & Levin (2008) argue that adjectives with open scales and context-dependent (or ''relative'') standards, such as ''widen'', as a rule yield atelic deadjectival verbs, while those with closed scales and absolute standards, such as ''straighten'', can yield either telic or atelic deadjectival verbs. Both Kearns (2005) and Fleischhauer (to appear) offer counterexamples to the first of these two generalizations, but neither explicitly states what the consequences of their counterexamples are for the sort of measure-of-change analysis of deadjectival verbs that Kennedy & Levin propose, nor does either provide an alternative compositional semantics. I will defend Kennedy & Levin's measure-of-change analysis, and their general insight concerning the relation between scale structure and telicity, against these counterexamples. However, I argue that the data point to the simple fact that the scale that matters for telicity is determined by the part structure of the event being described, and not the scale structure associated with the property described by the underlying adjective (e.g. width or change in width in the case of ''wide''/''widen''). The resulting account reinforces the characterization of the relative/absolute distinction proposed in McNally 2011, and the discussion will also serve as an opportunity for more general reflection on the manifestations of vagueness (in the restricted sense referring to the absence of crisp judgments concerning truthful applicability of a predicate) in the adjectival vs. verbal domains.


Formal Models to Study Vagueness in Everyday Semantic Concepts
Gert Storms
Two formal approaches are presented to study vagueness in natural language concepts. The first model uses ideas from item response theory and models binary membership decisions. It will be shown that both qualitative and quantitative differences characterize membership decisions. The second model focuses on typicality ratings in semantic concepts and formalizes the notion of ideals as mental representations. The model will be contrasted with popular exemplar models.

Granularity in Referential Tasks: Experimental Evidence
Raquel Fernández Rovira
Speakers can refer to the same entities using different levels of precision or granularity. For instance, a speaker may choose to refer to a meeting time with the expression 'in the morning' or with the more precise, numeric expression 'at 10:30am'. The common assumption is that speakers' choices of granularity are driven by pragmatic principles related to efficiency and relevance. What this assumption exactly entails, however, is often left unexplained in theoretical accounts and has not been sufficiently investigated experimentally. In this talk, I will present ongoing joint work with Dale Barr (Glasgow) and Kees van Deemter (Aberdeen) that aims at studying the factors that influence the choice of a particular level of granularity when producing a referring expression for entities involving quantities.

Vagueness, Signaling & Bounded Rationality
Gerhard Jäger
Vagueness is a pervasive feature of natural language, but indeed one that is troubling for leading theories in semantics and language evolution. We focus here on the latter, addressing the challenge of how to account for the emergence of vague meanings in signaling game models of language evolution. The material in the talk is the result of joint work with Michael Franke and Robert van Rooij.

Gaps and Higher-Order Vagueness
Peter Pagin
How does 'definitely tall' relate to 'tall'? Some intuitions: a) 'definitely tall' is vague, given that 'tall' is vague; b) 'definitely tall' has lower semantic tolerance than 'tall', in the sense that the minimal difference between positive and negative instances is shorter; c) if 'definitely tall' applies to an object x, then so does 'tall', but not conversely. Also, this should hold generally, for 'definitely F'. In this talk I shall implement these ideas for 'definitely' in a gap-semantic framework (see e.g. Pagin: 'Vagueness and Domain Restriction'), and look at some of the consequences.



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