LINGUIST List 9.1141

Mon Aug 17 1998

Books: Syntax / Philosophy of Lang

Editor for this issue: Martin Jacobsen <martylinguistlist.org>


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  1. Rebecca Wipfler, Syntax / Philosophy of Lang

Message 1: Syntax / Philosophy of Lang

Date: 13 Aug 98 09:58:53 -0500
From: Rebecca Wipfler <rebecca_wipflergarland.com>
Subject: Syntax / Philosophy of Lang

Cormack, Annabel; Definitions: Implications for Syntax, Semantics, and
the Language of Thought; 0-8153-3131-2, cloth; pages, $83; Garland
Publishing; Outstanding Dissertations in Linguistics

	The answer to the question "How can we understand and use a
definition?" provides new constraints on natural language and on the
internal language in which meaning is mentally represented. Most
syntax takes the sentence as the basic unit for well-formedness, but
definitions force us to focus on words and phrases, and hence to focus
on compositional syntax in parallel with compositional semantics.
This study examines both dictionary definitions and definitions from
textbooks from the points of view of their syntax, semantics, and use
for learning word meaning. The tools used throughout are Principles
and Parameters syntax, Relevance theoretic pragmatics, Model theoretic
semantics, and the formal theory of definitions. The analyses argue
that because phrases can be understood in isolation, some standard
syntactic analyses must be modified. 'NP movement' has to be
reanalysed as transmission of theta roles. These ideas are then
applied to a variety of adjectives which take propositional
complements. The final chapter argues that for definitions to be
understood, the syntax of the Language of Thought must be close to
that of Natural Language in specifiable ways. For example, semantic
types must be common to the two languages. The book will be of
interest to linguists concerned with syntax, semantics and pragmatics;
philosophers of mind and of language; and lexicographers.

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