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What is meaning?


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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments x 1 The Fundamental Question 1 1.1 What is a Meaning? 3 1.2 Meanings are Out in the World 11 1.3 We should Think of the Meaning of Sentences in Terms of Truth-Conditions 12 2 Putting a Meaning Together from Pieces 28 2.1 Names Refer 29 2.2 Incomplete Propositions 30 2.3 Prediction is Saturation 31 2.4 Compositionality 33 2.5 Syntax and Semantics 34 3 More about Predicates 40 3.1 Other Types of Predicates: Adjectives, Predicate Nominals 40 3.2 Transitive Verbs 44 3.3 Relative Clauses 45 3.4 Topicalization 48 3.5 Sub-atomic Semantics 49 3.6 Modeling Properties with Sets and Functions 54 4 Modifiers 61 4.1 Adjective + N Combination 61 4.2 More Issues with Adjectives 65 4.3 Relative Clauses as Modifier 68 4.4 Adverbs 69 4.5 The Form of Meanings and their World-describing Content 74 5 Complexities of Referring Expressions 78 5.1 Definite NPs 78 5.2 Some Subtleties 80 5.3 A Bit about Indefinite NPs 83 5.4 Theories of Reference 84 5.5 Plurals and Mass Terms 95 5.6 Kinds 99 5.7 Pronouns and Anaphora 102 6 Quantifiers 112 6.1 Generalized Quantifiers: Predicate of Predicates, or Sets of Sets 113 6.2 NP Conjunction 120 6.3 Negative Polarity Items 122 6.4 Quantifiers in Object Position 127 7 Extensional vs. Intensional Contexts 132 8 Tense, Aspect, and Modality 137 8.1 Tense 138 8.2 Aspect 146 8.3 Modality 154 9 Propositional Attitudes 161 9.1 A Possible Worlds Semantics for Belief and Desire 162 9.2 Logical Consequences of the Modal Analysis of Propositional Attitude Verbs 164 9.3 Two foundational Problems: Coreferential Terms and Logical Truths 166 9.4 Structure and Meaning 170 9.5 Or, Have We Reached the Limits of Semantics? 174 10 The Pragmatics of What?s Given 176 10.1 Indexicality and Deixis 177 10.2 Presupposition 178 10.3 Speech Acts 190 10.4 Focus and Topic 195 11 The Pragmatics of Inference 199 11.1 Properties Implicature 203 12 Formal Semantics Today 206 12.1 Diversity within Formal Semantics 206 12.2 Relationships with Other Varieties of Semantics 213 12.3 Relationships with Other Fields 214 Appendix: Answers to Selected Exercises 218 References 223 Index 230

About the Author

Paul H. Portner is Associate Professor of Linguistics and Director of the Interdisciplinary Program in Cognitive Science at Georgetown University. He is co-editor of Formal Semantics: The Essential Readings (with Barbara H. Partee, Blackwell, 2002) as well as the author of numerous articles on topics such as mood and modality, tense and aspect, and the syntax/semantics interface.


?An excellent book for advanced undergraduates and beginning graduate students. Portner?s approachable, yet serious, presentation gives the reader a firm understanding of the breadth and depth of the science of natural language meaning.? Kai von Fintel, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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