Not long after Jeff Lidz joined the
linguistics department at the University of Maryland, back in
2005, he introduced me to Justin
Halberda. The three of us started talking about meaning,
concepts, representations of number(s), quantification, lexical
acquisition, vision, Paris, food, and so on. Over the years, we
convinced a series of terrific young colleagues to join us and do
the real work that is required to convert lab meetings into
published papers. Here is a series of papers--with the most recent
work at the top--that emerged as we went along.
Meanings As Cognitive Instructions.
Authors: Tyler Knowlton, Tim Hunter, Darko
Odic, Alexis Wellwood, Jeff
Lidz, Paul Pietroski, and Justin Halberda
(Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 2021, early
version published online.)
The sentences Most of the dots are blue and More of
the dots are blue are equivalent as descriptions of scenes
in which all the non-blue dots are the same color (e.g., red). But
across a range of experimental settings--involving
picture-sentence matching, scene creation, memory for visual
features, and accuracy on judgments of truth/falsity under time
pressure--the more/most contrast has significant effects,
in ways which suggest that the meanings of more and most are
mental representations that provide (different) detailed
instructions to conceptual systems.
Mental Representation Of Universal Quantifiers.
Authors: Tyler Knowlton, Paul Pietroski, Justin
Halberda, and Jeff Lidz
(forthcoming in Linguistics and Philosophy)
The sentences Each of the dots is blue and Every one
of the dots is blue and All of the dots are blue
illustrate distinct ways of expressing universal generalizations.
But do the meanings of the words for universal quantification
differ? And if so, is the difference between first-order and
second-order quantification relevant? Answers: yes and yes.
and Non-Individuals in Cognition and Semantics: the Mass/Count
Distinction and Quantity Representation.
Authors: Darko Odic, Paul Pietroski, Tim Hunter, Jeff
Lidz, and Justin Halberda
(Glossa 3:1-20, 2018.)
The sentences Most
of the dots are blue and Most of the paint is blue
differ significantly: dots is a plural count noun, while
paint is a "mass" noun. It can be tempting to think that
count-nouns are somehow how more basic, semantically, and that
mass-nous involve some extra layer of complexity. But we find
evidence that pushes in the other direction.
Transparency and the Psychosemantics ofmost: Jeff Lidz, Paul
Pietroski, Tim Hunter, and Justin Halberda
(Natural Language Semantics,
19: 227-56, 2011).
This paper extends the initial results obtained in the paper
listed below. Here, we offer experimental evidence that adult
speakers of English understand sentences like 'Most of the dots
are blue' in a quite specific way that involves representing the
cardinality of the blue dots, the cardinality of the dots, andsubtractingthe
former from the latter--as opposed to, say, representing the
cardinalities of the blue dots and the nonblue dots (as such). We
also argue that this finding, together with independent studies of
the visual system, provides some empirical support for a more
general view about how meaningful expressions generated by the
language faculty interface with other cognitive systems.
Meaning of 'Most': semantics, numerosity, and psychology:
Paul Pietroski, Jeff Lidz, Justin Halberda, and Tim Hunter
(Mind and Language,
24:554-85, 2009). The title is descriptive. We offer
experimental evidence in support of a certain view about how the
meaning of the English determiner 'most' is related to various
psychological capacities potentially relevant to human
capacities for counting and quantifying. In this first
installment of an ongoing project, we offer experimental
evidence that adult speakers of English do indeed
understand sentences like 'Most of the dots are blue' in
terms of cardinality comparison (as opposed to, say, one-to-one
correspondence). We also make some tentative suggestions about
how the meaning of 'most' is related to potential verification
procedures and the "analog magnitude system" that humans share
with other animals.
Seeing What you Mean, Mostly.
Authors: Paul Pietroski, Jeff Lidz, Justin Halberda, Tim
Hunter, and Darko Odic
(Syntax and Semantics:
Experiments at the Interfaces, edited by J. Runner,
Another paper in the same vein, stressing that while our
proposal is not a form of verificationism, meanings are
related to verification strategies in empirically testable
ways--at least with regard to "logical" vocabulary.