In recent work, much of it
collaborative, I have been trying to figure out what linguistic
meanings are--and how human semantic competence is related to other
aspects of human cognition--by approaching the central issues from
several angles. The articles below constitute a kind of sampler,
with a paper for each of six overlapping topics.
- Poverty of Stimulus Arguments: Poverty of the Stimulus Revisited (Cognitive Science 35:7,
2011), co-authored with Robert Berwick, Beracah Yankama, and
- The Nature of Semantic Competence: Meaning
Before Truth (Contextualism
Philosophy, edited by G. Preyer and G. Peters, OUP
- The Role of Lexicalization in Human Cognition: Concepts, Meanings, and Truth: First Nature,
Second Nature, and Hard Work (Mind and Language 25:247-278, 2010)
- Details of Semantic Composition: Minimal Semantic Instructions (Oxford Handbook of Linguistic
Minimalism, edited by C. Boeckx, OUP 2011).
- Logical Form and Visual Verification: Seeing What You Mean, Mostly
(prepublication draft, final version appeared in Syntax and Semantics),
co-authored with Jeff Lidz, Tim Hunter, Darko Odic, and Justin
- Basic Linguistic Operations: Basic Operations, coauthored with Norbert
Hornstein (Catalan Journal of
Linguistics 8: 113-39, 2009)
Meanings: Semantics without Truth Values (OUP 2018), I
connect these topics and argue that meanings are instructions for
how to build concepts of a special sort.
Here are some other links to...
And here are some links regarding two older books.
Although our cognitive systems surely reflect our
experience in some manner, a careful specification of the properties
of these systems on the one hand, and of the experience that somehow
led to their formation on the other, shows that the two are
separated by a considerable gap, in fact, a chasm....The problem,
then, is to determine the innate endowment that serves to bridge the
gap between experience and knowledge attained....The study of
language is particularly interesting in this regard.
(Noam Chomsky, Knowledge of Language)
In order to understand a sentence, it is necessary to have
knowledge both of the constituents and of the particular instance
of the form. It is in this way that a sentence conveys
information, since it tells us that certain known objects are
related according to a certain known form. Thus some kind of
knowledge of logical forms, though with most people it is not
explicit, is involved in all understanding of discourse. It is the
business of philosophical logic to extract this knowledge from its
concrete integuments, and to render it explicit and pure.
(Bertrand Russell, Our Knowledge of the External World)