Thu Mar 21, 2019
Howison Library, 4–6 PM
Elisabeth Camp (Rutgers)
Semantics for Language as a Public Object
The traditional conception of semantics as the project of formulating a set of compositional rules for determining truth-conditions of whole sentences is frequently criticized for failing to account for widespread contextual effects on communicated meaning and for expressive aspects of meaning. A shared strategy for restoring semantics to a firm foundation in light of these worries is global retrenchment to a psychological conception of language. I argue that while the challenges are real, the solution is misguided. Natural languages are fundamentally social tools, deeply shaped by social facts and functions; this is reflected not just in how they are used by us, but in how they themselves work.