Special session “Semantics and Natural Logic”

The special session “Semantics and Natural Logic” will take place on September 10, 2017 at the Leibnitz-Zentrum Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft in Berlin.

Invited Speakers:

Márta Abrusán (IRIT Toulouse / CNRS)
Hannes Leitgeb (LMU Munich)

This workshop will gather philosophers and linguists to explore foundational issues on the interaction between language and natural logic, i.e., the component of the mind/brain that governs reason and inference. Philosophers have been traditionally concerned with the underlying logical form of natural languages; and at least since Frege, they have debated whether, and which, formal languages we should use to model them. Further, a foundational assumption of contemporary linguistic theory is that natural languages can be modeled with certain formal languages/logics. Still, important figures in both fields, including Fodor and Chomsky, reject key aspects of this approach. This workshop will bring philosophers and linguistics to discuss these issues around three fundamental questions:

  1. Is there such a thing as natural logic, a component of the mind brain that we might call logical or formal?
  2. What is the relation between natural languages and natural logic, and what are the basic properties of natural logic?
  3. How do we distinguish inferences derived by NL+language from inferences derived with the help of other cognitive systems?

These questions can now be addressed at an unprecedented level of precision. Recent developments in formal semantics and pragmatics have led to refined models of the interaction between grammar/ compositional semantics and natural logic, including specific hypothesis about the properties and role of the latter. For example, Fox and Hackl argue that there is a level of representation at which the numerical operations of language see only dense scales. Chierchia, Fox, and others argue that scalar implicatures are computed within the grammar, i.e., compositionally. Crain and Pietroski defend a version of logical nativism according to which the hypothesis space that children consider when acquiring the meaning of connectives such as ‘and’/’or’ is massively, perhaps uniquely, constrained. According to these researchers, natural logic is deeply intertwined with processes that are essentially linguistic. Each of these positions remains deeply controversial, but they have reached a level of precision that allows us, in light of them, to deeply and usefully engage with questions (1)-(3).

Talks accepted for the special session (alphabetical order)

David Boylan Miners and Modals
Andreas Haida, Luka Crnic and Yosef Grodzinsky On the impediment of logical reasoning by non-logical inferential methods
Julia Lukassek and Alexandra Anna Spalek Distinguishing Coercion and Underspecification in Type Composition Logic
Robert van Rooij Generics and Typicality