Volume 57, Issue 3, 2020
Ekaterina V. Vostrikova
Philosophy and Linguistics
New Trends in the Interdisciplinary Studies of Meaning
This paper is an overview of the contemporary discussions in interdisciplinary studies of meaning of natural language expressions. The paper discusses the latest work published in two interdisciplinary journals «Linguistics and Philosophy» and «Natural Language Semantics» most relevant for philosophy of language. The paper focuses on two general topics: the semantics of singular terms (proper names, pronouns, demonstratives) and the semantics of belief-reports. The paper discusses the recent proposal about the interpretation of pronouns by [Stojnic et al., 2019] according to which such interpretation is strictly determined by the linguistic rules and does not depend on the context. According to this proposal, the referent of a pronoun is determined by a specific coherence relationship the sentence it occurs in has to the previous sentence in a discourse unless it is preceded by a pointing gesture. The paper discuses some issues with this proposal. Specifically, it discusses its difficulties with explaining the cases where the referent of a pronoun stands out in a context and, thus, no pointing gesture or previous discourse is required for the referent identification. It also discusses cases where a coherence relationship (such as Narration) between two sentences allows flexibility with respect to the referent identification and points at pragmatic factors that can be relevant in this respect. The paper also presents some other recent research on proper names, demonstratives and pronouns both linguistically and philosophically oriented.
The paper also presents informally some work on belief-reports in linguistics and discussed its relevance for philosophy of language. It discusses the recent work on restrictions on the types of embeddings of propositional attitude verbs and the general approach that derives those restrictions from the predicted meanings of the relevant sentences, such as [Theiler et al., 2019]. The paper discussed the relevance of this issue to a more general question about the nature of a natural language and the relationship between language and logic.