Formal Semantics


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Formal Semantics

  2. 2. SEMIOTICS  (Charles Morris, 1938)the general science of signs. THREE BRANCHES OF INQUIRY  SYNTAX—the study of “formal relation of signs to one another.”  SEMANTICS—the study of “the formal relation of signs to the objects to which the signs are applicable.”  PRAGMATICS—the study of “the relation of signs to the interpreter.”
  3. 3. Syntax concerns properties of expressions, such a as about well- formedness; Semantics concerns relations between expressions and what they are “about”, such as reference and truth- conditions; and Pragmatics concerns relations between expressions, their meanings, and their uses in context, such as complicature.
  4. 4.  The OBJECTIVES of FORMAL SEMANTICS: 1. Sense Relations 2.Truth Conditions 3. Inference SEMANTICS is the scientific study of the meaning of signs. But what is “meaning”?
  5. 5.  Giving you these flowers means that I love you.  Those mountains ahead mean trouble.  He said that he would join us, be he didn’t mean it.  When I say X, I meanY.  Gatte means spouse.
  6. 6. If your native language is not English, how would you translate these examples?Which ones are about semantics? a. Smoke means fire. b. Feuer means fire. LINGUISTIC MEANING o relates linguistic signs to non-linguistics entities. o is conventionalized. o Is arbitrary.
  7. 7.  is about the meaning of syntactically complex expressions.  Literally means “using formal methods for the study of meaning.” [Nowadays there is also formal lexical semantics and discourse semantics, but the identification “formal semantics = formal sentence semantics.”]
  8. 8.  DIACHRONIC SEMANTICS: Examples: 1. Why do English sober and German sauber different things even though they are apparently related? 2. Why are so many synonyms in English (like deep and profound)?  STYLISTICS: Example: 1. What is the difference in meaning between policeman, cop, and bobby?
  9. 9. LEXICAL SEMANTICS: Examples: 1. What is the relation between the words good and bad, high and low etc, and what is the system behind it? 2. Is there a common meaning of in in the examples in this room and in good mood?
  10. 10.  How do these claims go together? 1. Sense Relations • Synonymy • Entailment • Contradiction • Inconsistency • Consistency • Tautology 2. Truth Conditions
  11. 11. The question is not what meanings are, but how they behave. Formal Semantics studies systematic semantic relations between linguistic expressions, such as: 1. SYNONYMY • Intuitively: A and B are synonymous if the y have the same meaning. • Vague, sometimes difficult to decide • Formal Approach: A and B are synonymous if for each sentence(S), S is true if and only if S[B/A] is true. Ex. Bachelor and unmarried male adult.
  12. 12. 2. ENTAILMENT  Intuitively: A entails B if we can infer from A and B.  Formal Definition: A entails B if under all conceivable circumstances under whichA is true, B must be true as well. Ex. John owns a bike entails John owns something.
  13. 13. 3. CONTRADICTION  Intuitively: A and B are contradictory if they exclude each other.  Formally: A and B are contradictory if there are no conceivable circumstances where they could be true at the same time. Ex. Mary knows every book in the library and There is a book in the library that Mary does not know are contradictory.
  14. 14. 4. INCONSISTENCY  A is inconsistent if it is contradictory with itself. Ex.This square is round. 5. CONSISTENCY—the opposite of inconsistency. Ex.Tomorrow is Saturday.
  15. 15. 6. TAUTOLOGY  Intuitively:True but countless.  Formally: Always true. Ex. Every red apple is an apple. There is no largest prime number.
  16. 16.  “Truth of a sentence” is central notion in definition of sense relations.  Basic Methodological Principles of formal semantics: 1. If A and b are sentences, and A is true and B false, then A and B do not have the same meaning. (Cressewell’s “Most Certain Principle”) 2. If a person knows the meaning of a sentence, then he or she also know the necessary and sufficient conditions for the truth and falsity of this sentence.
  17. 17. 3. Suppose a person knows the necessary and sufficient conditions for the truth and falsity of a sentence.Then this person knows the meaning of this sentence.
  18. 18. 1. The meaning of a sentence are its truth conditions. 2. The meaning of an expression is its contribution to the truth conditions of the sentences it occurs in.
  19. 19. SemioticTrichotomy: SYNTAX—study of the structure of signs. SEMANTICS—study of the meaning of signs.  PRAGMATICS—study of the use of signs. o It builds upon semantics, but cannot be reduced to it. o “Meaning = truth conditions” suggests that primary purpose of language is descriptive. o Blatantly false.
  20. 20. 1. I hereby christen you Mary-Jane. 2. I promise you to be there at three. 3. I now pronounce you man and wife. o Under appropriate conditions, these sentences are true by virtue of their being uttered. o Technical term: Performative utterances
  21. 21. o Same effects can be achieved in a less explicit way. Examples: a. Your name be Mary-Jane. b. I’ll be there at three. c. You are now man and wife.
  22. 22. 1. LOCUTION—uttering a certain sentence of a given langunage with a given grammatical structure and a given meaning. 2. ILLOCUTION—performing a certain action type (declaring, asking, promising, baptizing, …) 3. PERLOCUTION—achieving a certain effect by a causal connection between the speech act and a change in the state of the world.
  23. 23. o All speech acts are explicit performative. o Usually the performative verb is not pronounced. Examples: a. Are you cold? b. I hereby ask you whether you are cold. [(a) means the same, in a technical sense, as (b)]
  24. 24. o Problematic, because the locution of a performative speech act is always true. o Would render all sentences into tautologies=>unintuitive. o We have to live the tension between locution (semantics) on the one hand and illocution/perlocution (pragmatics) on the other hand.
  25. 25. 1. Propositional Logic o Principle of Compositionality (“Frege’s Principle”) –the meaning of a complex expression is determined by the meaning of its parts and the way they are combined. o Meaning of a clause:Truth Conditions=determinesTruthValue  Bivalent Interpretation: Every sentence is either true or false (“Tertium Non Datur”), but not both.
  26. 26. o Meaning of a Clause:  TruthValues: “True” and “False” (“T” and “F”, “1” and “0”) o For certain syntactic combinations: Compositionality ofTruthValues Examples: a. The power is on and the outside temperature is below freezing point.
  27. 27. b.The power is on. c.The outside temperature is below freezing point [Example (a) is true if both (b) and (c) are true, otherwise false.]
  28. 28. Examples: a. The grapes are too high or you are too short. b. The grapes are too high. c. You are too short. [Example (a) is true if at least one of (b) and (c) are true, otherwise false.]
  29. 29. Examples: a. I do not have the ace of hearts. b. I have the ace of hearts. [example (a) is true if (b) is false, and vice versa] Examples: a. If x is a prime number larger than 2, it is an odd number. b. X is a prime number. c. X is an odd number. [example (a) is false if (b) is true and (c) false, otherwise it is true.]
  30. 30. Examples: a. The light is on if and only if the switch is up. b. The light is on. c. The switch is up. [Example (a) if both (b) and (c) are true or both (b) and (c) are false, otherwise it is false.]
  31. 31. o Simple formal language o Disregards internal structure of simple clauses o Conjunction, disjunction, negation, implication and equilvalence are only syntactic operations o Compositionality of truth values.
  32. 32. 1. PRINCIPLE OF COMPOSITIONALITY—the meaning of an expression is uniquely determined by the meanings of its parts and their mode of combination. [Frege’s Principle] 2. SUBSTITUTION PRINCIPLE—synonymous parts may be substituted for each other without changing the meaning of the complex expression in which they occur.
  33. 33.  Compositionality: a. WheneverToms sees a lollipop he wants to eat it. b. Tom sees a lollipop. c. Tom sees a lollipop he wants to eat.
  34. 34.  Compositionality: a. Tom is asleep. b. Everyone who is identical withTom is asleep.  [the synonymy of the noun phrases Tom and everyone who is identical withTom we may, conclude that (a) and (b) must have the same meaning]
  35. 35.  Compositionality: a. Allan erroneously believes thatTom is asleep. b. Allan erroneously believes that everyone who is identical withTom is asleep.  [since (a) is an immediate part of thatTom is asleep and (b) is an immediate part of that everyone who is identical withTom is asleep, the two that-clauses must be synonymous]
  36. 36.  Compositionality: a. My brother, who live in Athens, is an oculist. b. My brother, who dwells in Aix-la-Chappelle, is an eye-doctor.  [the way the words are combined in these two sentences is obviously the same, the Principle of Compositionality immediately implies that (a) and (b) must have the same meaning. Clearly, this is a non-trivial claim.]
  37. 37.  Moreover, the complex verb erroneously believes is clearly synonymous with itself and, once more, combining it with either that Tom is asleep or the synonymous that everyone who is identical withTom is asleep must result in two synonymous verb phrases.
  38. 38.  also known as SEMANTIC SHIFT or SEMANTIC PROGRESSION describes the evolution of word usage — usually to the point that the modern meaning is radically different from the original usage.  (Diachronic/Historical Linguistics) is a change in one of the meanings of a word.
  39. 39. Every word has a variety of senses and connotations which can be added, removed, or altered over time, often to the extent that cognates across space and time have very different meanings. The study of semantic change can be seen as part of etymology, onomasiology, semasiology, and semantics.
  40. 40. There are different types of change which will be discussed presently. The most neutral way of referring to change is simply to speak of semantic shift which is to talk of change without stating what type it is. To begin with a series of shifts are presented to familiarize by the students with what is possible in the realm of semantic change.
  41. 41.  Awful - Originally meant "inspiring wonder (or fear)". It is a portmanteau of the words "awe" and "full", used originally as a shortening for "full of awe". In contemporary usage the word usually has negative meaning.  Demagogue - Originally meant "a popular leader". It is from the Greek demagogos (leader of the people), from demos (people) + agogos (leader). Now the word has strong connotations of a politicianwho panders to emotions and prejudice.
  42. 42.  English fæger ‘fit, suitable’, Modern English fair came to mean ‘pleasant, enjoyable’ then ‘beautiful’ and ‘pleasant in conduct’, from which the second modern meaning ‘just, impartial’ derives.The first meaning continued to develop in the sense of ‘of light complexion’ and a third one arose from ‘pleasant’ in a somewhat pejorative sense, meaning ‘average, mediocre’, Ex. He only got a fair result in his exam.
  43. 43.  Gentle was borrowed in Middle English in the sense of ‘born of a good-family, with a higher social standing’. Later the sense ‘courteous’ and then ‘kind, mild in manners’ developed because these qualities were regarded as qualities of the upper classes.
  44. 44.  Lewd (Old English læwede) originally meant ‘non-ecclesiastical, lay’, then came to mean ‘uneducated, unlearned’ from which it developed into ‘vulgar, lower- class’ and then through ‘bad- mannered, ignorant’, to ‘sexually insinuating’.
  45. 45.  Sophisticated meant ‘unnatural, contaminated’ but now has the sense of ‘urbane, discriminating’. The word sophistry (from Old French sophistrie) still has its original meaning of ‘specious, fallacious reasoning’.
  46. 46.  Artificial originally meant ‘man- made, artful, skillfully constructed’, compare artifice ‘man-made construction’. But by comparison with ‘natural’ the word came to acquire a negative meaning because everything which is natural is regarded positively.
  47. 47.  Nice (Latin nescius ‘not knowing') is recorded from the 13th century in the sense of ‘foolish’, then it shifted to ‘coy, shy’ and by the 16th century had the meaning ‘fastidious, dainty, subtle’ from which by the 18th century the sense ‘agreeable, delightful’ developed.
  48. 48.  Silly (Old English sēlig ‘happy, fortuitous') had by the 15th century the sense of ‘deserving of pity’ and then developed to ‘ignorant, feeble- minded’ and later ‘foolish’.  Fast (OE fæste ‘firm') later developed the meaning ‘quick’.The original sense is still seen in steadfast ‘firm in position’.
  49. 49.  Egregious - Originally described something that was remarkably good.The word is from the Latin egregius (outstanding) which is from e-, ex- (out of) + greg- or grex (flock). Now it means something that is remarkably bad or flagrant.  Gay - Originally meant feelings of being "carefree", "happy", or "bright and showy"; it had also come to acquire some connotations of "immorality" as early as 1637.The term later began to be used in reference to homosexuality, in particular, from the early 20th century, a usage that may have dated prior to the 19th century.
  50. 50.  Guy - Guido (Guy) Fawkes was the alleged leader of a plot to blow up the English Houses of Parliament on 5 November 1605.The burning on 5 November of a grotesque effigy of Fawkes, known as a "guy," led to the use of the word "guy" as a term for any "person of grotesque appearance" and then to a general reference for a man, as in "some guy called for you." In the 20th century, under the influence ofAmerican popular culture, "guy" has been gradually replacing "fellow," "bloke," "chap" and other such words throughout the English-speaking world, and, in the plural, can refer to a mixture of genders (e.g., "Come on, you guys!" could be directed to a group of men and women).
  51. 51.  The above cases are all cases of shift, the original meaning is not available anymore, or only in an opaque compound (see last example).The process whereby two meanings arise from a single original one is termed Semantic Differentiation.
  52. 52.  In English there has been considerable fluctuation in the preterite and past participle ending after sonorants for weak verbs: either a voiced /-d/ or a voiceless /-t/.This has resulted in the exploitation of the two options for semantic purposes.The situation for most varieties of English today is that the ending - ed stresses the process of the verb and the ending -t emphasises the result as seen in the following examples
  53. 53. A number of classification schemes have been suggested for semantic change.The most widely accepted scheme in the English-speaking Academic World is from Bloomfield (1933): 1. NARROWING 2. METAPHOR 3. METONYMY 4. SYNECDOCHE 5. MEIOSIS 6. HYPERBOLE 7. DEGENERATION 8. ELEVATION
  54. 54. 1. Narrowing—Change from superordinate level to subordinate level. For example, skyline used to refer to any horizon, but now it has narrowed to a horizon decorated by skyscrapers. 2. Widening—Change from subordinate level to superordinate level.There are many examples of specific brand names being used for the general product, such as with Kleenex.
  55. 55. 3. Metaphor—Change based on similarity of thing. For example, broadcast originally meant "to cast seeds out"; with the advent of radio and television, the word was extended to indicate the transmission of audio and video signals. Outside of agricultural circles, very few people use broadcast in the earlier sense.
  56. 56. 5. Metonymy—Change based on nearness in space or time, Ex. Jaw--> "cheek" → "mandible". 6. Synecdoche—Change based on whole-part relation.The convention of using capital cities to represent countries or their governments is an example of this.
  57. 57. 7. Meiosis—Change from weaker to stronger meaning, e.g., kill "torment" → "slaughter“ 8. Hyperbole—Change from stronger to weaker meaning, e.g., astound "strike with thunder" → "surprise strongly".
  58. 58. 9. Degeneration—Ex. knave "boy" → "servant" → "deceitful or despicable man". 10. Elevation—Ex. knight "boy" → "nobleman".
  59. 59. 1. Metaphor: Change based on similarity between concepts, e.g., mouse "rodent" → "computer device". 2. Metonymy: Change based on contiguity between concepts, e.g., horn "animal horn" → "musical instrument". 3. Synecdoche: Same as above. 4. Specialization of meaning: Downward shift in a taxonomy, e.g., corn "grain" → "wheat" (UK), → "maize" (US).
  60. 60. 5. Generalization of Meaning: Upward shift in a taxonomy, e.g., hoover "Hoover vacuum cleaner" → "any type of vacuum cleaner". 6. CohyponymicTransfer: Horizontal shift in a taxonomy, e.g., the confusion of mouse and rat in some dialects. 7. Antiphrasis: Change based on a contrastive aspect of the concepts, e.g., perfect lady in the sense of "prostitute".
  61. 61. 8. Auto-antonymy: Change of a word's sense and concept to the complementary opposite, e.g., bad in the slang sense of "good". 9. Auto-converse: Lexical expression of a relationship by the two extremes of the respective relationship, e.g., take in the dialectal use as "give".
  62. 62. 10. Ellipsis: Semantic change based on the contiguity of names, e.g., car "cart" → "automobile", due to the invention of the (motor) car. 11. Folk-etymology: Semantic change based on the similarity of names, e.g., French contredanse, orig. English country dance.
  63. 63. 1. Widening/Extension range of meanings of a word increases so that the word can be used in more contexts than were appropriate before the change EXAMPLES:  -dog =>specific powerful breed of dog => all breeds or races of dog  -cupboard =>table upon which cups or vessels were placed, a piece of furniture to display plates => closet or cabin with shelves for the keeping cups and dishes =>AE: small storage cabinet
  64. 64. 2. Narrowing (Specialisation, Restriction) => range of meaning is decreased so that a word can be used appropriately only in fewer contexts than before the change  meat => 'food' in general ;  hound => OE hund 'dog in general' => species of dog (long eared hunting dog) ;  wife => OE 'woman' =>'woman of humble rank or low employment' => 'married woman, spouse'  girl => ME 'child or young person of either sex' =>'female child, young woman'
  65. 65. 3. Metaphor =>involves relationship of perceived similarity  root (of plant) => > root of plant, root of word, root in algebra, source  stud => 'good-looking sexy man '(of slang origin) derived from stud 'a male animal used for breeding  chill => "relax, calm down' of slang origin, original 'to cool'
  66. 66. 4. Metonymy =>inclusion of additional senses which were originally not present but which are closely associated with word's original meaning  tea => 'drink' => 'evening meal accompanied by drinking tea’.  cheek 'fleshy side of the face below the eye' < OE: cēace ' jaw, jawbone‘.
  67. 67. 5. Synecdoche =>kind of metonymy, involves part-to-whole relationship. EXAMPLES:  hand --'hired hand, employed worker';  Tongue --'language'
  68. 68. 6. Degeneration / Pejoration =>sense of a word takes on a less positive, more negative evaluation in the minds of the users  knave 'a rogue' < OE: cnafa ' a youth, a child' > 'servant' ;  spinster 'unmarried woman' < 'one who spins' ;  silly 'foolish, stupid' < ME sely 'happy, innocent' < OE sælig ''blessed, blissful'  disease 'illness' < 'discomfort' (cf. dis+ease)
  69. 69. 7. Elevation /Amelioration =>shifts in the sense of a word in the direction towards a more positive value in the minds of the users  Pretty-- OE: prættig 'crafty, sly‘  Knight-- 'mounted warrior serving a king' 'lesser nobility' < OE cniht 'boy, servant' >'servant' > 'military servant';  Dude--'guy, person' < in 1883 a word of ridicule for 'man who affects an exaggerated fastidiousness in dress, speech and deportment', a dandy'
  70. 70. 8.Taboo Replacement and Avoidance of Obscenity  Ass-- 'long-eared animal related to a horse' => donkey;  Cock-- 'adult male chicken' => rooster,  bloody nose => blood nose/bleeding nose  Toilet--bathroom, lavatory, restroom, loo, john
  71. 71. 9. Hyperbole =>shift in meaning due to exaggeration by overstatement.  terribly, horribly, awfully-- 'very' 10. Litotes =>exaggeration by understatement.
  72. 72. Blank has tried to create a complete list of motivations for semantic change.They can be summarized as:  Linguistic forces  Psychological forces  Socio-cultural forces  Cultural/encyclopedic forces
  73. 73. This list has been revised and slightly enlarged by Grzega (2004):  Fuzziness (i.e., difficulties in classifying the referent or attributing the right word to the referent, thus mixing up designations)  Dominance of the Prototype (i.e., fuzzy difference between superordinate and subordinate term due to the monopoly of the prototypical member of a category in the real world)  Social Reasons (i.e., contact situation with "undemarcation" effects)
  74. 74.  Institutional and non-institutional linguistic pre- and proscriptivism (i.e., legal and peer- group linguistic pre- and proscriptivism, aiming at "demarcation")  Flattery  Insult  Disguising Language (i.e., "mis-nomers")  Taboo (i.e., taboo concepts)
  75. 75.  Aesthetic-Formal Reasons (i.e., avoidance of words that are phonetically similar or identical to negatively associated words)  Communicative-Formal Reasons (i.e., abolition of the ambiguity of forms in context, keyword: "homonymic conflict and polysemic conflict")  Word Play/Punning  Excessive Length of Words
  76. 76.  Morphological Misinterpretation (keyword: "folk-etymology", creation of transparency by changes within a word)  Logical-Formal Reasons (keyword: "lexical regularization", creation of consociation)  Desire for Plasticity (creation of a salient motivation of a name)  Anthropological Salience of a Concept (i.e., anthropologically given emotionality of a concept, "natural salience")
  77. 77.  Culture-Induced Salience of a Concept ("cultural importance")  Changes in the Referents (i.e., changes in the world)  WorldView Change (i.e., changes in the categorization of the world)  Prestige/Fashion (based on the prestige of another language or variety, of certain word- formation patterns, or of certain semasiological centers of expansion)
  78. 78. Changes in meaning are as common as changes in form. Like the latter they can be internally or externally motivated. The equivalent to the paradigm in morphology is, in semantics, the word field in which words and their meanings stand in a network of relationships.
  79. 79. The alteration of meaning occurs because words are constantly used and what is intended by speakers is not exactly the same each time. If a different intention for a word is shared by the speech community and becomes established in usage then a semantic change has occurred.
  80. 80. SOURCES: 1. 2.Webster Encyclopedia, 2nd Edition 3. Lecture of B. H. Partee on Formal Semantics, April 25, 2005 p.1-6 4. Handouts of Gerhard Jager: jaeger@ling.uni- Thank you for listening 
  81. 81. TEST I: Listen attentively and answer the following questions. Write 1 if the statement corresponds to Formal Semantics, and 0 if the statement says otherwise. 1. I hereby affixed my signature on January 30, 2012. 2. You are now man and wife. 3. I will be there at 5:00 pm. 4. Your name is Maria Salve. 5. I promise to give her a birthday present.
  82. 82. TEST II: Supply the correct Semantic Change. 1. The Modern English of fair came to mean _______________. 2. _______was borrowed in Middle English originally means ‘born of a good-family with a higher social standing’. 3. Lewd (Old English læwede) originally meant ___________then came to mean ‘uneducated, unlearned’. 4. Fast (Old Eng fæste ‘firm') later developed the meaning ________. 5. Silly come from Old English _____which means happy and fortuitous.
  83. 83. 6. ______comes from Latin nescius which means ‘not knowing‘ and later became agreeable and delightful. 7. Artificial originally meant ______________. 8. Sophisticated originally means ‘unnatural, contaminated’ but now has the sense of _________. 9. The process whereby two meanings arise from a single original one is termed_____________. 10.Semantic change, also known as __________that describes the evolution of word usage.
  84. 84. TEST III. ENUMERATION. 1-5 Give at least five words that undergone SemanticChange. 6-10 Cite at least 5 types of Semantic Change according to Bloomfield 1933. TEST IV. ESSAY. Discuss briefly. 1. Formal Semantics 2. SemanticChange
  85. 85.  TEST I: 1 0 0 0 1  TEST II: 1. Pleasant, enjoyable 2. Gentle 3. Non-ecclesiastical, lay 4. Quick 5. Sēlig 6. Nice 7. Man-made, artful, skillfully constructed 8. Urbane, discriminating 9. Semantic Differentiation 10. Semantic Shift or Semantic Progression
  86. 86. TEST III: 1-5 Awful, demagogue, egregious, guy, gay, fit, gentle, lewd, sophisticated, artificial, Nice, Silly, Fast 6-10  Narrowing, Metaphor, Metonymy, Synecdoche, Meiosis, Hyperbole, Degeneration, Elevation. TEST IV: 1. is about the meaning of syntactically complex expressions. Literally means “using formal methods for the study of meaning.” 2.Semantic change, also known as semantic shift or semantic progression) that describes the evolution of word usage.