Unit 2: Sentences, Utterances, and Propositions


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Unit 2: Sentences, Utterances, and Propositions

  1. 1. UTTERANCES: Virtue is its own• Read the following out loud: reward Virtue is its own reward Now read it out loud again.• The same sentence was involved in the two readings, but you made two different utterances, i.e. two unique physical events took place.• An utterance is an act of saying.• An utterance has time, place, speaker, language, but no special form or content. Virtue is its own reward
  2. 2. DEFINITION• An UTTERANCE is any stretch of talk, by one person, before and after which there is silence on the part of that person.• An utterance is the USE by a particular speaker, on a particular occasion, of a piece of language, such as a sequence of sentences, or a single phrase, or even a single word. *P* Virtue is itsVirtue own reward. That is my motto. *P* *pause* Virtue is *pause*
  3. 3. P16
  4. 4. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF UTTERANCE: • It is spoken • Physical event. Events are ephemeral i.e. short-lived • May be grammatical or not (REMEMBER, utterances do not focus on the grammatical aspect) • A piece of language (a single phrase or even a single word) • Meaningful or meaningless e.g. “is” • Identified by a specific time or on particular occasion • by a specific person (in particular accent).
  5. 5. SENTENCES• Definition (partial): A SENTENCE is neither a physical event nor a physical object. It is, conceived abstractly, a string of words put together by the grammatical rules of a language. A sentence can be thought of as the IDEAL string of words behind various realizations in utterances and inscriptions. Virtue is its own reward.• A sentence has no time or place etc., but it has a definite linguistic form. *pause* Virtue is Virtue is *pause* its own Virtu reward. e
  6. 6. CONVENTION IN SEMANTICS• A book such as this contains no utterances (since books don’t talk) or sentences (since sentences are abstract ideals).• In semantics we need to make a careful distinction between utterances and sentences.
  7. 7. A- John announced “Mary’s here”B- Mary thought how nice John was Tom: “Mary thought how nice John was”
  8. 8. Rule A given sentence always consists of the same words, and in the same order. Any change in the words, or in their order, makes a different sentence, for our purposes.
  9. 9. Practice1) Does it make sense to ask what language (e.g.English, French, Chinese) a sentence belongs to? Yes /No2) Does it make sense to say that an utterance was in aparticular accent ? Yes / No3) Does it make sense to say that a sentence was in aparticular accent ? Yes / No
  10. 10. SENTENCES• Definition (partial): A SENTENCE is a grammatically complete string of words expressing a complete thought.• This excludes any string of words that does not have a verb in it, as well as other strings.• A sentence is a complete expression in a language.• E.g. I would like a cup of coffee is a sentence.• Coffee, please is not a sentence.• In the kitchen is not a sentence.• Please put it in the kitchen is a sentence.
  11. 11. • Utterances of non-sentences, e.g. short phrases, or single words, are used by people in communication all the time.• The abstract idea of a sentence is the basis for understanding even those expressions which are not sentences.• The meanings of non-sentences can best be analysed by considering them to be abbreviations, or incomplete versions, of whole sentences. Please put it in the In the kitchen kitchen
  12. 12. PROPOSITION:• Semantics is concerned with the meanings of non- sentences, such as phrases and incomplete sentences, just as much as with whole sentences.• But it is more convenient to begin our analysis with the case of whole sentences.• The meanings of whole sentences involve propositions; the notion of a proposition is central to semantics.
  13. 13. PROPOSITION• Definition: A PROPOSITION is that part of the meaning of the utterance of a declarative sentence which describes some state of affairs.• A proposition is a claim about the world. It has just the form of an idea.• A proposition is a (potential) fact about the world, which can be true or false.• e.g. The boy is playing football. Two plus two makes five.
  14. 14. PROPOSITION• The state of affairs typically involves persons or things referred to by expressions in the sentence and the situation or action they are involved in.• In uttering a declarative sentence a speaker typically asserts a proposition.• E.g. Two plus two makes five.
  15. 15. • The notion of truth can be used to decide whether two sentences express different propositions.• Thus, if there is any conceivable set of circumstances in which one sentence is true, while the other is false, we can be sure that they express different propositions.
  16. 16. • True propositions correspond to facts, in the ordinary sense of the word fact. False propositions do not correspond to facts.
  17. 17. • Can one entertain propositions in the mind regardless of whether they are true or false ?• E.g. What am I doing if I entertain the thought that the moon is made of green cheese?• I may believe the proposition that the moon is made of green cheese 0r I may not believe.• Or I may wonder whether the moon is made of green cheese is true ? ( I believe that I do not know but desire to know).• It may simply have struck me that the moon could be made of green cheese; that is, I may believe that to be possible. Or I may be wondering what would happen if the moon were made of green cheese; for instance, I may wonder that the moon would collapse.• Entertain = to admit into the mind; consider• i.e. by thinking them, or believing them
  18. 18. • But only true propositions can be known.• Not all true beliefs are knowledge, not all unknown beliefs are false.
  19. 19. • Propositions are involved in the meanings of other types of sentences in addition to the declarative.• Declarative: The speaker commits himself to the truth of the corresponding proposition: i.e. he asserts the proposition.• Interrogative: Is used to ask questions. Questions the truth of the proposition. Doesn’t assert the truth of the proposition.• Imperative: Is used to convey orders. Demands carrying out the proposition. Doesn’t assert the truth of the proposition.
  20. 20. • Does it make sense to ask what language (e.g. English, French, Chinese) a proposition belongs to? Yes / No• Propositions, unlike sentences, cannot be said to belong to any particular language. Sentences in different languages can correspond to the same proposition, if the two sentences are perfect translations of each other.
  21. 21. • One may question whether perfect translation between languages is ever possible?• In point of fact, many linguists disagree about this and it is likely that absolutely perfect translation of the same proposition from one language to another is impossible. However, to simplify matters here we shall assume that in some, possibly very few, cases, perfect translation IS possible.
  23. 23. • It is useful to envisage the kind of family tree relationship between these notions shown in the diagram.
  24. 24. This time I Which path think I’ll should I take take the left this time? path. Which ? Which pathThis Left path this time?time Which path should I take Left ? I’ll I think I’ll take the take This time? the left path left
  25. 25. • A proposition is an abstraction that can be grasped by the mind of an individual person. In this sense, a proposition is an object of thought.Can we equate propositions with thoughts???• Thoughts are usually held to be private, personal, mental processes, whereas propositions are public in the sense that the same proposition is accessible to different persons: different individuals can grasp the same proposition.• A proposition is not a process, whereas a thought can be seen as a process going on in an individual’s mind.• Problem ??
  26. 26. • The word thought may sometimes be used loosely in a way which includes the notion of a proposition.• For instance, one may say, ‘The same thought came into both our heads at the same time.’ In this case, the word thought is being used in a sense quite like that of the word proposition.• The relationship between:• - mental processes (e.g. thoughts),• - abstract semantic entities (e.g. propositions), -• - linguistic entities (e.g. sentences),• - and actions (e.g. utterances)• is problematic and complicated.
  27. 27. SOURCES:• Semantics: A Coursebook by JAMES R. HURFORD , RENDAN HEASLEY, MICHAEL B. SMITH• An Introduction to Semantics by Muhammad Ali Alkhuli• Introduction to on to General Linguistics: Semantics 0 by Prof. Jaeger, Sam Featherston• "I Wish I Had Never Existed“ by Curtis Brown• ENGLISH LEARNING• SEMANTIC• Epistemology ( Wikipedia)