Friday, April 21: Greg Kobele

Please join us this Friday as Greg Kobele from the Linguistics Department presents work on pronouns.

Date and time: Friday, April 21, 11:00 a.m. – 12:50 p.m.

Location: Stuart 209 (Philosophy seminar room)

Title: Semantic theories of pronouns, modularized


There are a number of different approaches to the semantics of pronouns, from the venerable ‘pronouns as variables (VAR)’ view, to the ‘pronouns as identity functions (ID)’ view popular in the literature on direct compositionality, as well as various incarnations of the ‘pronouns as definite descriptions (DEF)’ view.  All approaches share a common underlying logic, which can, following Philippe de Groote, be described in terms of how to systematically and conservatively extend a semantic analysis without pronouns to one incorporating them.  I’ll discuss how de Groote’s pioneering work on ‘montagovian dynamics’ decomposes into simple semantic modules dealing exclusively with pronouns on the one hand, and the logic of discourse relations on the other.  This not only allows us to understand the nature of context-sensitivity, and of discourse dynamics, but also gives us a way to begin to view semantics in terms, not of truth conditions, but of implementable algorithms for computing meaning.  I will explain the deep connection between the VAR and ID views, and will argue that we should reject them both.  Time permitting, I will explore what the move to an algorithmic semantics of pronouns means for sloppy and strict readings of pronouns in ellipsis.

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