Reply to “linguistic meanings meet linguistic form”
Palavras-chave:Semiological function of language, Polysemy, Aspectual verbs, Monosemy, Truth-conditional semantics
Infiltration of a word’s meaning by world-knowledge is argued to be consistent with the semiological principle. While acknowledging variability in what people know about elephants, there is a common core of what everybody knows that we know we can evoke in anybody’s mind; this constitutes the meaning of the word “elephant”. Regarding truth-conditional semantics, to say that the difference between “dog” and canis familiaris “is not a semantic difference; it is not a difference in what they mean” is to equate meaning with truth-value. This would entail that the complex NP direct object in “I took the four-legged fur-bearing carnivorous animal that barks out for a walk” would have the same meaning as the noun “dog”. From a linguistic point of view, this is completely indefensible. My criticism that the truth-conditional approach erroneously takes sentences to be the basic sign/meaning unit is not obviated by the fact that truth-conditional semantics treats sentence meaning as compositional, the point being that sentences are clearly not pairings of sounds with meanings since they do not have stable meanings which could be paired off with their linguistic forms. This is argued to be the case even if one defines meaning as Logical Form.
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