The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

LingPhil Reading Group 11/5 – on Cable (2018)

Maša Močnik and Keny Chatain will be presenting a paper by Cable on a new choice-function-based approach to De Re/De Dicto. The meeting will take place on Monday 5th in the 8th floor seminar room.

Title : A Choice Functional Semantics for De Re Attitudes.

Author(s) : Seth Cable

Abstract :

In this paper, I present a relatively simple syntax and semantics for de re attitude reports, one that builds heavily upon the approaches developed by Percus & Sauerland (2003), Charlow & Sharvit (2014), and Sauerland (2014). The principle innovation of this account is that such readings involve quantification over choice-functions, rather than direct quantification over accessibility relations (Cresswell & von Stechow 1982), concept generators (Percus & Sauerland 2003, Charlow & Sharvit 2014), or counterpart functions (Sauerland 2014). I show that the proposed system accounts for the same range of complex data and judgments as prior approaches, particularly (i) the behavior of bound de re pronouns (Charlow & Sharvit 2014), (ii) interactions between de re readings and non-upward monotone operators (Charlow & Sharvit 2014), (iii) constraints on de re readings of complex DPs (Sauerland 2014), and (iv) the inability for DPs to be construed de re when they contain opaquely interpreted NPs (Charlow & Sharvit 2014). Despite this equivalent empirical coverage, the proposed system offers a relatively simple compositional semantics for de re attitude reports, one where (i) the object-language quantification at play is of a type independently observed in natural language, (ii) attitude verbs do not require a ‘type-flexible’ denotation, (iii) the intensional argument of an attitude verb is simply a proposition (or property of entities), (iv) there is no lexical ambiguity between ‘existential’ and ‘universal’ readings of such verbs. I show that the facts which motivated the complexities found in prior accounts – particularly the interactions between de re readings and quantificational DPs – can follow from independently known properties of choice-functional quantification. [[Author’s Note (9/7/2018): The general approach presented in this paper was independently suggested in earlier, unpublished work by Orin Percus and Simon Charlow: Percus (2013) “Res-Marking in Belief Reports”, Charlow (2014) “Locality in the Syntax and Semantics of Attitude Ascriptions.”]]