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Semantic Complexity

Dr. Maite Ezcurdia

Thursday, October 13, 2011, 12:00pm - 07:00pm

National Autonomous University of Mexico

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Stephen Neale has made a bold empirical claim about the nature of noun phrases in natural language, namely, that noun phrases are either semantically structured restricted quantifiers or semantically unstructured rigidly referring expressions. I shall call this 'The Noun Phrase Thesis' or 'NPT'. The thesis is certainly bold for there seem to be straightforward counterexamples to it, some of the most immediate being complex demonstratives and complex names as 'Russell and Whitehead'. Despite being aware of these, Neale considered NPT as an altogether plausible thesis which could handle the various alleged counterexamples.

My interest lies in considering the underlying motivation for thinking that there are no sematnically structured or complex rigidly referring expressions, and whether it is sufficiently strong to move one to try to explain away all possible counterexamples. I consider not only Neale's explicit motivation , but other motivation that is lurking behind Russellians and Kripkeans. The aim ultimately is to undermine NPT not by providing direct counterexamples to it, but by arguing that the motivation for trying to defend it is not convincing. The motivation I shall review concerns the nature of reference, the nature of constructive and compositional procedures, Neale's specific motivation from his act-syntactic account, and some syntactic evidence. I end by giving the gist of an account of complex demonstratives that treats them both as semantically structured (or semantically complex) rigidly referring expressions.

Dr. Maite Ezcurdia