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Friday, May 28, 2010

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Thank you for posting this.

>>You speak of a component of meaning that corresponds to assertion, a component without which a sentence would not be a sentence. This I don't understand. Which component of 'Tom is tall' corresponds to assertion? It can't be 'Tom' or 'tall.' And it can't be 'is' because 'is' is a syntactic, not a semantic, component.

Which component of 'Tom is tall' corresponds to assertion? Notice that in my post above I add the parenthesis "The semantic composition doesn't necessarily have to correspond to the verbal composition, although it often will. " I.e. we shouldn't confuse the syntactic composition of the sentence with the semantic composition.

For example, "Tom runs" is composed of two words. 'Tom is running' is composed of three. But they mean the same, i.e. their semantics is the same. Therefore 'runs' locks up two components, namely 'is' and 'running'. Furthermore (I claim) 'is' locks up two components, namely the compositional part which brings together subject and predicate. This, together with subject and predicate, signifies 'that Tom runs' or 'Tom's running'. The other component, which I claim is locked up in the main verb of every declarative sentence, is the assertional one.

My argument for this, which I have given a number of times, is that the expression

that Tom runs

is a noun phrase. We can convert this back into a declarative sentence (i.e. noun + verb) by adding 'is true'. Thus

It is true that Tom runs

On the assumption that the semantics of 'It is true that Tom runs' is more complex than 'that Tom runs' and the assumption that it means the same as 'Tom runs', it logically follows that the word 'that' subtracts the component of assertion originally locked in the main verb 'runs'. And 'is true' puts it back again.

>>The difference in grammatical mood is indicated by word order and presence/absence of the question mark. But there is no one component in 'Tom is tall' that makes it indicative.

The second sentence does not follow from the first (unless you are conflating verbal composition and semantic composition, which I signalled are distinct).

>>I conclude that what makes a sentence indicative and what makes it an assertion are two different things. Indicativity pertains to a sentence-type by itself apart from its tokening by a speaker.

Again, this is true of sentences (bits of languange). You need to show that the same is true of semantic composition.

William writes:

"For example, "Tom runs" is composed of two words. 'Tom is running' is composed of three. But they mean the same, i.e. their semantics is the same."

They can mean the same. They need not. "Tom runs" could mean he is a runner generally, while "Tom is running" does mean this. "Tom is running" could be an answer to the question of whether Tom is *going* to run in the marathon, while "Tom runs" does not mean this. Pragmatics

"that Tom runs" seems merely to be a syntactic non-well-formed formula like "If P...." Adding the syntactic component "It is true" before it makes it a well formed formula in the English language.

"It is true that Tom runs" is semantically the same as "Tom runs." Both can be true or false. I don't see a semantic component that makes an assertion. Something as syntactically simple as "Yes" could function semantically as an assertion. "Did you have a nice day?" - Yes (I had a nice day). Where is the semantic component of the assertion here?

That's my take anyway, though I have not read your prior discussion.

Correction to my last post :-(

My third sentence should read:

"Tom runs" could mean he is a runner generally, while "Tom is running" does NOT mean this

William,

And thank you for taking my comments and objections seriously.

I agree with Hanson that 'Tom is running' and 'Tom runs' are not equivalent. The following are not contradictory: 'Tom runs but Tom is not running'; 'Tom speaks Russian but Tom is not speaking Russian.' I'd have to check, but I think this is the difference between the aorist and the present progressive. But whatever the terminology, there is clearly a distinction between 'Tom is drinking a lot' and 'Tom drinks a lot.'

William argues:

>>My argument for this, which I have given a number of times, is that the expression

that Tom runs

is a noun phrase. We can convert this back into a declarative sentence (i.e. noun + verb) by adding 'is true'. Thus

It is true that Tom runs

On the assumption that the semantics of 'It is true that Tom runs' is more complex than 'that Tom runs' and the assumption that it means the same as 'Tom runs', it logically follows that the word 'that' subtracts the component of assertion originally locked in the main verb 'runs'. And 'is true' puts it back again.<<

I agree that 'that Tom runs' is a noun phrase, unlike 'Tom runs.' I agree that 'it is true' is a predicate which can be attached to the noun phrase 'that Tom runs' to yield 'It is true that Tom runs.' I agree that the latter means the same as 'Tom runs.' But it is not clear why you say that the semantics of the longer sentence is more complex than that of the shorter. What exactly do you mean by 'semantics'? I should think that if the meaning is the same, then the semantics is the same, the only difference beting syntactic. In other words: 'Tom runs' and 'It is true that Tom runs' have the same meaning, express the same Fregean proposition or Gedanke; it is just that the the second is sntactically more complex. Obviously, 'it is true' adds nothing to the content of the original thought.

And why must we parse 'It is true that Tom runs' as 'It is true/that Tom runs' as opposed to 'It is true that/Tom runs'? Call the first the predicate parsing and the second the operator parsing.

Finally, you could just as easily claim that 'that' substracts, not the component of assertion, but the truthvaluedness of 'Tom runs' and 'it is true' restores it. 'Tom runs'has a truth value; 'that Tom runs' does not. That is a datum which we of course agree about. But again -- to repeat myself -- I see no assertion or component of assertion is 'Tom runs' taken as a sentence type apart from its tokening by someone in a concrete situation.

So your view remains murky to me.

And I want to press you on the point I raised in the earlier thread. If you hold that to exist = to be something, then how can you say that Aristotle's death is earlier that Caesar's given your presentism and your view that earlier than is a relation?

>>I agree that 'that Tom runs' is a noun phrase, unlike 'Tom runs.' I agree that 'it is true' is a predicate which can be attached to the noun phrase 'that Tom runs' to yield 'It is true that Tom runs.' I agree that the latter means the same as 'Tom runs.'

So far so good.

>>But it is not clear why you say that the semantics of the longer sentence is more complex than that of the shorter.

I didn't say this! I wrote

"On the assumption that the semantics of 'It is true that Tom runs' is more complex than 'that Tom runs' and the assumption that it means the same as 'Tom runs', ..."

I.e. the semantics of the longer sentence ("it is true that Tom runs") is identical to the semantics of the shorter one ('Tom runs'). On the assumption that the semantics of both is more complex than that of the noun phrase, ('that Tom runs'), it loggical follows that the word 'that' subtracts the semantic component X that 'it is true' adds back.

In my prevous post, I said that it also logically follows that this semantic component 'X' is the assertoric component. I retract this, as it does not logically follow, unless we define 'assertion'.

>>Obviously, 'it is true' adds nothing to the content of the original thought.

It adds nothing to the content, because it is an operator, which converts a noun-phrase into a sentence.

>>And why must we parse 'It is true that Tom runs' as 'It is true/that Tom runs' as opposed to 'It is true that/Tom runs'? Call the first the predicate parsing and the second the operator parsing.

Both 'it is true' and 'that' are operators, which have the opposite effect. 'That' operates upon a sentence to produce a 'that-clause', which is syntactically more complex, but semantically less. 'it is true' is an operator which operates on the that-clause to put the element X removed back again.

>>Call the first the predicate parsing and the second the operator parsing.

Confusing 'it is true' with a predicate (rather than, as I have argued, an operator) leads to the Liar paradox.

Hanson>>"It is true that Tom runs" is semantically the same as "Tom runs." Both can be true or false.

Your first sentence is correct. Your second is wrong. Roughly, what can be true or false is what is signified by the that-clause 'that Tom runs', not the sentence itself. More strictly, nothing is 'true' or 'false' since 'true' is not a predicate. Rather, the expression 'it is true' is an operator which we attach to a that-clause to make a sentence.

>>as syntactically simple as "Yes" could function semantically as an assertion.

No, 'yes' it not itself an assertion. Rather, an operator which attached to a question yields an assertion. 'Yes' also signifies the assertoric component.

>>And I want to press you on the point I raised in the earlier thread. If you hold that to exist = to be something, then how can you say that Aristotle's death is earlier that Caesar's given your presentism and your view that earlier than is a relation?

Sorry I missed this. I have no satisfactory answer to this - I have been thinking about it though. It seems to me that presentism is false if the universe is ever to move through time. There must be something unstable about the present moment that leads us to the next. Therefore something in the present state of things must cause the next state of things. Perhaps we could concede that some relations aren't existence-entailing. But causation must be existence entailing. Perhaps not.

>>>Finally, you could just as easily claim that 'that' substracts, not the component of assertion, but the truthvaluedness of 'Tom runs' and 'it is true' restores it. 'Tom runs'has a truth value; 'that Tom runs' does not. That is a datum which we of course agree about. But again -- to repeat myself -- I see no assertion or component of assertion is 'Tom runs' taken as a sentence type apart from its tokening by someone in a concrete situation.

And I want to press you on this point. Consider again

(1) Tom runs

(2) that Tom runs

(3) It is true that Tom runs

We have agreed that (1) and (3) are semantically identical. We also agree that (2) is verbally more complex than (1), likewise (3 is verbally more complex than (2). Do you agree that it logically follows that in some cases, increasing the verbal complexity can reduce the semantic complexity? I argue as follows. Either (2) is semantically more complex than (1) or less complex. If more complex, then it follows that (2) is semantically more complex than (3), because of the semantic identity we agreed. In which case it logically follows that increasing the verbal complexity (in the move from (2) to (3)) reduces the semantic complexity. Therefore &c. Or (2) is semantically less complex than (1). In which case it logically follows that increasing the verbal complexity (from (1) to (2)) reduces the semantic complexity.

If you agree this, then I have a large part of what I propose, for nearly all your negative arguments rest on the observation that a token of the same verbal expression (i.e. with the same verbal complexity) may appear to lack the assertoric component that the other has. My reply here is that this is consistent with 'semantic subtraction' operators. The token of the expression (1) above ('Tom runs') is identical to the token included in the that-clause in (2). Yet (2) as a whole appears not to be an assertion. You would argue, in general, that this is because there is no such thing as a semantic component of assertion. I reply, in general, that this is because of the 'negative effect' of the 'that operator'.

There is a lot going on here. You say, >>Confusing 'it is true' with a predicate (rather than, as I have argued, an operator) leads to the Liar paradox.<<

Consider 'That Tom runs is true.' 'That Tom runs' is a noun phrase. 'Is true,' then, is reasonably regarded as a predicate in the original sentence. Right? If you agree to that, then I should think 'it is true' in 'It is true/that Tom runs' is also a predicate and not a sentential operator. 'It' does no work.

And how exactly do we get the Liar from viewing 'it is true' as a predicate?

>>There is a lot going on here.

There is. Can we start with my the point I want to press you on? Do you agree that it logically follows that in some cases, increasing the verbal complexity can reduce the semantic complexity? This (as I will show, if you concede just this point) addresses most of the objections you make.

If you don't concede the point, please give an argument to counter the one in my last paragraphs above (from "And I want to press you on this point. Consider again ...").

If you do this, I will answer the question you have just asked.

See latest post.

WIlliam writes:

[Hanson>>"It is true that Tom runs" is semantically the same as "Tom runs." Both can be true or false.

Your first sentence is correct. Your second is wrong. Roughly, what can be true or false is what is signified by the that-clause 'that Tom runs', not the sentence itself.]

But I can make a that clause where the whole sentence itself is true:

It is true that "Tom runs is true."

So the whole sentence can be true.

Further: [No, 'yes' it not itself an assertion. Rather, an operator which attached to a question yields an assertion. 'Yes' also signifies the assertoric component.]

My point is that just syntactically it need not be attached to an assertion to yield a semantic assertion. I could scream "Yes" on a roller coaster which is a way of asserting "this roller coaster is great fun." The word "Yes" on it's own, say as repeated in the famous last section of Joyce's "Ulysses" could have lots of cognitive content and assertoric force without being attached to an actual syntactic question.

A particular syntax is not necessary for a semantic assertion. And it is not sufficient (Bill's "we do not pick our nose" example). My point is merely that meaning is all about pragmatics.

For what it is worth, my broader point is that your effort to find some common semantic component running through syntactic signs functioning as assertions seems futile, since syntax and semantics are distinct.

"What you need to show is that no physical or verbal or written sign corresponds to assertion"

There is an issue of burden of proof here :-) Lots of physical or verbal signs correspond to assertions. Can you point to a common feature of syntax that guarantees a semantic component, let alone the semantic component of assertion? - when something as simple as raising the corner of your lip or closing an eye lid can have sematic content?


Can you show

[Hanson] >>But I can make a that clause where the whole sentence itself is true: It is true that "Tom runs is true."

This does not seem well-formed to me. We either quote the sentence, and predicate 'is true'. Or we use a 'that' clause, in which case we use the sentence.

>> Can you point to a common feature of syntax that guarantees a semantic component

I don't think I need to. The main argument I am relying on is the existence of 'semantic cancellation'. We can take a sentence whose linguistic meaning seems to include an element of assertion, and remove that element by attaching an operator.

"This does not seem well-formed to me. We either quote the sentence, and predicate 'is true'. Or we use a 'that' clause, in which case we use the sentence."

That it is mentioned and not used does not make it unwell-formed. I don't see why it is not well-formed. It is syntactically correct, and makes sense. It is well-formed in truth-functional logic. A claim variable can stand for any claim P. In this case P is "Tom runs is true." -P is "It is not true that Tom runs is true" and P is it is the case or it is true that Tom runs is true. It may be redundant, but it is not syntactically flawed (unwell-formed).


Negation is a logical operator in truth functional logic, but being false is also a property. Affirmation has no sign as a logical operator since P by itself is an affirmation. But being true is also a property. I don't see a need to insist "It is true" is a logical operator and not a predicate.

But I guess I, too, do not see the significance of all this, or what problem you are trying to solve.

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